Thursday, June 17, 2021

Ep. 389 - Haunted Cemeteries 19

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Moment in Oddity - Outlaw Robert Clay Allison Killed in Freak Accident

Robert Clay Allison is buried at West of Pecos Museum, which is also known as the Robert Clay Allison Burial Site. He was an American Western Frontier Outlaw who had a real penchant for shooting people. He once remarked, "I never killed a man that did not need killing." Needless to say, he had some personality problems and was quickly discharged from the Confederate Army shortly after joining up during the Civil War for that reason. He went on to be a trail boss and met up with a desperado who had a grudge against him named "Chunk" Colbert. The two men spent a day carousing and drinking, but things went south at dinner when Colbert reached for Allison's gun. Allison quickly shot Colbert. He was asked by someone why he would sit down to dinner with a man who had a grudge against him and he said, "I didn't want to send him to hell on an empty stomach." Allison was at Cimarron's St. James Hotel in 1875 when he got in a gunfight and killed Francisco "Pancho" Griego. He and his brother John were drinking and gambling at a saloon in Las Animas, Colorado when Constable Charles Faber came along with a shotgun. The Constable wounded John before Allison killed him. Then he changed his ways. In 1880, he moved to a ranch, married and had two daughters. One would expect that an outlaw would die in a blaze of glory, but Allison died in a freak accident. He was going for supplies and a grain sack started sliding from the wagon. As he reached for the sack, he fell from the wagon and the wheel ran over his neck, killing him and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Frances Pizarro Comes To A Bloody End

In the month of June, on the 26th, in 1541, Frances Pizarro meets a bloody end. Pizarro had been a Spanish conquistador and he conquered modern-day Peru and brought down the Incas. He had a rival conquistador who challenged him when he was governor of New Castile that would become Peru. He had that conquistador executed. That man's son wanted revenge and he would have it. His name was Diego de Almagro. Pizarro was eating dinner at his palace in Lima when Diego and several of his men busted in. Pizarro grabbed a sword from the wall and defended himself successfully against three men before Almagro’s men stabbed him in the throat. Before he died, Pizarro shouted, “Jesus!” and drew a cross on the ground with his own blood and then he kissed it. He had been one of the most ruthless conquistadors. He was buried in Lima Cathedral. In 1977, his burial box was opened and forensic scientists found that the skull was broken by numerous violent blows, so apparently he got more than just stabbed, which seemed fitting for such a violent man.

Haunted Cemeteries 19

We all love cemeteries around here. These are places of beauty and memorial, even the ones that have become overgrown and neglected. Headstones contain valuable information that can reveal the ethnicity, the demography or even the epidemiology of an area. Also, the feelings that people had at certain times or in certain places about religion and death. On this episode, we are not only going to talk about several haunted cemeteries: Cemetery Memorial Park in California, Oakland and Greenwood Cemeteries in Florida, Rosehill Cemetery in California and Mound City and Springdale Cemeteries in Illinois, but also some of the difficult issues with cemeteries: desecration and the burial of blacks. These kinds of issues can lead to unrest. Join us for Haunted Cemeteries 19!

Cemetery Memorial Park (Suggested by: Leo)

Brandon Alvis is one of the paranormal investigators on the new version of the Ghost Hunters. He released a documentary on Cemetery Memorial Park in Ventura, California in 2019, which was shown at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Check out the trailer on his website: We have talked about the desecration of cemeteries many times on this podcast and specifically how that can lead to hauntings. The story here is horrible. Beneath this park are buried hundreds of bodies. They were never moved. Their headstones and memorials were lifted off of plots and dumped into a canyon in 1964. This had been St. Mary's Cemetery and one man's dedication for fourteen years, brought to light the desecration propagated by the city council. 

On October 3, 1862, a parcel of land measuring 3.69 acres was purchased from George S. Wright, Henry Webb, Edmund L. Gould and Daniel Waterman. This was then deeded to the Right Reverend Thaddeus Amat, Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles, "for the use and purpose of a Catholic Burying Ground" at San Buenaventura. In 1889, the city took over control of the non-Catholic portion of the cemetery. Internments stopped in May of 1944. In August of 1949, the Planning Commission recommended razing the tombstones and building houses on the property. The plan was rejected. The next plan would come in 1963 with Ventura City Manager Charles Reiman getting the go-ahead from the City Council to build a memorial park. Curbs, slabs, vaults, headstones and bases were to be removed. It was suggested that small brass markers be set flush with the ground to mark the burials. We're not completely sure what happened, but the cemetery was demolished. Some families collected slabs, other slabs were used in construction, added to abstract art sculptures and ground into fill. Headstones were removed by the end of summer in 1966 with the entire project ending in 1969. The push to restore the cemetery continues today.

The people buried here were Native American, ranchers, cowboys, pioneers and veterans. Some of those veterans were war heroes, even recieving the Medal of Honor. Now they lie below the dirt, unidentified, where dogs defecate and urinate and the homeless and others leave their trash. The Ayala Family was buried here. Rita Davis Ayala was a pioneer of the city. Her husband José Ramón de los Santos Ayala was a veteran of the Civil War, enlisting with the California Volunteers and he had an honored place in the ranks of the Grand Army of the Republic. Their son Alphonso preceded them in death at the age of 27. Many of the buried here served with Company C, 1st Battalion Native Cavalry. Members of the Hobson Family were buried here. They had a successful cattle business, Hobson Brothers Packing Company, and many butcher shops in downtown Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. One of the brothers, Abram, was considered a consummate horseman in the Vaquero tradition. In 1893, William Vandever was buried here. He served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War and became a United States Representative from California and Iowa. There was James Sumner who was buried here in 1912. He had been a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the Medal of Honor. In 1990, the American Legion Post 339 placed markers over the graves of Private James Sumner and Brevet Major General William Vandever.

There had been 3800 people buried here and many of them still remain with only a few of the final resting places marked, which may be why there are rumors of ghosts here. These include headless figures and pirate ghosts. A local legend is connected to a young man who unfortunately hanged himself from a tree in the park and people claim to sometimes see his ghostly body swinging from the tree on foggy nights. People who live near the park claim to see apparitions in the street as though they are wandering around looking for their graves or tombstones or something.

Oakland and Greenwood Cemeteries in Tallahassee

The historic Oakland Cemetery is located near the corner of Brevard and North Bronough Streets in Tallahassee, Florida at 838 N. Bronough Street. This cemetery was established in 1902 and at the time, blacks and whites were buried in separate sections. It took on the name "the old cemetery," even though there was an Old City Cemetery. In 1936, another cemetery was established in the city, solely for the burial of people of color, and that would be Evergreen Cemetery. Commissioners voted that any remaining plots set aside for blacks at Oakland would be taken back by the city and resold. There was a big problem though. The black citizens were having none of this because of the land upon which Evergreen was supposed to be founded. This was, of course, the undesirable, low-lying ground in town. Completely unsuitable for burial. 

The Tallahassee Daily Democrat wrote, "The vexing problem of burial lots for negroes and cemetery regulations, including titles to cemetery lots, is before the city commission again... the commission directed its attorney, James Messer, Jr., to draft an ordinance for early adoption that will regulate the depth of all graves to be dug in the four cemeteries inside the corporate limits. Officials admitted the new law will have a definite bearing on further use by negroes of one of their burial grounds in the city. Recently a new negro cemetery was opened, but members of that race have vigorously protested and so far are said to be almost unanimously opposed to its use as a burial ground." Despite these objections, the commission voted in February of 1937 to close the cemetery to blacks. 

J.R.D. Laster was a well-known black undertaker in town and his name comes up over and over as he fought against the commission. He organized the black community and they founded the Greenwood Cemetery Company so they could buy their own land for burial. Evergreen Cemetery would never come to fruition. The company purchased ten acres of land, in an area lying East of Old Bainbridge Road. The land was purchased from Erma L. Jenkins, who was one of the company's founders. They paid $10 and Greenwood Cemetery was officially established in 1937. Burials began soon after that and the cemetery is today 12.4 acres. Unfortunately through the years, neglect took over the cemetery as families passed or left the city. The understanding was that families would care for their plots. Once all the founding members died, only the undertaker's daughter was left to care for the cemetery. In 1985, clean-up efforts began as the city took over restoration of the deteriorated cemetery. Greenwood Cemetery was officially re-dedicated in October of 1987.

Greenwood Cemetery's grave markers reveal the social structure of Tallahassee's black community over a fifty-year period. There are simple markers, there are big commercially designed stones and there are homemade markers. What makes this graveyard unique among the Tallahassee cemeteries are the Afro-American folk art and traditions infused here. Many of these traditions come from West and Central Africa. Concrete headstones have decorative pieces of mirror and tile applied to them and this is said to represent water. This reminds us of the thought that a person is crossing a river to get to the afterlife. Crosses are fashioned from metal and wood. Some headstones have been painted silver. And there are plots decorated with items that belonged to the deceased like cups and saucers or bowls. This reminds us of the Latino cemetery we stumbled upon one day that was full of items decorating most of the plots from flowers to religious icons to personal items.

We were unable to find any haunts at Greenwood Cemetery, but Oakland Cemetery has a story. Inside Oakland Cemetery, one will find the onion-domed, lichen covered and crumbling Phillips Mausoleum at Block 18, Lot 12. This was built by and for architect Calvin C. Phillips who designed structures for the Paris Expo in 1877 and the Old Clock Tower in the All Saints Neighborhood in Tallahassee. The mausoleum was built in the early 20th century and displayed the eccentricities of the man who chose a mixture of Greek, Indian, Doric and Roman styles. There's not much known about Phillips. He was born in Massachusetts in the early 1830s and moved to Tallahassee alone in 1907, even though he was married and had two daughters. He lived as a hermit there and was obsessed with time, which is why he built the Old Clock Tower. He was obsessed with his final burial spot as well. He spent days and days for years building the crypt and just sitting inside of it. When asked about it he said he was getting used to it. At the time he was in his 80s and not far from his death. The mausoleum was finished in November 1919 and he died only a few days later.

This led to a legend starting about his death that claimed he hired a carpenter to build him a coffin out of cherry wood. When Phillips got the casket, he had it delivered to the mausoleum and then shut himself inside of it where he died. People claim that is why his spirit is at unrest. But it could be for another reason since this scenario more than likely did not play out. In 2000, vandals broke into the crypt and stole the skull of Phillips. It has never been recovered. And perhaps that is why people claim to see Phillips’ ghost sitting on top of the mausoleum. His apparition has also been spotted walking around the cemetery.

Rose Hill Historical Cemetery at Black Diamond Mines

Rose Hill Cemetery is a Welsh Protestant cemetery that is found on the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. This area was the Mount Diablo Coalfield in what was Nortonville and Somersville, California. A low grade of coal was dug out of the mines here from 1850 until the turn-of-the-century. As the coal dried up, the towns started to slump economically, but they got a boost in 1920 when silica sand started to be mined out of the Hazel-Atlas Mine. This was used in glass-making. This mining had a good run until the 1940s and all of the mines were shut down for good. The people living in Somersville left the town, taking their homes with them. You heard that right. They literally took their homes down, board by board and took them to a new town to reassemble.

They did leave behind their dead at the Rose Hill Cemetery, which is surrounded by a black wrought-iron fence. This was named for Emma Rose, who was the daughter of the man who bought the land from the mining company. Graves here date from 1865 to 1954. Many people died in the towns around the mines from a variety of things like mining accidents and black lung to epidemics of diphtheria, typhus, scarlet fever and small pox. The cemetery looks really nice today, but before this became a preserve, the graveyard was desecrated with headstones being broken or knocked off their bases. Supervising Naturalist Traci Parent put together a team and they painstakingly put the headstones back together and did their best to figure out where people were buried, even though early records had been destroyed. They even managed to get 12 headstones that had been taken, returned to the cemetery.

The desecration of the cemetery seems to have led to some hauntings. The experiences got so intense that it is said that 119 exorcisms had to be performed. One of the creepier hauntings describes thirteen ghosts of children all dressed in black wandering the graveyard. Perhaps victims of an epidemic in their burial clothes. There are also floating, glowing crosses seen in the cemetery. A ghost that glows white has been seen gliding over the headstones and the sounds of a horse drawn carriage have been heard on the cemetery road. Other sounds that are heard include, ghostly cries and laughter, bells jingling and wind when there is no actual wind.

The most well known ghost here is Sarah Norton. Nortonville is named for her family. Her husband Noah Norton had founded the town, but he died in a mining accident. She had lost her religion along the way and was a very opinionated and strong woman. She worked as a midwife and had delivered many babies in the mining community. She was traveling in a buggy to deliver another of those babies on October 5th, 1879, when she was thrown from the buggy and killed. She was not given a proper Christian burial because two storms erupted each time they attempted to have the funeral. And she's a tad angry about that. She appears in the graveyard as a "gliding lady" or a "glowing Lady" and she has been nicknamed the White Witch because she is a malevolent entity that scares people who see her.

Mound City National Cemetery

President Abraham Lincoln authorized the creation of twelve national cemeteries on July 17, 1862 and one of those was Mound City National Cemetery in Mound City, Illinois. This city had large naval shipyards that provided warships to the Union's Mississippi Squadron during the Civil War, which was comprised of 80 vessels. The USS Cairo, USS Cincinnati, and USS Mound City were some of their famous ironclads that they produced. There was a nearby military hospital and the first burials would be men who succumbed to their injuries and illness. The hospital could care for up to 1500 men and the first arrivals were from the Battle of Belmont in Kentucky, followed by a campaign at Fort Donelson. There would also be causalities from the Battle of Shiloh. Starting in 1864, bodies were re-interred from local battlefield cemeteries. The 10 acres are the final resting place for around 8500 people from all of the wars and burials still continue today for service veterans. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is one Civil War Brigadier General buried here, John Basil Turchin. There is also a beautiful marble monument that was erected in 1874 for the Illinois State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a tribute to the unknown fallen during the Civil War.  

There is one spirit here and it belongs to a woman. Many believe that this apparition is the wife of Brigadier General Turchin, Madame Turchin. Turchin was Russian born and known as the Mad Cossack because of his service in the army of the Russian Czar. He loved his wife and hated to be away from her, so he actually brought her to the battlefields with him. She witnessed his charge that saved the day at the Battle of Chickamauga. She wrote the only woman's war diary of the military campaigns Turchin was involved with. We imagine her account was rose-colored because her husband was later court-martialed for not controlling his men and allowing them to burn and pillage towns. After his death in 1901, she visited his grave at Mound City often and that is what her ghost continues to do today.

Springdale Cemetery in Illinois

Springdale Cemetery is located in Peoria, Illinois. Peoria was established in 1691, making it the oldest European settlement in Illinois. The city was named for the Peoria tribe from the area. Springdale Cemetery started as a private cemetery and was founded in 1854 although the first internment didn't happen until 1857. The cemetery was platted over 360 acres of rolling hills, but was later trimmed back to 223 acres. There are over 78,000 people buried here and there are 15 private mausoleums and one large public mausoleum. 

There are several notable burials here that include 900 military veterans, with one special area designated as Soldiers' Hill. Lucie Brotherson Tyng was the founder of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and she has a plot here. There is also the founder of the Bradley Polytechnic Institute, which became Bradley University, Lydia Moss Bradley. American artist Hedley Waycott is here. He was Peoria's best loved painter and was self-taught. A newspaper writer commented of him, "Waycott was gratified to believe that he played a large part in helping many people learn to appreciate the vast beauties of nature and have a deeper longing for the finer things of life." Former Illinois Governor Thomas Ford has his final resting place here. And the father of American aviation, Octave Chanute is buried at Springdale. He was a mentor for Orville and Wilbur Wright and was a pioneer in wood preservation and civil engineering of bridges. He used some of his ideas for building trusses on a bridge to creating stacked wings for planes. Chanute was also honored by becoming part of the Frieze of American History, in the Capitol Rotunda, in Washington DC.  

There is a true crime story connected to Springdale Cemetery. The body of Mildred Hallmark was found inside the cemetery on June 18, 1935. Mildred had been a pretty auburn-haired nineteen-year-old. She had been heading home the night before after a date at the movie theater. She took the streetcar to her stop and was never seen alive again. A local newspaper article reports on the trial after the arrest of a serial rapist in the area named Gerald Thompson.


Thompson was found guilty and sentenced to die in the electric chair at the Joliet prison. He had apparently punched Mildred so hard that he broke her neck. He was executed in October of 1935. Mildred may be our Lady in White at this cemetery. This apparition is usually seen close to where Mildred's body had been discovered near a place that had been the Duck Pond. A gazebo now stands near the spot. She is seen wearing white because that is the color of dress that she wore on her date. People also report orbs of light that flutter around the gazebo.

Other mysterious activity includes hearing disembodied voices in the cemetery, not only talking to each other, but talking to the person who hears them. Some kind of haunting music is heard on the air as well. One man reported having a conversation with an elderly man who looked very real to him, but ended up vanishing into thin air as he started to walk away.  

There are also reports of a Witches Circle here. The Cole Family Plot can be located because of two prominent features: the sassafras tree and a granite obelisk monument made from imported Scotch granite that feature a large inverted torch on one side. There is a granite circle that borders the plot. The Cole Family was headed by Almiran Cole who opened Peoria's first distillery. He and his wife Chloe are buried here, along with their children. They had nine of them and many died young, with eight having their final resting place here. The distinctive sassafras tree here has been used twice by people who hanged themselves, the most recent in 2000. It has the nickname, the Devil's Tree and many believe that is because the leaves of the sassafras look like a trident or pitchfork. Adding to the mystique of this plot is the fact that the Cole family is buried in a circle around the obelisk. That is where the nickname Witches Circle comes from. And there are rumors that Satanic rituals have been performed in Cole Circle. Adding credibility to these rumors are people who claim to hear chanting on the air, feel cold spots and some claim to not only get that feeling of being watched, but they actually see weird shadowy figures in the circle. 

Erin Egnatz's, of Hauntings Around America, experience, "I recently visited Springdale Cemetery on a very cold and windy day which made investigating pretty tough. I spent a majority of my time in the Summit Range area. Here I was drawn to a couple headstones that had been knocked over. I don't know how long it has been since they fell but you could definitely feel the overwhelming sadness of the area. As I was visiting these headstones (pictured above) I began to hear music coming from, what I suspect was around the 1920's but I could be off by a bit, but I do not it was from a long time ago. I followed the music for awhile, which led me to a lovely mausoleum that had clearly been touched by time. I no longer heard the music but was completely absorbed by it. The door had a slight hole which made it possible to see inside the mausoleum. Inside was the burial chambers of the dead along with flowers which had clearly been there for quite awhile as they had all turned black and brittle with age."

We love our cemeteries whether they come with a haunting or not. Are any of these places full of stones and bones haunted? That is for you to decide!

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