Secrets in Stone: A Living(?) Mystery Novel

Today we have a special treat! Kirsten Weiss is taking us on a tour of old cemeteries, complete with ghosts.  Take it away, Kirsten!

In 2013, the idea of a fictional murderer attending his victim’s funeral seems old hat. And the heroes of modern mystery novels are less likely to prowl a darkened cemetery looking for clues.

But in the real world, cemeteries are experiencing a revival.

Perhaps it’s because of the rising interest in all things haunted. Or perhaps today’s modern cemeteries, designed for the ease of gardeners rather than for ornamentation, give us a greater appreciation for the overblown monuments of the past. Or perhaps it’s simply because they’re old and beautiful.

Whatever the reason, older cemeteries can make an intriguing wander. Interested? Check out these must-see American cemeteries.

headstones in Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery (photo by Ann Sullivan-Larson, CC 3.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA. One of Atlanta’s most famous landmarks, this cemetery was designed as a Victorian “garden cemetery,” during the days when picnicking amongst deceased loved ones didn’t seem quite so odd. As the name suggests, the cemetery has the feel of a garden, dotted with spectacular monuments.

Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, GA. Located amidst Savannah’s famous squares, the Colonial cemetery is rich in history and ghosts. Look for the tombstone altered by Union soldiers during the occupation of Atlanta. The final resting place of prominent Savannah citizens, dueling victims, and 700 victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1820, it’s little wonder that the cemetery is believed to be haunted.

It’s most famous specter is that of Rene Asche Rondolier (or Renee Rondolia Asch), a disfigured orphan who lived in the cemetery in the early 1800s.  He was accused of the murder of two girls whose bodies were found in the cemetery, dragged to the nearby swamps, lynched and left for dead.  But in the days that followed, more dead bodies turned up in the cemetery. The people of Savannah were convinced Rene’s ghost was the culprit, and to this day the cemetery is known by some as Rene’s playground.  It’s said his ghost roams the grounds at night.

One tourist believes he’s actually caught little Rene on video.

Unitarian Church Cemetery, Charleston, SC. This lovely, overgrown graveyard, its gnarled trees draped with Spanish moss, has lovely examples of death’s heads from the Colonial period, as well as its share of haunts, including an entirely fictional ghost.  According to legend, Annabel Lee was romantically involved with Edgar Allen Poe when he was stationed in Charleston.  But her father kept them apart.  Poe eventually left town and Annabel died months later of Yellow Fever.  Poe returned to pay his respects, but the irate father was determined to keep them apart even in death, and moved Annabel’s grave to an unmarked spot in the lower end of the cemetery. People swear they’ve seen the ghost of Annabel wandering the cemetery.

death head on tombstone

Death head tombstone (photo by Kirsten Weiss)

Saint Louis Cemetery No 1, New Orleans, LA. Because of the high water table, residents of New Orleans were forced t bury their dead above ground, making for a miniature cityscape of monuments. One of this cemetery’s most famous residents is voodoo queen, Marie Leveau. The cemetery is easy to find – just outside the French Quarter. Marie Leveau’s unmarked tomb… not so much. Several tombs within the cemetery are possibilities, and you’ll find them chalked by the x’s of supplicants and littered with offerings. Good luck figuring out which tomb belongs to the real Marie.

Above-ground graves in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

Above-ground graves in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (photo by Photoartel, CC 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Key West Cemetery, FL. What makes this cemetery unique are the epigraphs. Key West has always attracted its share of eccentrics, and this is where you’ll find headstones reading: “I Told You I Was Sick,” and “At Least I Know Where He’s Sleeping Tonight.”

statue of angel in Key West Cemetery

Key West Cemetery (photo by Averette at en.wikipedia, CC 3.0)

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA . This cemetery catapulted to fame after the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil hit the bestseller lists. It’s a lovely southern gothic, shrouded in oaks dripping Spanish moss. Though, the famed “bird girl” statue from the book cover is gone, the cemetery is still worth a look.

graves in Bonaventure Cemetery

Bonaventure Cemetery (photo by Minipaula, CC 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA. This is the final resting place of America’s version of royalty – the celebrity. You can find the graves of silver screen idols, Rudolph Valentino, Tyrone Power, Fay Wray, and more modern celebs, like Johnny Ramone.

Johnny Ramone statue in Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Johnny Ramone statue in Hollywood Forever Cemetery (photo by Sean Russell, CC 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)


How about you? Have you visited any haunted, or otherwise interesting,  cemeteries lately? What’s your favorite cemetery, or ghost story? Kirsten’s going to be hanging around today to chat, so please comment below.

Kirsten Weiss’s fictional detective, Riga Hayworth, hasn’t prowled any cemeteries lately, but she’ll be dealing with the undead in her upcoming paranormal mystery novel, The Infernal Detective. The cover for that book was inspired by the death’s heads from Charleston’s Unitarian Church cemetery. Watch for it in May, 2013.


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12 thoughts on “Secrets in Stone: A Living(?) Mystery Novel

  1. Shannon Esposito

    These are all beautiful! Savannah is on my must-visit list and I know the cemetaries will be one of my first perusals. I’ve alway found cemetaries to be so peaceful. When I lived in in Winston Salem, NC my sister-in-law and I used to spend the day in a sprawling cemetary there, taking photos and daydreaming.

  2. Catie Rhodes

    I’ve visited St. Louis No. 1. I’d love to go back sometime. Never having been to Savannah, the cemeteries you’ve shown are definitely on my bucket list.

    I’m from Texas, so I’ve visited more Texas cemeteries than anything else. We stop at a lot of old, country cemeteries. You’re right. These newfangled cemeteries are designed for landscaper’s ease, not beauty.

    Chita Cemetery in Trinity County is where I have my burial plot (yes, really). The cemetery was started by my ancestors in the 1860s. It has some neat, neat monuments. Plus, I’ll be buried there with the rest of my family. LOL

    Oakwood Cemetery in Jefferson, Texas is a neat cemetery. It dates back to the 1840s. The Yankee soldiers from the Civil War are buried in a section away from the rest of the cemetery. It also has a lot of angel statues and gravestone symbolism.

    W.D. Jones of the Bonnie and Clyde gang is buried in Brookside Cemetery in Houston, Texas. They have these gorgeous live oak trees that look like something right off the grounds of Oak Alley Plantation.

    I guess I’ve bored you enough. One last thing. If you haven’t read The Restorer by Amanda Stevens (and you like cemeteries), you should.

    1. Kirsten Weiss

      Catie –
      Thanks for the great list of Texas cemeteries to see! I do a lot of driving and next time I’m in the area, I’ll make a point to find them!

      And I know what you mean about family cemeteries! One of my personal favorite cemeteries is buried beneath a thistle patch behind an old dairy farm – the original family burial plot. Sadly, the monuments have deteriorated and are now unreadable. It hasn’t seen any new “guests” in over a hundred years, at least. And a super store is threatening to buy the land so I suspect it will all be a parking lot soon.

  3. Kassandra Lamb

    I wasn’t the least bit bored, Catie. Thanks for the interesting additions to the list.

    And also thanks for the tip about Amanda Steven’s Restorer. I just looked it up on Amazon. Looks likes it’s creepy good! Bought it!

    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Hey, Susie,
      Which blog post was that? I’d love to see those photos. I didn’t know there was a real Sleepy Hollow.


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