DEAD-SERIOUS TRAVEL

World's Most Haunting Cemeteries

Just in time for Halloween, we found 11 burial grounds that are destinations in their own right. From a mausoleum that was closed down after too many ghost sightings to a graveyard that doubles as a small town, these places are perfect for a fall tour—if you dare.

By Brendan Spiegel, Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010, 2:24 PM

The Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah is best known as the site for the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

(Library of Congress)

Two buildings in this Edinburgh graveyard were shut down because of an uncanny abundance of ghostly apparitions.
Thousands of 17th-century graves lined with creepy carvings of skeletons and ghouls make Edinburgh's Greyfriars Kirkyard one of the world's most haunting cemeteries. While a stroll through these eerie environs is shivering enough for some, Greyfriars's real draw lies in two on-site structures: the prison where more than 1,000 members of the Covenanters religious movement were imprisoned in 1679, and the adjacent mausoleum where "Bloody" George Mackenzie, who oversaw their persecution, is buried. Local authorities locked both buildings in the 1990s after a wave of paranormal sightings spooked one too many people, but local writer Jan-Andrew Henderson has been permitted to lead tours of both sites, where hundreds of visitors swear they have encountered the "Mackenzie Poltergeist." 88 Candlemaker Row, 011-44/131-225-9044, blackhart.uk.com, daily tours Easter–Halloween at 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Halloween–Easter at 8:30 p.m., $15.

Newcomers to Cairo are often surprised to find the living existing among the dead in this town set within a cemetery.
Egyptians know the four-square-mile stretch of land running through densely populated Cairo as simply al-Qarafa (the cemetery), but to hundreds of thousands of locals, it is much more than that. Many of the city's poorest residents actually live inside this 1,300-year-old cemetery, creating homes, shops, and even schools next to and inside mausoleums, with faded gravestones serving as lawn ornaments. Local authorities have recently discouraged promoting the site as a tourist attraction and are blocking access to large groups and buses, but it's still possible to visit with Casual Cairo detours, an outfitter that takes no more than three people at once. But time to see this one-of-a-kind neighborhood may be running out—the Egyptian government is studying plans to relocate residents, raze the cemetery, and turn it into a public park. 011-2012-415-2726, casualcairo.com, call for prices.

London's Highgate Cemetery has been the backdrop for numerous horror films.
Dug into a hillside overlooking London, an imposing Victorian-era archway overgrown with shrubbery leads into a stone tunnel lined with catacombs, the darkness eventually giving way to a circle of sunlit vaults staged around a 300-year-old cedar. It's easy to see why this oldest segment of Highgate Cemetery has been used in many horror films, including Taste the Blood of Dracula and From Beyond the Grave, and it's accessible only by tours, which also visit the graveyard's newer reaches, a maze of decaying tombstones covered in dense greenery and topped by oversize statues ranging from the carved-stone grand piano above one musician's grave to the gigantic bust of Karl Marx adorning his own resting place. Swains Ln., 011-44/20-8340-1834, highgate-cemetery.org, hourly tours weekends Mar.–Oct. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Nov.–Feb. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., weekdays Mar.–Nov. at 2 p.m., $11.

In Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe's final resting place looks as if it's straight out of one of his tales.
The raven-topped monument to macabre author Edgar Allan Poe is what brings most visitors to downtown Baltimore's 18th-century graveyard , but look a little closer at Westminster Burying Ground and you'll find a scene that could be pulled right from one of his eerie tales. Three years after Poe's death, much of the graveyard was paved over to make way for a Gothic church, which was built on elevated brick legs that arch over the graves. Today, tours of the property include a visit into the creepy catacombs that now hide below the church's lower level. 519 W. Fayette St., 410/706-2072, westminsterhall.org, tours Apr.–Nov.first and third Fridays at 6:30 p.m., first and third Saturdays at 10 a.m., $5.

Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans, with its chilling collection of aboveground tombs, was the setting for Interview with the Vampire.
In a city set below sea level, there is no hiding the dead underground, so in New Orleans, cemeteries are collections of aboveground tombs, a creepy novelty that attracts many visitors to these Gothic graveyards. Concerned about disrepair, local licensed guides volunteer their time to give tours of two of New Orleans's oldest graveyards, Lafayette Cemetery—setting for Interview with the Vampire—and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1—where you'll see "voodoo queen" Marie Laveau's Greek Revival tomb. All proceeds are donated to Save Our Cemeteries, a group that works to preserve and restore the city's graveyards. Lafayette, 1400 block of Washington Ave., Mon., Weds., Fri., and Sat. at 10:30 a.m., $10; St. Louis No. 1, 501 Basin St., Fri., Sat., and Sun. at 10 a.m., $12; 504/525-3377, saveourcemeteries.org.

L.A.'s Hollywood Forever Cemetery seems like something you'd see in a film noir.
Clad in a vintage black evening gown, dark sunglasses, and carrying a black lace parasol, Hollywood historian/tour guide Karie Bible appears to have stepped right out of a film noir movie as she leads guests through L.A.'s Hollywood Forever Cemetery. With the Paramount Studios Water Tower and Hollywood sign peaking out above the grounds, Bible tells tales of famous residents like director Cecil B. DeMille, '50s horror hostess Vampira, and rocker Johnny Ramone. 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., 818/517-5988, cemeterytour.com, most Saturdays at noon (check website for exact dates), $12.

The Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah is best known as the site for the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
If graveyards were created by set designers, they would all look like Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery, where elaborate, ivy-covered crypts are guarded by disturbingly lifelike statues, and mausoleums are laced with stained glass, all set among the mossy oak trees and blooming gardens of an 18th-century plantation on a bluff overlooking the Wilmington River. The scenic graveyard's popularity boomed after it appeared in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and many guides now offer driving tours of the 100-acre cemetery, although you'll miss the charm of wandering through its many hidden corners. Instead, follow the Bonaventure Historical Society's self-guided tour, available at the weekend-only visitors center. 330 Bonaventure Rd., 912/352-1885, bonaventurehistorical.org, free.

This cemetery in Rome seems to cast a spell over visitors—Percy Bysshe Shelley was so taken by its eerie beauty that he extolled its merits in a poem and was later laid to rest here.
Wedged between a towering, 2,000-year-old pyramid entombing a Roman dignitary and a surviving section of the 12-mile-long brick wall built to protect ancient Rome, the Non-Catholic Cemetery is a serene oasis in the middle of this modern metropolis. One of Italy's most enchanting urban settings, the graveyard's stately cypress trees, poetic statues, and oasis-like ambiance, inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley to write, "It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place." Shelley got his wish, and his grave is something of a pilgrimage for writers, many of whom, similarly enchanted, have opted to rest here themselves. The cemetery's English-language tours ensure you won't miss any of the boldface names and—in case you fall for the spell yourself—yes, it is still possible to be buried here. Via Caio Cestio 6, 011-39/06-574-1900, protestantcemetery.it, openMondays and Saturdays 9 a.m.–5p.m., Sundays 9 a.m.–1 p.m., tours $4 (by appointment only,minimum of five people).

Graveyard guards have their work cut out for them at Paris's Cimetière du Père- Lachaise, where fans of the many celebrities buried here go to great lengths to pay their respects.
Irish aesthete Oscar Wilde would undoubtedly be pleased to find his sphinxlike tomb at Paris'sCimetière du Père-Lachaise covered in hundreds of red-lipstick marks from admiring fans. (Graveyard guards are less amused—fats in the lipstick are causing the structure to deteriorate) Many outfitters include a brief stop at this 109-acre walled compound in Paris's northeast corner on longer city itineraries, but it's worth grabbing a self-guided tour map from the conservation office and spending a day finding the many famous graves—from Jim Morrison to Chopin—hidden among the cobblestoned paths and grassy expanses. Don't forget to pack a lunch—macabre as it may sound, Parisians love to picnic inside the cemetery, one of the city's largest green spaces.16 rue du Repos, 011-33/1-55 25-82-10, free.

In Buenos Aires, the resting place of Eva Perón is at once opulent and melancholy.
An ominous black door, guarded by a melancholy young woman carved from marble, leads into a spacious room where a single grave is topped with an ornate sculpted rose. It's just one of the many opulent mausoleums at Recoleta Cemetery; burying the dead here is a posh afterlife status symbol practiced by Buenos Aires's wealthiest families for 200 years. A trip inside is topped only by hearing the myriad stories among Recoleta's 6,000-plus temples, pyramids, and castles—in this case, the rose-topped tomb was erected to assuage a family's guilt after a young woman slipped into a coma and was buried alive. Nearby you'll find the flower-strewn grave of Eva Perón; she was buried below 27 feet of steel and cement as a precaution since political rivals had previously stolen her corpse.Calle Junín 1790, 011-54/11-4804-7040, English-language tours Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11a.m., free.

One of the most overlooked sections of the Arlington National Cemetery in D.C. is also the most haunting.
While thousands of D.C.'s daily tourists zip across the Potomac River for quick photo ops at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns and the Kennedy family plot, a few venture farther from the tour bus to explore the graves of the 300,000 other people buried here. Grab your walking shoes (but not your wallet) and join DC By Foot's free, 1.5-mile walking tour, which takes visitors through lesser-seen stops inside the vast burial ground, such as the segment of the cemetery that once housed a village of freed slaves and the memorial to Confederate soldiers. 214 McNair Rd., 202/370-1830, dcbyfoot.com, tours Mar. 20–Nov. 14 onSaturdays at 10 a..m, free.

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