Article by Rachel Greenberg, originally written for NileGuide
It may sound a bit morbid, but visiting local cemeteries on your next traveling adventure is a sightseeing trip not to pass up. Cemeteries can be incredibly beautiful, chock full of their city’s history, and offer the chance for paranormal encounters to really get you in the mood for Halloween. Here’s a list of the top 10 creepiest final resting places from around the world!
Although there are records of Jewish people living in Prague as early as the 10th century, gravestones from the 15th century and on have been found in the Old Jewish Cemetery, which has had a pretty amazing history over the past 600 plus years. It managed to survive the st Crusade, pogroms against Jews in 1389, the demolishing of the majority of the Jewish Quarter in the late 1800’s, and the wrath of Hitler, who saved the Jewish Quarter in Prague to be an “exotic museum of an extinct race”. With such a heavy history, it is no wonder many of the gravestones are worn down, leaning, or have toppled over. And with around 100,000 bodies buried on top of each other in layers, it is no wonder this cemetery is one of the creepiest in Europe.
2. Les Catacombes, Paris
After years of overcrowding, Paris’ cemeteries were becoming so inundated with bodies they were practically overflowing with decaying human remains. To relieve the health risks, the rotting bodies were taken from the city’s cemeteries in the late 1700’s and moved to abandoned quarries underneath the city. The result: walls and decorations made from stacks and stacks of unidentified bones housed underneath Paris’ streets. Although Les Catacombes are a hugely popular tourist attraction, they unfortunately have been closed to the public indefinitely due to vandalism this past September.
La Recoleta was designed with Neo-Classical architecture and huge Greek columns, making for an imposing entrance to this grand cemetery. Its layout is like a tiny city, with a main throughfair and branching paths, all lined with mausoleums. Although the setup is formal the burial styles are incredibly varied; you can see mausoleums modeled like Greek temples, pyramids and chapels all on one path. But the number one reason people visit this cemetery isn’t for the architecture, it’s to visit the grave of its most famous resident: the beloved Eva Peron (a remarkably humble tomb). No matter what time of day or year her grave is always adorned with fresh flowers.
The oldest cemetery in New Orleans, Saint Louis #1has been dubbed the “City of the Dead”. It gets this ominous name because of the New Orleans practice of above ground tombs (thanks to the high water table and propensity for floods), making the cemetery look like a miniature city from afar. People have also been known to preform secret voodoo rituals around the grave of the cemetery’s most distinguished occupant: Marie Laveau, better known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. But beware, the cemetery itself poses a danger for alive visitors. The narrow, crooked and often dead-end paths through the tombs often hide thieves waiting to pounce on unsuspecting tourists and those paying their respects to the dead.
5. Capuchin Crypt, Rome
This crypt contains the bones of 4,000 Capuchin Franciscan friars arranged in elaborate floor to ceiling designs in several tiny chapels. But surprisingly the friars were begging to be buried there! Supposedly the soil of the crypt was taken from Jerusalem, making it an exceptionally holy final resting place. Different bones are used in different chapels, for example one chapel is called “Crypt of the Skulls” and another, “Crypt of the Pelvises”. And in the last chapel, the skeleton of a child Grim Reaper has this inscription under it, “What You Are We Once Were Too And What We Are Now, You Will Be”. Doesn’t get much creepier than that!
6. Valley of the Kings, Cairo
For nearly 500 years, between 16th and 11th century BCE, elaborate tombs were constructed for Egyptian kings and their families in this valley. Ancient Egyptians believed the wealth and splendor they were buried with would follow them into the after-life, so the tombs in this valley were created with monumental architecture and filled with unspeakable wealth that modern day historians can only imagine. Although the structure of the tombs remain, sadly most have been looted at some point in the last 3,000 years leaving only clues to what might have originally been there. The tomb of Tutankhamen is one of the most historically significant finds in the Valley of the Kings since his grave seems to have been relatively untouched throughout history. But the discovery came with a curse! Almost everyone involved with opening Tutankhamen’s grave died mysteriously within a few short years. Although some scientists think their deaths could have been caused by deadly mold in the tombs, others speculate it was the price they had to pay for disturbing an Egyptian king’s grave.
Given the topography of Venice, it is no surprise that the city’s cemetery is an island unto itself. Located on the island of San Michele, the cemetery has been in existence since the 19th century after a decree from Napoleon forbade the burial of human bodies on Venice. Nicknamed the “Island of the Dead” for obvious reasons, the Cimitero di San Michele is unusually quiet, peaceful, and logically organized…especially when compared to the rest of Venice. Bodies are delivered to the island via special gondolas. Ezra Pound and Igor Stravinsky are two famous bodies of the many buried here. The serenity and stunning views give this Island of the Dead an incredibly eerie but beautiful quality.
8. Bachelor’s Grove, Chicago
Although Bachelor’s grove is no longer in use, it is reputed to be one of the most haunted spots in the United States. Created in 1844, the cemetery got its unusual name from the high number of unmarried men that were killed and buried there while building the Illinois-Michigan Canal. Unfortunately, the cemetery has experienced heavy vandalism from thrill seekers hoping to disrupt the spirits that have been seen wandering about the cemetery. People have reported multiple paranormal sightings including: orbs of light floating in trees, a “White Lady” hovering among the tombstones, the sound of a baby crying at night, and most famously, a haunted pond where gangster Al Capone supposedly disposed of the bodies of the men he killed.
This cemetery was built in the Victorian era and covers 37 acres of overgrown woodland in London. Highgate Cemetery boasts some spectacular statues of angels, animals and people, all in varying degrees of decay. It also perfectly highlights the Victorian obsession with ancient Egyptians, possibly because both cultures had a peculiar fascination with death. The main walkway through the cemetery is named Egyptian Ave., and it is dominated by two foreboding obelisks. It is said that Bram Stoker, the author of the original Dracula, was so inspired by the creepy ambiance that he hung around Highgate Cemetery for inspiration while writing!
10. The Ganges River, Varanasi, India
Varanasi is considered one of the holiest cities for Hindus in India because of its proximity to the Ganges river. For Hindus, the river represents purification and spiritual health, and it is a great honor for those that are able to be cremated on its banks. Thousands of bodies every year are burned in Varanasi on pyres floating in the Ganges, and their remains are left to migrate downstream and disintegrate into the river itself. Because of this practice, the Ganges water is hugely polluted and rife with bacteria that would make anyone who is not accustomed to it very ill. Incredibly, the people of Varanasi wash their clothes, bathe, and play in this very river, only feet away from the smoldering corpses. Their absolute acceptance of the burning dead into their daily lives is both beautiful and eerie.
Have a creepy cemetery to add to the list?