NEW YORK — Even if you don't believe in ghosts, walking through a graveyard can be a little spooky — especially in autumn as the trees lose their leaves, flowers wither away and light fades in the late afternoon.
But cemeteries can make fascinating destinations. Sometimes a few words on a tombstone can suggest a whole life story; sometimes you can find a famous name, a beautiful work of art, or landscaping worthy of a botanical garden.
“Many people find great peace and solace in visiting cemeteries even if their own relatives are not buried there,” said Janet Heywood, trustee for the Association for Gravestone Studies. “Others come to cemeteries to enjoy the history and beauty of the monuments and gravestones and/or to experience the outdoors, the plantings, the landscapes of the garden cemeteries of the nation.”
Here is some information about interesting cemeteries in Boston, New York, Indianapolis, Cleveland, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Paris. Some host tours about their history or landscapes, and some offer themed events around Halloween.
The Old Granary Burying Ground was established in 1660, but it is most famous for its connections to the War of Independence over a century later. Here you'll find the graves of Paul Revere, who famously rode a horse in 1775 to deliver warnings about the British Army; victims of the 1770 Boston Massacre, including Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave believed to the be the first African-American killed in the war; and Declaration of Independence signers John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Others buried here include Peter Faneuil, a merchant who donated the property now called Faneuil Hall to Boston. Located on Tremont Street near the Boston Common and Park Street subway station.
Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery dates to 1838 and was named a National Historic Landmark for its art, architecture, landscaping and history. Its scenic winding paths are lined with trees and ponds, and its stone gates house a colony of green monk parakeets. The more than 560,000 permanent residents include Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, along with many ordinary Americans, from Civil War soldiers to victims of the Sept. 11th attacks. From Green-Wood's highest point, you can see the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan across New York Harbor and even spot the Statue of Liberty. The cemetery offers tours on a regular basis but also has Halloween events with tales of murder and mayhem on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. Located on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street in Brooklyn; R subway train to 25th Street.
Crown Hill Cemetery's notables range from Benjamin Harrison, U.S. president from 1889 to 1893, to bank robber John Dillinger. Others buried here include Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley, who created the Little Orphan Annie character, and Eli Lilly, founder of the pharmaceutical company. But many visitors enjoy the grounds as much as the history. At 555 acres, Crown Hill is the third-largest non-governmental cemetery in the country, with 25 miles of roads and an 842-foot hill that affords a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire Indianapolis skyline. Founded in 1863 on the site of a former tree farm and nursery, the cemetery also offers beautiful fall foliage with 4,000 trees from over 100 species. Special events include “Music of the Night” concerts with “Skeletons in the Closet” tours on Oct. 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. and on Nov. 1 at 3 p.m. (tickets, 317-920-4165). Located 700 W. 38th St.
Perhaps the most impressive site at Lake View Cemetery on Cleveland's east side is the James A. Garfield Monument honoring the U.S. president who was assassinated in 1881. The monument includes a 180-foot tower, a marble statue, and mosaics depicting his life and death. The upper balcony of the monument provides a view of the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie. Other memorials to famous men at Lake View include a white 65-foot obelisk marking John D. Rockefeller's grave, and a monument to lawman Eliot Ness, whose ashes were scattered in Wade Pond. The interior of the cemetery's Wade Chapel was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studio. Lake View opened in 1869, modeled after the so-called garden cemeteries of England and France. Autumn is a nice time to stroll the grounds and enjoy fall foliage. On Nov. 1, Lake View offers All Saints Day tours at 3 p.m. about some of the cemetery's famous residents. Located at 12316 Euclid Ave.
If you're visiting St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, you may want to bring an offering for the famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Visitors often leave cigarettes, Mardi Gras beads, flowers, candles and even money on her white Greek Revival tomb. St. Louis Cemetery is one of New Orleans' unique “Cities of the Dead,” which boast remarkable architecture, history and traditions, including above-ground tombs to ensure that the graves are not be disturbed by floods. Other notable graveyards here include the spectacular Lake Lawn Cemetery and in the Garden District, Lafayette Cemetery. This Web site has links and information on three dozen cemeteries around the city, and tour information is available at tourneworleans.com and saveourcemeteries.org.
Star power is the ticket to immortality here. At Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery (1218 Glendon Ave.), you can pay your respects to Marilyn Monroe, Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Billy Wilder, Frank Zappa, Rodney Dangerfield and Truman Capote. Those spending eternity at the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills cemetery (6300 Forest Lawn Drive) include Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton, Liberace, Stan Laurel, Gene Autry and David Carradine.
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Of course the most recent celebrity burial to grab headlines took place just outside L.A., when Michael Jackson was buried in the Great Mausoleum at the Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale (1712 S. Glendale Ave.). You can enter the mausoleum, but you can't see Jackson's tomb. Instead, you watch a 10-minute show about the mausoleum's stained glass replica of Leonardo Da Vinci's “Last Supper.” The show runs daily, every half-hour, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., and visitors also get 10 minutes to look at other monuments, crypts and niches in the mausoleum, including reproductions of Michelangelo works. But you can't stray from the two hallways leading to the stained glass, and when your time is up, you're escorted out. You can wander the grounds, but Forest Lawn doesn't disclose gravesite locations, so do your homework first.
Another L.A. graveyard, Hollywood Forever (6000 Santa Monica Blvd. next to Paramount Studios), is more tourist-friendly: They sell maps to the stars' graves and sometimes even show movies. Hollywood Forever's denizens include Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille and Johnny Ramone.
Phantoms of famed souls, some doomed to early death, fill Pere Lachaise cemetery, in a quiet, shady neighborhood on the eastern edge of Paris: Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein and Edith Piaf — and of course Jim Morrison. Mystery still shrouds the death of the lead singer of The Doors, who was just 27 when he died in Paris in 1971. Some speculate he overdosed in a nightclub, others say he was found dead in his apartment bathtub. Although teenage girls no longer sing and dance while downing bottles of wine by his gravesite, it still attracts numerous tourists. They have to visit by day, though; overnight surveillance officers have replaced unruly nighttime visitors. Tourists Katie Baur, 34, a teacher from Tacoma, Wash., and her brother Mike Baur, 47, a longshoreman from Vancouver, Wash., appreciated the sense of mystique among the cemetery's winding, tree-lined paths and elaborate gravestones, many blackened with age. “It's far different from any type of cemetery we have in the States, with the Gothic look. It's creepy. It's mysterious,” Katie Baur said. Pere Lachaise is in Paris' 20th arrondissement, near the Philippe-Auguste Metro stop (line 2), with other entrances accessible from stops Pere Lachaise (lines 2 and 3) and Gambetta (line 3).
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