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  • Writer's pictureKT Fletcher

A Journey through New England Cemeteries

I have always appreciated the solace of cemeteries. The obvious eeriness, and the stillness in air while hundreds of souls lay in idleness below you. It's enchanting really if you think about it.

There is nothing greater than stumbling onto a graveyard tucked between houses, or haphazardly placed in the woods, which is easily a weekly occurrence in New England. I lived in Rhode Island for a time during culinary school, and made a continual effort to visit as many New England graveyards as possible. These are some of my favorites although there are so many small nameless cemeteries that are worth seeing too. I have included famous names, associations, or hauntings with each in keeping with the spooky spirit. Read to the end to see my "ghost" photo and hear about the scariest place I have ever been.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, Middlesex County, Massachusetts

By far my favorite cemetery in the United States. Mount Auburn was officially established in 1831, and is credited as the the first modern cemetery, or garden cemetery. The term garden cemetery essentially means that the graveyard doubles as a beautiful park or natural space. Being the first cemetery of its kind, naturally I was intrigued.

Mount Auburn features one of the best views of Boston. Between two obelisk graves and near the large watchtower is the best place for a picnic. When I visited the first time I was shocked at how many people were sitting in the grass having a picnic, or laying down and writing. It seemed miraculous to me that so many people could feel at peace in this space. Sadly I don't know of any ghosts that wander through this beautiful garden, although I'm sure there are several.

One of the most notable things about Mount Auburn is the array of tombstones. It has everything from a larger than life sphynx to a spooky set of graves surrounded by a black gothic gate. There are close to 100,000 people buried, so there are tons of headstones to look at and plenty of ground to explore. I could spend a large chunk of my life wandering through the grounds at Mount Auburn, the photos I've posted below are proof of that.

**Note: None of these photos have been edited, the colors you see are the reality. I took them in mid October 2020.

Mount Hope Cemetery, Bangor, Maine

Made famous by continual visitor Stephen King, Mount Hope is truly one of the most spectacular cemeteries I have ever visited. The fall colors create a stark backdrop to the morbid grey headstones, and the sound of church bells can be heard every hour on the hour. It was founded in 1836, and absolutely inspires you with it's haunted landscape. Many ideas came to Stephen King while roaming the grounds of this enchanting cemetery, they even filmed some of Pet Sematary (1989) on the grounds.

Edson Cemetery, Lowell, MA

Jack Kerouac, is perhaps one of the most influential writers. His novel On The Road guided my writing, and inspired many of those I know. Jack was born and buried in Lowell, MA, and when the opportunity arose for me to visit his gravesite I leaped at the chance. The cemetery itself is nothing special, a very stereotypical place with no miraculous views or surroundings. At first this surprised me, but as I've aged and changed my perspective about On The Road, it made sense. If Jack doesn't interest you don't bother with a visit to Edson.

Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River, MA

As a child, my dad used to sing us the Lizzie Borden song as a lullaby, thus she became a subject of fascination for me from a young age.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Borden, she was accused of murdering her father, Andrew Borden, and step-mother Abby. This is the briefest summary I could come up with, so enjoy. The Bordens were killed in their home, during broad daylight and directly across from a busy street. There was seemingly no motive to the crime, however with investigation, and some poor decisions by Lizzie, a motive became glaringly obvious. Lizzie stood to inherit loads of money with the death of her parents, and her bizarre decisions during the investigation, including burning a dress covered in "red paint" did not help her case. With lack of evidence such as the axe, and unwavering support from a wide array of people, Lizzie was shockingly acquitted of the crime. Most people still believe she was guilty, but there are lots of questions surrounding the case and other culprits.

Needless to say, visiting both the Lizzie Borden House and Oak Grove have become a cultural phenomenon for those interested in crime and the supernatural. Oak Grove is 120 acres, and there are arrows that quite literally direct you to Lizzie Borden's grave. You get some strange feelings looking at the site, and the Lizzie Borden House is one of the creepiest places I've visited. The amount of ghost pictures is absolutely insane.

Old Burying Point/ Charter St. Cemetery, Salem, MA & Salem Witch Trials Memorial

Arguably the most famous cemetery in Massachusetts is the Old Burying Point. If you haven't hear about the Salem Witch Trials, please go read about them. It would be impossible for me to summarize those wild events, and it's definitely worth learning about.

The Charter St. Cemetery was started around or before 1637, and is extremely spooky. The bleak tombstones and backdrop of the ever-creepy Peabody Essex Museum give this cemetary an otherworldly feel. Obviously it's notorious for tons of ghost sightings. One of the most famous residents, and avid ghosts is Judge John Hathorne, a leading judge during the witch trials. John was the great-great grandfather of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had nothing polite to say regarding his relative. In 1975 the Old Burying Point was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you get the chance to visit Salem, this cemetery is a must. Take a ghost tour and hear about the famous tree struck by lightning several times, and the countless spirits who haunt the area.

Directly next to Charter St. is the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. This memorial pays tribute to the many victims of the trials, listing their name, execution date, and means of execution. Visiting this site is extremely impactful, and you will most certainly get chills wandering through it.

Spider Gates/ Quaker Cemetery, Leicester, Massachusetts

I simply do not have the words to describe how terrifying this graveyard is. Of course, I chose to visit the cemetery at dusk, which quickly turned into horrific night and left me wandering through the graves in pitch black.

Located in secluded woodland near Leicester, this cemetery was originally called Friends Cemetery, with the gates supposed to represent rays of sunshine. In what world they thought this name would stick and the gate look like sunshine is beyond me. To get to the site, you have to walk through a forest on an unmarked dirt path. This graveyard has an absurd amount of ghost stories associated with it. These are some of the most famous.

  • The entrance is actually the eighth gate to hell. Satanic rites are frequently held within the cemetery.

  • On the left, as you enter is the "hanging tree". Supposedly a young man hung himself from this tree, and sometimes you can still see the length of rope, or the young man hanging from the tree.

  • In the center of the cemetery is a satanic altar. This area is a raised square surrounded by trees with a stone pillar at each of the four corners.

  • Marmaduke Earle and the ability to hear his legendary voice. At midnight, you walk around his grave ten times saying, “Marmaduke speak to me." After this ritual you press your ear to his gravestone and you should be able to hear him speak.

I love a good ghost story, but this cemetery scared me beyond belief. As mentioned I went at night with just a flashlight. It takes awhile to reach the gates, and you walk through tons of trees and dense brush on your way, adding to the isolated feeling of the place. There were two other people visiting when I arrived, and they told me they thought they'd seen the man in the tree. Whether this was to scare me or warn me, or was true at all I still don't know. It did not phase me in the slightest, so I took my time exploring. Then I took a photo. There is A GHOSTLY MAN WALKING in this photo. I have taken so many pictures in the hopes of seeing a shadow or some kind of semblance of a ghost, so to actually get something spooked me. I ran so incredibly fast out of that graveyard it actually hurt. I can't explain it either, but as I was running I had the sense that some kind of animal was chasing me out.

Here is the photo. Look on the left side by the 3 gravestones. To me it looks like a leg in motion.


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