It might sound a bit cliché — a creepy graveyard. I know, I know. It’s so grade B horror movie ridiculous. Oooorrrrr, it’s not and cemeteries can actually be haunting — or haunted, but that’s up to you. All I know is that I don’t care that Arlington National Cemetery has been called one of the most haunted sites in American, I still find it one of the most beautiful, humbling, and reverent places I have ever been. However, there are other cemeteries that keep an air of intrigue about them. Maybe it’s the story behind them or just the way the light hits when you visit, but something feels otherwordly all the same. Here are 10 sites in Virginia that give us the creeps…although, not necessarily in a bad way.
1. Pine Creek Church Cemetery, Floyd
This Revolutionary War-Era cemetery is reported to host only 7 Revolutionary War veterans, but it does contain many other of the mountain folk who called this area home in the 18th and 19th centuries - the oldest marked grave is said to be c.1796. In the '70s and '80s, the cemetery was nearly forgotten and overgrown. Today, it has been maintained but still holds an ghostly aura of times long past.
2. The Jefferson Family Cemetery at Monticello, Charlottesville
Located down the hill in a wooded area from the main house at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson and his descendants have been buried in this gated plot since 1773. The site was chosen by Jefferson and his school friend, Dabney Carr, who both wanted to be buried beneath a large oak tree located there. Carr, who was married to Jefferson's sister, was the first to be claim his place in 1773. The ghost of Jefferson is said to be seen wandering the grounds of Monticello and whistling, a habit Jefferson was known for in life.
3. Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg
The Pest – meaning “Pestilence” – House, now located in the Old City Cemetery, was Lynchburg’s first “hospital” – and by hospital, we mean quarantine facility for people with contagious diseases like smallpox and cholera. Built in the 1840s in Campbell County, it was a Hotel California-like situation where patients checked out, but never left – unless it was to be buried in the adjoining cemetery. During the Civil War, it was used as a Confederate hospital where 102 soldiers died of smallpox. The cemetery also contains the Hearse House and Caretakers Museum, the Station House Museum, a chapel, and Mourning Museum.
4. Alexandria National Cemetery, Old Town Alexandria
Originally known as the "Soldier's Cemetery", the Alexandria National Cemetery was established in 1862 as a Union burial ground as it was a major outpost for Union troops. The chapel on the grounds is said to be the site of "activity" of the ghostly kind, including a figure that wait in the chapel's bridal room. While no Confederate troops are buried here, the cemetery does hold the remains of 4 civilians killed while pursuing John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
5. Slave Cemeteries throughout the state
By contrast to the large and even majestic tombstones seen in many cemeteries, these examples of slave burial grounds provide a humbling look at the other side of Virginia's past. The first image is a tombstone at the Diamond Hill Cemetery and Slaves Burial Grounds at Berry Hill Plantation in South Boston. The second image, from an unidentified location, shows a pre-Civil War slave cemetery in Virginia. Both provide a poignant look at the disparity between the life and death of slaves versus free men.
6. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond
WIth it's ghostly statues and sombre mausoleums, Hollywood Cemetery could give chills to the bravest souls if seen in the right light. Add the countless stories of ghosts and ghouls and this place is downright creepy. Some of the more famous stories surrounding this site include a vampire said to live in the mausoleum of W.W. Poole, the ghost of a little girl who plays with the cast iron dog set to watch her grave and moaning spirits that come from a pyramid built in 1869 to honor the 18,000 enlisted Confederate troops buried at Hollywood. Walking tours are available - so go for it if you dare. I'll stay home, thanks.
7. Ball's Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery, Leesburg
Although it's the 3rd smallest National Cemetery and the graves seem neat and tidy, this site is said to have distinct paranormal presence. The Battle of Ball's Bluff resulted in a Union defeat and as early as the late 1800s, reports surfaced of phantom Union troops and ghostly screams.
8. Western State Lunatic Asylum (Western State Hospital), Staunton
The Western State Hospital began as the Western State Lunatic Asylum in 1828. At first, it was a resort-style institution, but in the late 1800s, comfortable accommodation for the mentally ill gave way to crueler practices, including forced sterilization, lobotomies, shock therapy, and forced restraint. Hundreds of patients died here in the 150 years of the hospital's existence and were buried in these unmarked graves. The cemetery is now privately owned as the old hospital, later turned prison, is now luxury condos.
9. Cold Harbor Battlefield and Cemetery, Mechanicsville
The Battle of Cold Harbor (May 31 – June 12, 1864) was not only one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the battleground is now considered to be one of the most haunted military sites in the nation. Visitors and locals report the sounds of cannons, gunfire and screaming men, and oftentimes, the smell of gunpowder, long before they arrive at a seemingly still battle site. The ghost of a young girl has been seen wandering the Cold Harbor National Cemetery where Confederate dead are buried.
10. Mount Zion Baptist Church Cemetery, Aldie
The Mount Zion Church was founded in 1851 and the adjoining cemetery contains many markers dated from this time. The church was used for many purposes, particularly during the Civil War when it served as a prison, barracks, battleground, and hospital. The church walls contain graffiti from recovering soldiers. The cemetery holds more than 240 marked graves, as well as others that are unmarked, and at least 64 unmarked African American graves rest outsized the cemetery's walls. There's something eerily symbolic about these photos showing how nature reclaims everything in the end.
You have to admit, no matter how spooky the backstory, no matter how haunted the legends, there’s still something intriguing about each of these places. Do you have a favorite cemetery? One that you like to go to for peace and tranquility or one that you like to go to for a good chill up your spine – tell us about it in the comments below!