Places to see: Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery, VA

Freedmans cemetery

The next time you’re in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, think about swinging by the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery on 1001 S. Washington Street that was once paved over by a gas station. The east coast is (in)famous for having any number of forgotten cemeteries scattered throughout the region. This is one of them.

“The dedication of the cemetery happened almost by accident. Alexandria was a gathering place for escaped slaves during the Civil War. But after the war, with no headstones on the graves, the city found a way to forget. In the 1950s, a gas station was allowed to pave it over. But eventually the cemetery was rediscovered, and the city tore the gas station down, and archaeologists found more than 600 graves.”

Read the entire story and see the video here.  Plan your trip here.

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Move into our assisted living facilities, get a free cemetery plot?

Over near Springfield, Pennsylvania, there’s a developer who’s looking to morph part of a local cemetery into an elder care home/assisted living facility.

“The commissioners voted 6-1 to approve a final subdivision plan to consolidate two tax parcels within St. Peter and St. Paul Cemetery, 1600 S. Sproul Road, and subdivide a portion of undeveloped ground into a separate tract for future development.

The 318.1 acres will be divided into 294 acres of cemetery land and a separate 24.1-acre lot. The request was made by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which owns the property, and The Benson Companies, the equitable owner of the smaller piece...Earlier this year, Benson presented a sketch plan to the planning commission showing independent living apartments and commons, assisted living units, a skilled nursing component and urgent care facility on the cemetery property.”

Now I understand planning and am the first to recommend getting one’s affairs in order, but I think this is taking things a wee bit too far.

Although the ghoulish side of me wonders if the marketing materials will offer a free burial plot to potential residents as an added move-in incentive.

Read the full story here.


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Updated: Wow, I leave for a bit and look what happens…

Update as of 9/12/2014

After seeing too many interesting articles about restoration and historical cemeteries pass me by, I’ve decided to start posting again,.

This time, though, I’m going to take a slightly different route. Instead posting all original content (which ran me ragged), I will do a combination of the following:

1. The occasional original post.

2. Pass on interesting articles and/or those I think need more publicity.

3. Do more fun Snapshot postings (like this one about a sergeant in the WWI tank corps).

As always, keep the comments coming, and if you have some restoration news you’d like to share, let me know!


I can’t believe it’s only been a year since I decided to stop posting. There  have been some great questions and helpful comments–keep ‘em coming!

I’m so glad I decided to keep the blog live because I had no idea how useful it was. Many thanks to all my 16,000 + visitors in 2011 and yes, I will be around to answer questions if you have them.

And who knows? I might even get inspired to start posting again.

Happy New Year!


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Can you help save Flight Lieutenant George Arthur Marrows?

An appeal asking for more information about Flight Lieutenant George Arthur Marrows appeared in yesterday’s Gainsborough Standard.

Courtesy Gainsborough Standard

Courtesy Gainsborough Standard

Flight Lt. Marrows was the pilot of a Halifax bomber which took off from RAF Breighton on 7th June 1944 to bomb rail communications. It crashed near Bretigny-sur-Orge killing all seven crew. All are buried in Bretigny-sur-Orge Communal Cemetery.

The local restoration society would like to repair Flt. Lt Marrow’s headstone in the Gainsborough cemetery as it’s broken and the inscription is very difficult to read. Anyone with information please visit

Read the entire article here.

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Book Review: Haunted Washington

After first reading the Black Diamond Cemetery (BD) entry and noting his warning about visiting that cemetery, I looked for other ‘warnings’ or negative feedback from the author and found none. Just the one from BD. 

“Our advice: Consider staying away from the Black Diamond Cemetery, unless you are really determined to see something strange.”

Ghost books aren’t usually included on this site for a very simple reason. This blog focuses on the history of and/or the interesting carvings found around various cemeteries. Not hauntings.

However, after receiving an email from an historian friend who had read Adam Woog’s latest book, Haunted Washington: Uncanny Tales and Spooky Spots from the Upper Left-Hand Corner of the United States, and had lived in one of the supposedly haunted locales, and knew the Pike’s Place Market night watchman, I decided this was a worthwhile exception.

Enjoy the review and if you do end up buying the book, let me know what you think.

The Author: Lives in Seattle. Has written books on mummies; movie monsters, vampires, poltergeists, strange museums, zombies, and illusionists. He writes a monthly column for the Seattle Times on crime and mystery fiction. His books are written for adults, teens and children. Mr. Woog states in the book, “Writing Haunted Washington was way too much fun, but it was not without its frustrations.”

Chapter sections include: Native American Legends, Seattle, The Puget Sound Islands, King and Snohomish Counties, Tacoma, The Kitsap Peninsula and Olympia, the State Capital, Olympic Peninsula: From Twilight to Real Crime and Back, Bellingham, The San Juan Islands, Southwest Washington, Central Washington and the Cascade Mountains, and Eastern and Southeastern Washington.

Introduction by the author: He questions the spooky eerie tales of the State of Washington, considering that they may be contributed to the dark rainforests, sparsely populated islands up in the northern parts, logging towns, rolling hills, the vastness of ranchlands, remote mountains of the Olympics and Cascades, and rich heritage of American Tribes. He contends that people just like a good story, “especially one that has the potential to scare them out of their socks.” His checklist for including a story was, “needing to be mentioned in at least one book or article from a reputable media source and/or involve a well established legend.”

The Stories and the ghosts, unusual unexplained events continue: The Georgetown Castle, Seattle’s Chinatown where some won’t work in or near some established old buildings, stories from the islands are legends, Issaquah’s Rolling Log tavern, the special steps at Maltby that were covered up but the voices and happenings returned, Tacoma’s theatre The Pantages is one of many theaters with the unexplained. Native Americans took about a year of planning a cleansing at Lakewood, but after the events came back said, “We don’t want anything changed here. Whatever energy is here, we want it just the way it is.”

At the top of the list of the strangest is in Starvation Heights in Olalla. In Port Gamble is the most densely haunted place, and the Evergreen State College in Olympia where, in 1997, the Governor and his family moved out of the Mansion due to bats, and at Tenino with their wooden money, the ghosts have remained.

The Olympic Peninsula From Twilight to Real Crime and Back says it all. The military man in a WW 11 wool army uniform faded away before their eyes, and like Monika in Touched by an Angel, the woman is back every night, seated at the same table, dressed in her 1940s outfit–always a heartwarming ending. They were married a week, he went to serve his country and didn’t come home, but he’s there at the table with her. They’ve seen it but don’t talk much about it.

The islands, where, even after they’ve passed on in life, the ghosts still hang around.

Gonzaga University and the Davenport Hotel in Spokane are also included in this book–both with a nice, long write up. In Yakima, “(Ghosts) bring in a good business,” says one restaurant owner in the old depot, “with even more down the block a pace or two.”

You never know where or when you’ll see these unexplained events, from old depots, public buildings, old mortuaries turned into housing, hotels, taverns, colleges and certainly, cemeteries. No area seems to be without its haunted past.

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10 most scenic cemeteries

Prague Cemetery

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a link to a CNN article about 10 of the most scenic cemeteries in the world. Enjoy!

10 most scenic cemeteries…


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Newcastle Cemetery update

Many of you have read my earlier posts on the Newcastle coal miner’s cemetery located just outside of Seattle. Here’s a link to a news video highlighting the site and the $9,500 grant given to help clean and restore the broken headstones. Congratulations, Newcastle!

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