Friday, October 7, 2016

Alabama Cemetery Tour

October has rolled around again!  Time for my yearly "Is it haunted or not?" blog.  This year, let's look at a few cemeteries in and near Birmingham that may...or may haunted.  

The sites listed below are all privately owned.  As such, it is neither legal nor recommended that anyone step onto these properties without the express consent of the owner or manager.

East Lake Cemetery – Birmingham, AL

East Lake Cemetery was a part of the Ruhama Baptist Church and was established in the early 1830’s thanks to the donation of one acre by Richard Wood and his wife, Harriet Bradford Wood.  Over the years, more land was added.

This cemetery boasts 60 Confederate, one Union, three Spanish-American War and six World War I soldiers among its residents.

It has been said that beneath the cemetery are a web of caverns unbeknownst to the cemetery owners until sometime later when graves began falling into the caverns below.

When you walk about the cemetery, there are several graves that have either completely slipped into the caverns below or are well on their way.  You can actually look down into these sunken graves and see the coffins that have crashed into the caverns below.  Some are still intact but some have busted open spilling their contents below.

Rumor has it that during the 70’s a couple of teens were in the cemetery after dark when one of them accidentally stepped into one of the graves that had sunk.  He landed maybe 20 feet below and when he came to his senses and looked around, he noticed with great fright that he was laying on top of a body that had slipped out of its coffin when his grave collapsed.

Haunted or not, it’s one scary looking place.

Fraternal Cemetery - Pratt City, AL
(formerly the Pratt Mines Cemetery and United Mine Workers Cemetery)

This cemetery was established in 1881 and is located in Pratt City off of Sheridan Road on “Irish Hill” close to Pratt Mine #1.  Lands were added in 1898 & 1926 and for most of its early history, the cemetery was maintained by local fraternal organizations who bought parcels.  

Many immigrants who settled the Pratt City area are buried here.  The Pratt City Memorial Day Parades in the 1930s used to begin at Pratt City Hall and would end at the cemetery.
During the 20th century, the cemetery fell into neglect.  Since 2013 the Fraternal-Greenwood-Foley Cemetery Preservation Society has been working to secure funds and volunteers to maintain the cemetery.

This cemetery has an incredible history and boasts some of the most unusual headstones and mausoleums in the area not to mention many many stories about its residents that are just too fantastical not to be true.

The cemetery is entered through an arched stone gateway.  Inside the cemetery you will find a mausoleum structure, now dubbed “the gazebo” which consists of two circular domes supported on a rectangular arcade four bays long by two bays wide.  This structure was completely unnoticed for decades as the cemetery had been allowed to fall into a massive state of neglect.

Once a restoration organization had been formed and they began the massive job of cleaning up the cemetery, they discovered this structure.  An expert was brought in who determined that the stonework was old Italian and that this wasn’t actually a gazebo but rather had been a very ornate mausoleum complete with glass doors by which to view the coffin.  He surmised that over the years, vandals had broken into the vault thus necessitating that the coffin (and its contents) be relocated.

Another interesting thing is the grave of the three Italians.  This marker was made to honor three Italian boys who died shortly after they arrived from Italy.  Sadly, their names have never been known.

Another monument simply says “outlaw”.  I don't know if that's the residents name....or a description of his character.

The cemetery also contains the graves of one of the victims of one of Birmingham’s most horrific crime sprees, the Axe Murders of the 1920s.  Victim Calogero “Charley” Graffeo was murdered on May 28, 1923.  The next day the papers reported: “Graffeo was found dead at his store in an outlying residential section last night with his skull crushed by the blow of an axe and his throat slashed.”  The Axe Murder spree would continue for four long years.  The number of victims varies in newspaper account of the time, from 16 to as many as 44. 

How would you like to take a midnight stroll in this cemetery?

Bass Cemetery - Irondale, AL

This cemetery is a mecca for ghost hunters from all over the country.  Numerous reports of ghostly sightings, ghostly sounds, orbs of light and even ghostly touching have been reported there throughout the years.  There are even reports of occultists who have sacrificed animals at the cemetery along with an empty mausoleum.

The cemetery is just over 200 years old.  Among its residents it lays claim to being the final resting place of many civil war soldiers and deceased slaves.  Apparitions have been seen and the feeling of being followed is common.  Strange screams have also been heard.

The first known grave belongs to Burwell bass, a revolutionary war soldier who died in 1831.  It is also the final resting place of Montezuma Goodwin, a farmer who was shot and killed by his brother in law in 1904.  

No one seems to know exactly who is haunting Bass or why...they just know it's haunted!

Hughes Family Cemetery - Gardendale

Motorists passing by this cemetery have witnessed some strange occurrences, including objects banging against the car and ghostly hands or faces appearing on the windows.  Some say they have been chased by a wolf with glowing red eyes, accompanied by a glowing light, and others have heard strange noises.  Shadowy figures have been seen darting between the tombstones, and some of the tombstones themselves are said to move about on their own.

These reports are either incredibly frightening.....or a PSA against drugs and/or decide.

Oak Hill Cemetery - Birmingham, AL

Located just north of downtown, Oak Hill is Birmingham Alabama’s oldest cemetery...or at least the oldest cemetery within the original city limits of Birmingham.  Elyton Cemetery is older but when it was built, the Elyton community was outside the city limits.  Elyton Cemetery was built in 1821 some 68 years before Oak Hill.  

Originally 21.5 acres on the estate of James M. Ware, it was already a burial ground by April 1869 when it served as the resting place for the infant daughter of future mayor Robert H. Henley.  It was marked as “city Cemetery” on the original plats for Birmingham laid out by the Elyton Land Company and was formally sold to the city on December 29, 1873 for the sum of $1,073.50.

Most of the 10,000 or so burials at Oak Hill were interred before 1930, including nine of the ten landholders who founded the city, many early mayors, a Revolutionary soldier, numerous civil war veterans, and the first male child born in the city.  Although few records exist from the time, most believe the “Potter’s Field” section was also used as the final resting place for many victims of the 1873 cholera epidemic.

With this many graves and age, it’s no wonder people have long reported hearing disembodied voices, seeing shadowy visions, reporting instances of seeing a person who appeared to walk past them and then disappeared into the headstone of a nearby grave.

Salter Cemetery - Mulga, AL

If looking spooky and being really old were the only criteria of a haunted cemetery....then this one would be extremely haunted.  The building in the first shot is on the cemetery grounds.  I couldn't find anything that might tell me what it was used for.  An onsite funeral home?  Who knows?  The cemetery was established in 1832.  I have found graves as recent as 2009.    

High Hill Church – Parrish, AL

This church and cemetery is believed to be haunted by many ghosts.  Local residents have reported seeing people in the cemetery late at night.  Some have reported witnessing crowds of “people” late at night at the church and surrounding area.  They said it resembled a revival at the church even though the church has been abandoned for years.  One man reported that he happened across another man while he was out hunting near the church.  The man introduced himself to the hunter as the pastor of High Hill Church.  Later the hunter found out that the church had been abandoned for years and that the pastor who ran services there had died in the late 1970’s.  The pastor had also been known to enjoying hunting in the area.  Another person reported seeing a bride and groom walk out of the church late one night.

Adams Grove Presbyterian Church – Sardis, AL in Dallas County

The Adams Grove Presbyterian Church and the attached Adams Grove Cemetery in Sardis, Alabama is reportedly haunted.  The church was built in 1853 which was actually five years after the first person was buried in the cemetery and was an active congregation until 1974.  Today it is listed on the national historic registry and is privately owned. 

It is said that the ghost of a confederate soldier orders people off the property.    A spirit believed to be a former minister of the church dressed in black has been seen in the church as well.  Several paranormal research teams have investigated the property recently and have claimed to encounter ghosts during their investigations.

Consolidation Church Cemetery – Red Level, AL

Located not far from Oaky Streak Graveyard, this Butler County cemetery is the subject of legends that include banshees, hellhounds and even a haunted outhouse. 

The Greenville Advocate, a local newspaper, reported in 2012: “One of the most common legends shared about the church is that of a Gaelic banshee, whose shrieking, sobbing and whimpering can supposedly be heard from the wooden walls of the church.  It is said that whenever this happens, it won’t be long before someone inside the church dies.

Another story claims that hellhounds, with glowing red eyes roam the cemetery located just in front of the church.  Legend also has it that if someone enters the outhouse, the door will shut and lock behind them holding them prisoner until someone from the outside opens the door.”

Unfortunately, in 2015, someone set the church on fire and it was completely destroyed.

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