The Quick 10: 10 of America's Most Haunted Cemeteries

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iStock/GeorgePeters

I live just across the street from a cemetery, and this time of year it's certainly not hard to creep myself out a little bit when walking the dogs after work - especially in the evening when the sun is sinking below the horizon, giving everything an eerie glow. But despite scaring myself, I can't say that I've heard of any actual hauntings or sightings that have happened there. That's not the case for these 10 cemeteries, which are considered to be some of the spookiest sites in the U.S. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. St. Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans. There are three St. Louis Cemeteries in the Big Easy, but #1 is said to be the most haunted. It's the oldest, for sure, opening in 1789 to replace St. Peter Cemetery, which burned in 1788. It's no wonder the cemetery holds some haunts - with more than 100,000 people buried in a section of land about the size of a block, you'd expect that a few of them might have a little unfinished business. The tomb that tends to attract the most attention is that of Marie Laveau, the famous voodoo priestess. People mark three "X"es on her tomb, believing that doing so will cause her to grant them a wish.
2. Stull Cemetery, Kansas - the Gates to Hell. OK, probably not, but you have to admit that a church reduced to rubble does spark the imagination. And the fact that the crumbling church finally fell down on Good Friday - also good fodder. Rumor has it that if you go up and knock on a rock in the rubble pile as if you were knocking on a door, the Devil himself will rise up and answer.

3. Western Burial Ground, Westminster Presbyterian Churchyard, Baltimore, Maryland. It's fitting that the cemetery Edgar Allan Poe now calls home is considered one of the scariest in America. Poe's ghost has been spotted, of course, but another freaky story is that of the Cambridge Skull. A minister was murdered, you see, but his head never stopped screaming, even after he died. The murderers finally gagged the skull and buried it in a block of cement to attempt to muffle it, but if you listen closely, it can still be heard. If you're one of the lucky ones to hear it, the story goes, you'll never get the sound out of your head and will likely be driven insane.

4. Bachelor's Grove Cemetery, Chicagoland. This cemetery isn't only home to apparitions of people - apparitions of an entire house have been reported by a startling number of people who can all identify a similar white farmhouse with pillars and a porch swing. Bachelor's Grove also has "evidence" of the paranormal - the picture to the left was taken in 1991 and has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times. What do you think - altered picture? Other strange reports from Bachelor's Grove have included unexplained lights, faces in the mist and faces that appear on tombstones only to disappear shortly thereafter.
5. Howard Street Cemetary, Salem, Massachusetts. With its witch hunt history, it seems safe to assume that Salem is probably one of the most haunted places in the U.S. The oldest cemetery there is no exception. In fact, one famous resident of the grounds wasn't just buried there - he died there too. Giles Corey was the only person to die by torture during the Witch Trials. Corey refused to admit guilt or innocence regarding his use of witchcraft, because either way he answered would allow city officials to take his property. So the sheriff made Corey lie down in a hole in the middle of the field and then added stones to a board placed across his chest. More stones were slowly added until Corey was eventually crushed to death two days later. Now Corey is said to appear in the cemetery right before tragedy strikes the town; he was supposedly seen just days before the Great Fire of 1914.

6. Resurrection Cemetery, Chicago. Between this and Bachelor's Grove, Chicago's a scary place to be! I know you've heard this ghost story before, and this might be the place it originated: many years ago, a girl was walking home one night after a dance. She was hit and killed by a car, and has spent the last 80 years hitchhiking to the cemetery. When a kindly driver accepts and pulls up to drop her off at the gates, she vanishes. In Chicago, this gal is called Resurrection Mary. Many people have reported seeing her or almost hitting her in the road, and some people have even claimed to have picked her up. While it sounds like one of those urban legends, there may be an element of truth - in 1927, a girl named Anna Norkus did die in a car accident on her way home from the Oh Henry Ballroom.

7. Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg, Pa., might be one of the only places where you can experience a ghost smell. Because so many died at the Battle of Gettysburg, it was impossible to clear the bodies and get them buried in a timely fashion. As you can imagine, the stench would have been awful. For quite some time after, people couldn't walk near Cemetery Hill without something to mask the stink of death, so they dipped handkerchiefs in peppermint and vanilla and held the cloth to their noses. To this day, some people report smelling peppermint at Cemetery Hill.

8. Boot Hill, Tombstone, Arizona. You might think Deadwood's Boot Hill would boast the most ghosts - after all, it's home to Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock, among others. But it's Boot Hill in Tombstone that has the photographic "evidence" of ghosts. To me this one definitely looks like a Photoshop job, but maybe you can tell me otherwise. A tourist was taking a picture of his friend in Old West gear at Boot Hill and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary until the film was developed, revealing a man in a cowboy hat who appeared to be rising out of the ground. You can see it to the left, or zoom in here. What do you think?

9. Hollywood Forever, Los Angeles. Hollywood just lends itself to ghost stories, doesn't it? So many broken dreams and scandals. And a lot of them seem to have ended up at Hollywood Forever. Some of the ghosts that have been seen include Clifton Webb, Virginia Rappe (the girl at the center of the Fatty Arbuckle murder/rape scandal), and William Randolph Hearst. Now, Hearst isn't actually buried at Hollywood Forever, but people have reported seeing him visiting the grave of his old mistress, Marion Davies.

10. Union Cemetery in Easton, Ct. This cemetery is an oldie dating back to the 1600s, so it's easy to believe that it could be haunted. The graveyard is also known as the White Lady Cemetery because of the famous ghost that reportedly haunts it. As you might suspect, a mysterious ghost adorned in white roams the grounds of the cemetery and sometimes even ventures beyond the gates a bit and into the road. Like Resurrection Mary, drivers have reported "hitting" her when she appeared out of nowhere in the road. Other people have told stories of a set of red eyes peering at them from the confines of a bush or a tree.

When I was growing up, high school kids (me included) loved to freak themselves out at an ancient cemetery and church called Mars Hill. It was way out in the country, which makes it extra-scary. You even had to cross a Crybaby Bridge to get to it. Do you have a cemetery of local legend near you? Let's hear your most chilling tales in the comments.

q10

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

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Apple

During this weekend's three-day sale on the Mental Floss Shop, you'll find deep discounts on products like AirPods, Martha Stewart’s bestselling pressure cooker, and more. Check out the best deals below.

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Apple

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Sony

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Sony

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Martha Stewart

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Jashen

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Evachill

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Gourmia

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Townew

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FenSens

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Noerden

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Prices subject to change.

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14 Facts About International Talk Like A Pirate Day

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iStock

Ahoy, me hearties! As many of you know, September 19 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, an annual phenomenon that’s taken the world by storm, having been observed by every continent, the International Space Station, and even the Oval Office since it first made headlines back in 2002. So let’s hoist the Jolly Roger, break out the rum, and take a look back at the holiday’s timber-shivering history.

1. Talk Like a Pirate Day was originally conceived of on D-Day.

Talk Like a Pirate Day creators John Baur and Mark Summer (who’ve since acquired the nicknames “Ol’ Chumbucket” and “Cap’n Slappy,” respectively) created the holiday while playing racquetball on June 6, 1995—the 51st anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. Out of respect to the battle’s veterans, a new observance date was quickly sought.

2. September 19th also happens to be the birthday of the ex-wife of the holiday's co-creator.

“[September 19th was] the only date we could readily recall that wasn’t already taken up with Christmas or the Super Bowl or something,” the pair later claimed. Summers claims to harbor no ill will toward his former spouse, who has since stated, “I’ve never been prouder to be his ex-wife!

3. Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry is largely responsible for popularizing the holiday.

Dave Barry was so smitten with the holiday after having been introduced to it via email in early 2002 that he dedicated an entire column to its publicity that September, turning an inside joke into a global sensation. He later went on to make a cameo appearance in one of Baur and Summers’s buccaneer-themed music videos in 2011 (look for him in the video above at the 3:25 mark).

4. Real pirates spoke in a wide variety of dialects.

Despite some extensive “English-to-Pirate” dictionaries that have cropped up all over the Internet the idea that all pirates shared a common accent regardless of national origin is historically absurd, as National Geographic pointed out in 2011.

5. Actor Robert Newton is hailed as the "patron saint" of Talk Like a Pirate Day.

So where did the modern “pirate dialect” come from? Summers and Baur credit actor Robert Newton's performance in Treasure Island (1950) and have accordingly dubbed him the “patron saint” of their holiday. Tasked with breathing life into the scheming buccaneer, Newton simply exaggerated his native West Country accent and the rest is history.

6. John Baur's family was featured on a pirate-themed episode of Wife Swap.

The reality show’s highly-anticipated 2006 season premiere pitted the Baurs (in full pillaging regalia) against a family which, according to John’s wife Tori (a.k.a. “Mad Sally”), “behaved as though ‘fun’ was something that had to be pre-packaged for their protection.”

7. John Baur was also on Jeopardy!

Baur was described to the audience as “a writer and pirate from Oregon” in his 2008 appearance. “I didn’t win,” Baur said, “but the introduction made Alex blink.”

8. International Talk Like a Pirate Day has become a cornerstone of the Pastafarian movement.

Bobby Henderson, founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, cited Earth’s dwindling pirate population as the clear source of global warming in his 2005 open letter to the Kansas school board which established the religion. Since then, Talk Like A Pirate Day has been observed by devout Pastafarians worldwide. 

9. A Florida mayor once ignited a local controversy for making an official Talk Like a Pirate Day proclamation.

In 2012, Lake Worth, Florida Mayor Pam Triolo lightheartedly urged her constituents to embrace the holiday last year, writing, “The City … is known to possess a spirit of independence, high spirits, and swashbuckling, all traits of a good pirate.” Her actions were criticized by the city’s former commissioner, Jo-Ann Golden, who took offense to the association with murderous seamen.

10. Day of the Ninja was created in response to Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Not to be outdone by their hated rivals, the pro-ninja community was quick to execute the first annual Day of the Ninja on December 5, 2002. For Summers and Baur’s take on the warring factions, see the clip above.

11. Astronauts once celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day aboard the International Space Station.

In a 2012 interview, Summers recalled being “informed that the astronauts on the International Space Station were awakened to ‘A Pirate’s Life For Me' and joined in the pirate talk from space.”

12. President Obama once celebrated with a costumed buccaneer in the Oval Office.

In 2012, Barack Obama tweeted this image on Talk Like a Pirate Day with the caption “Arr you in?”

13. A congressman later used the holiday to slam President Obama's tax plan.

In 2011, Florida’s 12th congressional district representative Dennis Ross used the festivity as a political punchline after Obama made a speech detailing his tax plan, tweeting, “It is TALK like a pirate day … not ACT like one. Watch ye purses and bury yr loot, the taxman cometh.”

14. It's an official holiday in the state of Michigan.

On June 4, 2013, state senator Roger Kahn’s proposal to grant International Talk Like A Pirate Day official acknowledgement from the Michigan government was formally adopted, to the chagrin of some dissenting landlubbers. 

This story originally ran in 2013.