Thursday, January 7, 2021

HGB Ep. 367 - Haunted Cemeteries 17

Moment in Oddity - Springthorpe Memorial (Suggested by: Rick Kennett)

The first garden cemetery in Australia is Boroondara General Cemetery, which is located in Kew, Victoria. The Springthorpe Memorial is located here and it not only is one of the most gorgeous memorials in the world, it is a bit weird. The Memorial is named for Dr. John Springthorpe who was an Australian physician. He had it constructed for his wife Annie. The memorial was clearly inspired by Greek temples and was designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear with a massive stained glass domed roof made from hundred of ruby-colored glass pieces that give the entire memorials a reddish glow. A marble sculpture is the centerpiece, which was sculpted by Bertram Mackennal. This sculpture features Annie lying down on a sarcophagus while an angel that is standing beside her, places a wreath by her head. Another female figure sits next to the sarcophagus, holding a lyre and looking very sad. Serpent-head gargoyles sit atop each corner of the memorial and the base is paved with redtiles that have verses on them in gold lettering. What is particularly bizarre when one observes all the details that make up the memorial is that Annie's name appears nowhere on it. The only indication as to who this memorial is dedicated is an inscription that reads:

    My own true love
    Pattern daughter perfect mother and ideal wife
    Born on the 26th day of January 1867
    Married on the 26th day of January 1887
    Buried on the 26th day of January 1897

Not only is it unusual to have no name on this memorial, but the fact that all the dates are the same day with different years all ending in seven, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Knights Templar Officially Recognized

In the month of January, on the 13th, in 1128, Pope Honorius II officially recognizes the Knights Templar. The Knights Templar was a military order and the pope sanctioned it as an army of God. The Templars were founded in 1118 by Frenchman Hughes de Payens. They made it their purpose to protect the path Christians would follow as they made their way to the Holy Land. They had a rigid set of rules that members had to follow and that first group only numbered nine during the Crusades. It is believed that they started collecting relics and riches and were hiding them in various places. Through the years, the Templars grew very wealthy and very powerful and this started to threaten the Catholic Church and the Pope. This led Pope Clement V and King Philip IV to join forces to take down the order in 1307. They arrested the leader at the time, Jacques de Molay, and other Templars and tortured them until they confessed that they practiced heresy and Satanism. This day of arrest happened on October 13, 1307, which was a Friday. So Friday the 13th. And that is why Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day. Molay and most of the other Templars were burned at the stake and the Pope dissolved the Templars in 1312. To this day, many people believe that there are many myths and legends connected to the Templars whether it is the Curse of Oak Island, the DaVinci Code or various conspiracy theories. Many of these legends claim the group had the Ark of the Covenant, parts of the cross and the Holy Grail and that surviving Templars moved these objects to hidden locations that people still seek today.

Haunted Cemeteries 17

Every cemetery is unique. Each has its own unique character based on location. Sometimes it is the landscape that is different. Other times, it is the local culture or customs. But truthfully, it is the personalities buried within that define the true character. We have featured over seventy haunted cemeteries around the world in the past six years. After compiling a list, we realized that there were several states, thirteen to be exact, that have not been included yet and on this episode we will rectify that by including several of those. On this episode, we have China Grove Cemetery in Arkansas, Friendship Cemetery in Mississippi, Mount Moriah Cemetery in Montana, Little Egypt Cemetery in Indiana and Cheesman Park in Colorado.

China Grove Cemetery

China Grove Cemetery is found in Saline County, Arkansas. The earliest burial we found was in 1883, so this is an old cemetery. Burials stopped in the 1970s. The cemetery is fairly neglected, sitting along a narrow abandoned road. The headstones are scattered haphazardly throughout the woods. That's about all we could find on the history of the cemetery. While trying to find out more about the history of this cemetery, we ran across a horrible true crime story. This was an appeal to the Supreme Court of Arkansas on a death penalty case. Darrell Wayne Sheridan had been found guilty and sentenced to die in the murder of Laurie Ann Brown. The two had once lived together, but Darrell was married to another woman at this time and Laurie Ann was in another relationship and pregnant with that man's baby. Laurie Ann had found out that Darrell and his wife were dealing drugs and she reported this to the police. Darrell went to her house to scare her and somehow managed to convince her and her boyfriend to get in his car. Darrell told his wife to drive into China Grove Cemetery. He told Laurie Ann to get out of the car and then the car drove away with Darrell's wife, Laurie Ann's boyfriend and another man inside. Darrell attacked Laurie Ann and stabbed her multiple times, killing her. Her body was found on the road to the cemetery.

Stories of hauntings at the cemetery have endured through the years. Legends begin at the front gate. This is an old gate at the end of the abandoned road. When cars approach at night with their headlights on, those headlights will start to flicker. The car radio sometimes flips to just airing static or turns off altogether. Also at the gate, people claim to see a white dog with icy blue eyes. Sometimes it is solid, but usually when the lights hit it, the dog is translucent. Inside the cemetery, an apparition of a woman has been seen carrying a baby and wailing. Sometimes she tries to hand her baby to visitors and of they take the bundle, they find out that it is a headstone that will weigh them down and make it so they can't get up off the ground. Another legend is about the headstones. Apparently, they glow sometimes and the glowing will follow visitors as they move through the cemetery.

Friendship Cemetery

Friendship Cemetery is located in Columbus, Mississippi. Mississippi is a state known for its vast quantity of Antebellum homes, so it is not surprising to find a haunted cemetery here that is connected to the Civil War with a haunted specifically centered on its burials for the Confederate dead. This cemetery was founded in 1849 by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Originally, it only covered five acres, but that grew to 35 acres by the 1950s and now spreads out over 70 acres. We mentioned unique design in the intro and this one certainly has that the original layout incorporating three interlocking circles. The Odd Fellows symbol is made up of this same design, so they literally designed the cemetery like their emblem. The City of Columbus eventually acquired the graveyard and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Burials still continue at this cemetery.

During the Civil War, the capitol of Mississippi - Jackson - was invaded and controlled by Union forces, so Columbus became the temporary capitol. The Confederate Army of Mississippi fought heavily in the Battle of Shiloh and many of their dead were brought back here to be buried. Columbus itself served as a military hospital center. Both Confederate and Union dead are buried here. There are between 40 to 150 Union soldiers and more than 2,000 Confederate soldiers. The poem "The Blue and the Gray" by Francis Miles Finch was inspired by an event that took place here at Friendship Cemetery. A large group of women laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers on April 25, 1866 and this moved him because the dead were treated with equal care. This poem was first published in an 1867 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Eventually the decorating of military graves on grave decorating days became Memorial Day.

There are a couple of stories told about haunting legends in this cemetery. The first is about a Confederate soldier. His apparition has been spotted wandering around the graves in the Confederate burial area. There is someone who actually might have captured this spirit in a photo. Matt Garner is a page designer for The Dispatch newspaper. He visits the Friendship Cemetery a lot to take photos. One morning he was in there alone and decided to catch the sunlight as it came through the trees. The headstones were making cool shadows. He used a tripod to hold the camera and fired off 10 pictures in quick succession. When he developed the pictures later, he saw something that chilled him to his core. In the middle of one of the pictures was a fairly clear face. The image is slightly translucent and white with dark hollow eyes. It really does look like a face. Matt is a skeptic, as are we, so perhaps it is pareidolia with the sunlight, shading and shape of the trees causing it, but it only appears in this one photo. And it's creepy nonetheless. Garner claimed that on another visit to the cemetery, he heard something that sounded similar to the sound of a door shutting that came from the nearby forest. The sound unnerved him.

Reverend Thomas Teasdale was born in New Jersey in 1808. He entered the ministry in 1828 and eventually ended up preaching at a church in Columbus, Mississippi. During the Civil War, he left his home church to preach to Confederate soldiers until the end of the war. After the war, he moved to Tennessee and preached there. He died in 1891 at the age of 82 and was buried here in the cemetery. His memorial is very moving with the statue of an angel lying over the headstone, weeping. People who visit the memorial claim that when they touch the angel's hands, they feel lifelike.

The picture that Matt Garner captured can be seen here:

Mount Moriah Cemetery

Mount Moriah Cemetery in Butte, Montana has a really unusual haunting. This cemetery was founded in 1877 by the Silver Bow County Masons. The first interment was for a woman named Bettie Fant Boyce who passed away on September 29, 1877. The cemetery is 58 acres in size and has over 14,000 burials. U.S. Congressmen Albert James Campbell and Lee Theophilus Mantle, who was also the Mayor of Butte, are among those burials and one of the cooler memorials is for J. Frank Beck that includes a sculpture of his faithful dog. Not so fun fact, Mantle was a bachelor until the age of 70 when he married a 25-year-old woman he had known since she was a child. They were married for 13 years and had a son before he died.

Stories of the hauntings here started in the 1970s. The first witnesses were two police officers. They were patrolling the cemetery grounds one evening when they saw a person in a wheelchair approaching the gates. They watched as the wheelchair continued all the way through the locked gate. The two men thought that perhaps the wheelchair had fallen into a hole or something and that it had caused this optical illusion. Particularly because they no longer saw the wheelchair. When they got over to the gate, the wheelchair and person had definitely disappeared. Not only that, but there was snow on the ground and there were no tracks anywhere. They reported their story. From that time until now, many people have come forward claiming to see the same thing. A person is wheeling themselves towards the gate and then disappears. This happens at all hours, day or night. No one knows where this spirit could be coming from. Did someone have an accident outside the cemetery? Are they visiting someone at the cemetery? Is their body buried in the cemetery?

Little Egypt Cemetery

Little Egypt Cemetery is more formally known as Ewald Cemetery and it is located on Fifth Road in Bremen, Indiana. The cemetery takes this name from the Ewald family, so we're assuming this may have started as a family plot, but others were buried here before any Ewalds, so who knows. Jacob and Barbara Ewald had twelve children and three of them would die before adulthood. We are not sure of their exact birthdates, but Matilda was a newborn when she passed in 1865. Her brother Henry died in 1870 and Catherine died in 1873. Both were four-years-old when they passed. Those three Ewalds are definitely here. According to Ashley Hood who wrote "Haunted Cemeteries in Indiana" the first burial was for an eight-year-old boy named Alfred Knobloch who died in 1852. His sister Elnora followed shortly thereafter. The cemetery is watched over by the German Township Trustee and there are many German immigrants buried here. Part of the issue with getting an accurate historical picture of this cemetery is that it has been ravaged through the years by vandals. It got so bad that a fence was erected and topped with barbed wire. Based on the headstones that do still exist, it appears that burials stopped here in the late 1930s. As to why this plot of land has been dubbed Little Egypt, we do not know. 

Legends abound about this little graveyard. Part of that may come from the fact that the little dirt road that winds around the cemetery eventually ends up at a bridge nicknamed the Troll Bridge. Hoosier Reborn writes a blog called Hoosier Happenings and he shared this in 2008, "As a teenager, some friends and I had to put this legend to the test. It was a warm Halloween night back in 1986....I remember a moist wind blowing around the few leaves left on the trees that were at the corner of the cemetery. Legend has it that as you enter the swampy woods through which the gravel lane passes on your way to Little Egypt, the knoll you can see in the distance, a young man as white as a ghost will dart out in front of your car.......with no time to stop you hit the apparition, only to learn that nothing is there. Terrified you continue down the gravel road, now coming out of the woods, moonlight beaming down on the slight rise in front of you that leads to the knoll on which Little Egypt was established. The crunch of the gravel beneath the tires makes your heart beat a little faster as you begin to wind around the cemetery, nearly at a dead stop in the turns. Suddenly figures appear to be climbing and hanging from the old trees in the corner of the speed up, leaving a trail of dust as you look out the rear view mirror at tombstones reflecting the moonlight. Then you enter another woods......this time the apparition appears again, standing along the road, staring at you, and covered with blood. You emerge from the woods again and come to stop on a small bridge over a winding creek. Legend has it if you turn off your car and whisper "hamburger, hamburger, hamburger" the car will fail to start again. Just as you move beyond the bridge, suddenly lights appear to mysteriously turn on in the old brick church ahead of you....and then just as suddenly, go out! Unfortunately, none of this happened to us in 1986."

This is indeed a hot spot for teenagers to visit. Rumors of Satanic rituals abound. There are claims that a farmer who owned land near the cemetery is buried here. His death was due to an accident and it is said that he is angry about this. His apparition rises from the center of the graveyard and glows as it runs to chase off visitors. There is also a story that a young child once choked to death on a coin and that if one places a coin on its tombstone, they will hear the crying of a baby. Some people say that no coin is needed and that the disembodied howls of a baby can be heard regularly at the cemetery. They usually seem to be emanating from the ground. Visitors may even find small handprints in the dust on their car windows. A male voice has also reportedly been heard. 

And what is a cemetery without a hitchhiking ghost? Many people cruising around the cemetery have been shocked to catch the image of a young man in their headlights. His skin is so white it is almost translucent and he usually takes off at a full run in front of the car as though he is being chased. When people stop after almost hitting him, they find that he is nowhere to be seen and that there is no evidence of him like footprints. Even more disturbing are reports of a phantom car. This is described as a large, older model sedan that is black. It usually appears in the rearview mirror as a car drives passed the cemetery heading to the bridge. The sedan picks up speed as if trying to ram the car and then disappears once the car drives across the bridge. We've heard legends like this many time, but Hoosier Reborn also shared on his blog, "We did make a return trip a few years later only to find ourselves being chased away by a pair of about heart-thumping!" So perhaps they saw the phantom car!

Cheesman Park

Cheesman Park is found in Denver, Colorado between Downing and York Streets. Diane affectionately calls this park the "Gay Park." This is where gay men have gone to cruise for other men for years. The AIDS Walk launches from here every year and gay people just like to hang out here. Now you might be wondering why a park is included on a haunted cemetery episode. We all know that Victorian cemeteries were established as garden cemeteries and people treated them like parks, regularly picnicking within their borders. Cheesman Park was not always just a park on the outskirts of downtown Denver. This was once a cemetery and perhaps some of you have heard the horrific stories behind it that have led to this being considered one of the more haunted locations in Denver.

Many people who visit the park, probably have no idea that they are visiting a graveyard when they lay out a towel to sun themselves or spread a blanket for a picnic. Perhaps they twist an ankle running after a Frisbee when they step into an odd depression. If one could have the perspective of a cloud when looking down on this park, they would see that it is dotted with these depressions. You see, there were once thousands of bodies buried here and when these bodies were removed to make way for the park, well, not every body made its way out of the ground. And so Cheesman Park still is very much a graveyard. Despite the beautiful Greek Pavilion and tranquil fountains, this is a place of death not only because it is a former cemetery, but many people have chosen this peaceful location to end their lives. 

Cheesman Park is part of a neighborhood that carries its name. This neighborhood includes the Denver Botanic Gardens, which are also haunted. The home that inspired the movie "The Changling" starring George C. Scott used to also be located along Cheesman Park. The Denver Botanic Gardens was once the site of the Catholic cemetery and since Protestants could not be buried there, the Protestant cemetery was where Cheesmen Park is now located. They were basically next to each other. Clearly, both were decommissioned and the bodies were moved since they are no longer cemeteries. Well...most of the bodies. Cheesman Park started out as Mount Prospect in 1858, but most people just called it Denver's Boot Hill. General William Larimer had platted out the grounds. Mount Prospect covered 320 acres. 

Congress decreed in 1872 that the site of Mount Prospect was actually federal land and so the City of Denver bought it with the plan of keeping it a cemetery and the name changed to Denver City Cemetery. Some acreage was sold off to become a Jewish cemetery. Two of the early burials were Hungarian immigrant John Stoefel and his brother-in-law. Both men were prospectors and Stoefel ended up shooting his brother-in-law in order to take his gold dust in 1859. A "People's Court" was formed and Stoefel was found guilty of murder. It was decided that he should be hanged and this took place on April 9, 1859 with 1,000 people watching. This took place at a cottonwood tree at the intersection of 10th and Cherry Creek Streets. Both Stoefel and his brother-in-law were dumped into the same grave at the edge of the cemetery.

The cemetery became home to many corpses of criminals and the poor, with one of the first criminals being Jack O'Neil who was killed in a saloon. The powerful and rich in Denver were not happy with him being buried at the cemetery and soon people were referring to it as Jack O'Neil's Ranch. Usage dropped off by the mid 1880s. The grounds were unkempt and cattle were allowed to roam freely through the tombstones. This led the city to thinking that this area would serve better as a park since it was near the heart of downtown. They petitioned Congress for several years to change the status since this was federal land. Congress finally agreed on January 25, 1890. The cemetery then became Congress Park. Now, they just needed to move the bodies. The Chinese section of the cemetery was emptied by the Chinese community and they sent the bodies back to China. Families were told that they had a certain amount of time to move the bodies of their loved ones and many of these bodies were moved to Riverside and Fairmount Cemeteries.

There were still many bodies left in the cemetery after this process, so the city decided they needed to hire someone to remove what was left. That man would be Irish undertaker Edward P. McGovern. He was told he would be paid the equivalent today of $53 per coffin moved to Riverside Cemetery. E.P. McGovern was an enterprising individual and he reasoned that if he used smaller coffins, like child size, and broke up skeletons, he could fill more boxes and get paid more. This went on for a while until the city figured out what he was doing and he was fired. Not only had he desecrated bodies by breaking them up, but he actually filled some boxes with wood. The city decided to just leave the rest of the bodies, backfill more dirt and start work on forming the park. Most people would not know the bodies were there until years later when some would surface or get dug up, on more than one occasion. There are estimates that 3,000 bodies were left.

The Catholic Cemetery remained where it was until 1950 when the City of Denver persuaded the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver to deed their cemetery to the city. This would become the Denver Botanic Gardens in 1966. Cheesman Park would be named for Walter Cheesman, but not because the city wanted to honor him. His widow and daughter donated $100,000 for the building of the pavilion in the park in exchange for the park being named for Walter. Some people in Denver grumbled about this because Cheesman was not a nice guy. He originally came to town to help his brothers with their drugstore, but he soon found a different route for making money. He noticed that the waters of Cherry Creek and the Platte River were undrinkable because of contamination. He founded the Denver Union Water Company and charged exorbitant prices for water and gave terrible service to his customers. So clearly, Denver citizens would not want to name a park for this guy. But maybe it is fitting since this park is notoriously haunted.

For myself, I never felt any dread or bad feelings when I was at the park day or night and I never saw anything weird, but plenty of people claim to have seen strange things and to have bad feelings. The first experiences started when the bodies were being removed. A gravedigger named Jim Astor had been looting the graves and he claimed that he felt something unseen push down on his shoulders. He ran from the cemetery and did not return. Nearly every home that borders the park, claims to have had unexplained activity and many have seen apparitions in their homes. They describe these spirits as sad and confused looking. People are seen in the park wearing period clothing, which indicates to observers that they are not living.

Unfortunately, several people have hanged themselves in the trees of the park and this is one of the horrifying images people have seen: bodies hanging in the trees. Ghostly headstones are sometimes seen just as dusk sets in over the park. Disembodied  whispers and moans are heard. Shadowy mists are also a regular occurrence. One woman saw another woman sitting in the park singing who just disappeared. Children have been seen playing in the park at night and they disappear as well.

Cemeteries are some of our favorite places to visit when exploring a new city. Spotting a cemetery from the road is like discovering a treasure. And cemeteries are like a treasure chest full of mystery and history and all kinds of goodness. Some of these cemeteries are full of spirits too. Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Haunted Cemeteries of Indiana by Ashley Hood, published by Haunted America 2020

No comments:

Post a Comment