11 Graves in Unexpected Places
Not everyone is buried six feet under the verdant grass of a cemetery. Some, whether out of personal choice, a punishment, or strange twists of fate, are interred in unusual locales ranging from the bottom of the ocean to the top of a high rise. Others end up in these uncommon final resting places when the area around them changes. Their burial grounds become roads, parks, or, like that of the long-departed Richard III, a parking lot. Here are 11 examples of graves in unusual places.
1. Beneath a Street
Thomas “Mountain Tom” Clark managed to desert both the Union and Confederate armies prior to causing murderous havoc in North Alabama as a leader of the Clifton Shebang gang. He was finally caught in 1872, but before he could be tried for his crimes, a mob dragged him and his accomplices from the jail and hanged them from a tree.
The legend now holds that instead of being buried in the cemetery, he was put beneath a road next to it. A historic sign in Florence, Alabama, states why: It was to disprove the criminal’s boast that “no one would ever run over Tom Clark."
2. At the Top of a Ski Slope
Skiers and snowboarders on Hunter Mountain in New York’s Catskills pass by an odd sight for a winter resort: a tombstone. At the top of a ski lift is a granite marker for Archer Winsten, who died in 1997. His epitaph declares, “He lived for skiing at Hunter Mountain.” And in death, Winsten—who was the New York Post’s longtime film critic—did not want to rest far from it. His ashes were scattered on this mountaintop near his favorite ski runs.
3. In the Smithsonian Institution
It’s not unheard of for a famous figure to be memorialized in their museum. Frida Kahlo’s ashes are held in the Casa Azul in Mexico City; a crypt in the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain, holds the remains of Salvador Dalí. Visitors to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., are often surprised to encounter, alongside the tourist information and concessions in the Smithsonian Castle, the crypt of James Smithson. What’s especially curious is that the founding benefactor of the Smithsonian actually never stepped foot in the United States. It was Alexander Graham Bell who decided to exhume Smithson’s bones from Genoa and bring them to D.C., along with the marble sarcophagus that adorned his tomb in Italy.
4. In an Artificial Reef
Just off the coast of Key Biscayne in Florida, underwater sculptures of lions, starfish, seashells, and other shapes have been formed from cremated remains mixed with cement. The unique cemetery, known as the Neptune Memorial Reef, opened in 2007. It will eventually cover 16 acres, offering a respite for both the departed and marine organisms. The graves are all open to the public to visit, provided you have the scuba gear.
5. In a Sports Stadium
Scattering ashes of fans at sports stadiums has long been a popular—albeit covert—practice. Many grieved the loss of the old Yankee Stadium in 2008 because it doubled as their family memorial ground. The Vicente Calderón Stadium in Madrid, Spain, gave superfans of Atlético Madrid a columbarium so their ashes could rest near their beloved soccer team. When the stadium began its demolition in 2019, the eternal fans were carefully transported to the Wanda Metropolitano stadium so they wouldn’t miss a game.
6. In a Public Park
New York City’s busy Washington Square Park was a burial ground before it became home to dog parks, benches, and a popular central fountain. Between 1797 and 1825, thousands were buried in the potter’s field on site, including some who died in yellow fever epidemics or who belonged to local churches. Not all were relocated when the area was transformed into public space. During renovations to the park in early 2021, some of these remains were unearthed and reinterred in one of the planting beds. A paving stone now marks the unassuming site as a grave.
7. In the Median of a Road
A seemingly ordinary traffic median in Franklin, Indiana, holds the grave of Nancy Kerlin Barnett. When she died in 1831, the area was just a grassy hill. But when a road was slated to be built in 1905 where she had wanted to rest eternally, her relatives refused to move the grave. Legend has it that her grandson kept workers away with a shotgun, and the road was constructed around her grave.
Recent excavation work to level the grave so it would be less of a driving hazard revealed the remains of seven other people. Though the road came through, the cemetery endured.
8. On an Airport Runway
Lodged in the runway of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia are the grave markers of Richard and Catherine Dotson. The Dotsons did not plan to rest in such a noisy place; they died in the 19th century and were buried in their family cemetery. By the 1940s, the land was appropriated for military operations, and what was once a bucolic graveyard became a training station for the Army Air Corps. The Dotsons’ descendants preferred that their relatives remain undisturbed, so the markers were made a part of the tarmac.
9. In a State Capitol
The grandest project by Philadelphia architect William F. Strickland became his tomb. In 1845, he arrived in Tennessee to design its new state capitol. During the slow process of its construction—much of it carried out by enslaved people and convicts—he fell ill, with his death seeming so near that the legislature included money in its 1854 capitol appropriation for his grave. That April, he died and was interred in the north portico of the building, which was completed five years later.
10. In a High Rise
While most people are interred underground, the dead in the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica in Santos, Brazil, rest in the sky. The 32-story building was established in 1983 and has expanded over the years. It’s now recognized as the world’s tallest cemetery and a model for how cities can maximize burial space. It even includes a chapel, restaurant, lagoon, and peacock garden.
11. In a Business Park
The Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York, is a sprawling industrial complex that has been a center for manufacturing since the 1890s. And its founder is still part of it. The grave of George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak, is marked with a marble monument at the site. Though his family has a plot at the cemetery in Waterville, New York, Eastman’s niece suggested that he be buried close to the company that “he loved above all things.”