Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave
The saga of Edgar Allan Poe’s burial is shrouded in almost as many twists and turns as he had written. Despite his prolific work, when he died in 1849, Poe was buried in an unmarked grave.
The unkempt gravesite began to overgrow with weeds. It was at this point that George W. Spence took it upon himself to erect a sandstone marker not with Poe’s name, but with the baffling and simple number 80.
Pressure began to grow to remedy the site as rumors of the unkempt grave circulated through Baltimore. Neilson, Poe’s cousin, promised to maintain the grave and ordered a marble headstone. Unfortunately, a freak train accident resulted in the headstone being destroyed and another was not ordered. The only remnant of the original stone exists as a paper sketch.
Many years later, donations were collected for a proper stone to mark the gravesite. These donations paid for half of the cost while the other half was covered by a Philadelphia man named George Childs. In 1874, George Fredrick, the architect who designed the City Hall of Baltimore, created a monument for Poe. However, Poe’s birthday was incorrect in the engraving and the new stone was much too large for the burial site. The imposing monument was decidedly placed in the front corner of the cemetery.
Edgar Allan Poe’s body was exhumed from his original resting place and placed under the monument. His new resting place was celebrated in 1875 and was attended by Walt Whitman and the high society of Baltimore.
Yet, the saga continues. In 1913, the original burial site was commemorated by a new stone, but it was placed incorrectly. It was then moved closer to the original site of the unmarked grave, but rumor has it that it is still not correct.
The Witch Grave of St. Omer Cemetery
The ghost town of Asherville, Illinois may have been forgotten if weren’t for the obscure Barnes monument. Most graves in the abandoned cemetery are oriented east and west, but the Barnes gravestone, marked by a ball on top of a pyre, is oriented north and south. This site of a local witch legend hosts four people: Marcus Barnes, his wife, Caroline, and his parents, Granville and Sarah. The stated death of Caroline, however, is one that never could have happened: February 31, 1882.
Legend says that Caroline Barnes was a witch. After being accused of witchcraft, she was burned alive (or, depending who you ask, hanged or buried alive). The ball on the pyre at the gravesite is a crystal ball and is rumored to glow on nights where there is no moon. It was thought that witches could rise again on their death date, so the recorded date of her death was one which could never happen, ensuring that she would never rise again.
Some say that secret rituals are carried out on the gravesite, and this is backed up by the dried melted white candle wax that can often be found atop the crystal ball. It is also said that photographs of the site will not develop, though digital photographs seem to be fine.
Though the lore is enticing to believe, there are very few facts to back it up. In all likelihood, Caroline died from pneumonia at the age of 23, just two months after her husband died in a sawmill accident. Caroline’s actual death date was either February 26th or 28th and the tombstone was probably a typo.
All that is left of Asheville is the cemetery, which has many other old gravestones worth looking at. It’s a brief look into a history that the lore of Caroline Barnes has kept alive.
Queens, New York
Harry Houdini. The great escape artist and illusionist, died in the arms of his wife, Bess, on Halloween in 1926. His death at the age of 52 was the result of blows to the stomach from a McGill University student who wanted to test the legend of Houdini’s stomach of steel, but Houdini was not given time to prepare.
His funeral was attended by over 2,000 people, after which he was placed in a family plot in Machpelah Cemetery.
Houdini had an interest in the afterlife, and made it a habit of attending seances and visiting mediums. He used his knowledge of illusion to try to expose fakes and to seek anyone who may actually be able to contact those who had crossed over. His interest in the afterlife continued into his death. Before he passed, Houdini left secret messages with those close to him. These messages were to be a way to verify contact with him in his afterlife.
Each Halloween thereafter, Bess held a séance to try to contact her dead husband. Even after her passing, the tradition continued. In addition to Bess’ Halloween seances, the Society of American Magicians began hosting a “Broken Wand” ceremony at Houdini’s grave. The ceremony originally took place on Halloween, but the event grew too large and attracted many partiers, so it was moved to November. To this day, police still patrol the cemetery on Halloween.
The original bust was donated by Bess to the Museum of the City of New York, but the replica placed at Houdini’s gravesite was smashed in 1975. The smashed replica was replaced only to be stolen in 1983. The stolen bust was recovered in 2003, and the most recent replacement was done in 2011 by the Society of American Magicians, who called themselves the Houdini Commandos. They made a cast from other replicas in order to create the new one and installed it in a guerilla restoration.
The cemetery and the Society of American Magicians have a long standing tension. The Magicians, who also run the Houdini Museum in Scranton, have blamed the cemetery for letting things fall into disrepair. The Magicians have also accused the cemetery for selling off pieces of the gravesite. The cemetery has accused the magicians of bringing in the vandals who have done damage to the gravesite.
J.R.R Tolkien’s Grave
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and his wife, Edith Mary Tolien, are buried together in a single grave in the Catholic section of the Wolvercote Cemetery.
J.R.R Tolkien studied the Classics, Old English, Welsh, Finnish, and the Germanic languages at Exeter College in Oxford. While there, he began working on his own invented languages, including Quenya. Work War I began during his time at Oxford. Tolkien delayed his enlistment until he finished his degree in 1915. He then enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers and was sent to active duty on the Western Front.
He fell ill after only four months following the Battle of Somme and was sent back to England in 1916. While recovering from his illness, he spent time with his wife Edith. She danced for him in the grove of hemlocks. This inspired the tale of Beren and Lúthien, and he began to think of All but one of Lúthien and Beren as Edith and himself. All but one of Tolkien’s good friends was killed in action. In honor of his friends, he began to write stories, many of which now make up The Silmarillion.
After returning to Oxford in 1937, Tolkien published his first major book, The Hobbit. It was an immediate success, so the publisher requested more from him. This resulted in The Lord of the Rings, which was a 16-year endeavor and was published in 1954. It quickly rose to cult status by 1968.
He was also on of the founders of The Inkilngs, who were a group of writers that met weekly at a local Oxford pub for beer and conversations. Other members included C.S. Lewis, Nevil Coghill, Gervase Matthews, W.H. Lewis, John Wain, Owen Barfield, and more.
Bean Puzzle Tombstone
The Bean headstone stands out in Rural Rushes Cemetery. Instead of R.I.P, this grave is marked with a crossword code. Below the code, the tombstone reads, “Reader meet us in heaven.”
The tombstone sits above two wives of Dr. Samuel Bean. Both his first wife, Henrietta, and his second wife, Susanna, died after only a few months of marriage. Dr. Bean buried the two next to each other, and placed the mysterious tombstone above them. He told no one what the stone meant and took the secret to his grave when he was lost overboard on a boat to Cuba.
The mysterious meaning of the stone attracted many to the small town of Wellesley. So many people made rubbings of the tombstone that by the 1980s it had to be replaced by a replica due to its illegibility. The groundskeeper at the cemetery claimed to have cracked the code in the 1940s, but he never revealed its meaning. The code was eventually solved and revealed in the 1970s by a 94 year old woman.
Read no further if you hope to try to solve it yourself!
The code begins on the seventh character of the 7th row down and reads in a spiral fashion. It redas, “In memoriam Henrietta, Ist wife of S. Bean, M.D. who died 27th Sep. 1865, aged 23 years, 2 months and 17 days and Susanna his 2nd wife who died 27th April, 1867, aged 26 years, 10 months and 15 days, 2 better wives 1 man never had, they were gifts from God but are now in Heaven. May God help me, S.B., to meet them there.”
Sarah Winchester’s Grave
New Haven, Connecticut
Sarah Winchester, of the Winchester Rifle clan outlived all of her immediate family. She thought that her family might be cursed and visited a psychic to find out what to do about it if they were. The psychic said that there were many restless spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles, and advised Sarah to build a house that would never stop in construction in order to keep the spirits at bay.
Sarah followed this advice and in 1884, purchased a large farmhouse in San Jose, California. Then began the endless work on what is known today as the Winchester Mystery House (which you can also visit). 38 years later, when Sarah died at the age of 83, the 8-room farmhouse had been transformed into a 160-room mansion with staircases ending at ceilings, windows in the floor, cabinets that opened into other rooms, and doors opening onto two stories of nothing.
Sarah Winchester was buried alongside her husband, William, and their infant daughter, Annie, in a family plot. The grave is located in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven in Sarah’s home state of Connecticut. The grave is marked by an 8 foot tall rough-hewn stone. It can be hard to find because there are many other tall gravestones in the cemetery.
To get to it, take a left at the crematorium and then follow the path to the left. The plot can be found on the right of the path, just past the first curve. In addition to the headstone, there is also a bench donated in Sarah’s honor, a carved basin, and low stone curb outlining the plot.
Betty and Barney Hill’s Graves
Kingston, New Hampshire
Betty and Barney Hill were traveling South on Route 3 on the night of September 19, 1961. They were on their way back home to Portsmouth, New Hampshire from a vacation in Montreal when they were allegedly followed by a UFO, then eventually kidnapped, examined, and released by its crew of extraterrestrial beings.
This case has become the most documented and famous case of alien abduction.The story even grew large enough to have a book and a movie based upon it. The book, entitled The Interrupted Journey, was written by John Fuller and published in 1966. The movie, called The UFO Incident, starred James Earl Jones, and became the subject of a debunking quest from famous intellectual Carl Sagan.
Eight years after the incident, Barney Hill passed from a cerebral hemorrhage at the young age of 46. Betty continued to celebrate and enmesh herself in UFO culture until her death in 2004. In the back of the Greenwood Cemetery, you can find their grave, marked by a tombstone reading their names and “of The Interrupted Journey.”
Jules Verne’s Tomb
It is only fitting that the father of science fiction would have an otherworldly gravestone. Two years after Jules Verne’s death, a tombstone, or should I say sculpture, entitled “Vers l’Immortalité et l’Eternelle Jeunesse” (“Towards Immortality and Eternal Youth”) was placed as a marker on his grave. The sculpture, designed by Albert Roze, depicts Jules Verne smashing through his own tombstone and emerging from his grave. It even uses the actual death mask of Verne.
The headstone has become an iconic image and was even featured in the first issue of seminal science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.
Eleanor Rigby's Grave
On July 6, 1957, a band called the Quarry Men, led by the famed John Lennon, played at St. Peter’s church in Woolton. After this show, John Lennon was introduced to Paul McCartney by a mutual friend. A plaque commemorating this historic meeting can be found at the front of this hall today.
Before they became The Beatles, Lennon and McCartney would often take short cuts through the church grounds in order to set up for shows. The short cut included a walk through the church cemetery. Within the cemetery is a gravestone bearing the name Eleanor Rigby, which would soon become the title of the 1966 hit song on the album Revolver. The grave can be found to the left of the church just on the right of the cemetery walkway.
McCartney has stated that the title of the song came from a combination of the name of a store in Bristol, “Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers” and the actress Eleanor Bron, but that he could have unconsciously taken the name from the gravestone. All events in the song are made up though. According to census data, the real Eleanor Rigby was born in 1895 to Mary Rigby and Arthur Whitfield. She was married to Thomas Woods and worked in a hospital until her death at age 44 in 1939.
The deeds for the Rigby family space as well as a Bible inscribed with Eleanor’s name went up for auction in 2017. The original handwritten score for the song also went up for auction in a separate lot.
Miss. Baker’s Grave
Miss Baker was the first primate to return from space. She was a monkey purchased by NASA from a Miami pet shop. She and another monkey, Miss Able were shot 300 miles into the sky on May 28, 1959. The flight lasted 16 minutes, with over half of the time in weightlessness. The rocket safely landed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Miss Baker was married to another monkey, Big George after her retirement to the Naval Aerospace Medical Center in Pensacola. She died of kidney failure at the age of 27 in 1984. She was the longest living squirrel monkey on record. She was buried next to her husband outside of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama. Today, the grave can be found in the center’s parking lot. When you visit, be sure to bring bananas to leave on her headstone.
Ernest Hemingway’s Grave
Hemingway was known for his writing as well as his womanizing, excessive drinking, passionate living, and hunting. His father, brother, and sister all took their own lives, and he tragically followed suit in 1961. In his final days, he was very ill and was becoming increasingly paranoid. He would rarely leave his home near the woods of Ketchum.
Fittingly with his stoic persona, he was buried with little fanfare in a simple plot. His headstone is a small rectangle bearing only his name and the dates of his life. He gained more fame after his death and fans today still visit the grave and leave behind flowers, alcohol, and coins.
Colonel Sanders’ Grave
It was at the age of 62 that Colonel Harland Sanders decided to become a restaurateur. He was almost destitute after working as a fireman. Streetcar conductor, filling station operator, and an insurance salesman. Sanders opened his first restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah. It served a secret recipe of fried chicken that he had developed and served travelers that passed through his filling stations. His signature look of a long bowtie, slick white goatee, and black glasses soon became the face of the business.
After traveling the country selling his chicken door to door, the business began to boom. Within years, Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants could be found in every state and Colonel Sanders became a household name. By the time of his death in 1980, KFC had over 6,000 franchises in 48 countries and was one of the most famous franchises.
The Colonel died from leukemia at age 90 and was buried in Kentucky. His bust was created by his daughter, Margaret, and depicted him in his iconic white suit and string bow tie. He can market his franchise with his look even in his death.
Nicolas Cage’s Tomb
New Orleans, Louisiana
Nicolas Cage is still alive, but you can visit his empty pyramid tomb in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. He purchased the 9 foot tall pyramid for himself in 2010, but has remained silent on why he chose the design. Some believe it is in homage to the National Treasure series, while others believe it is in relation to the Illuminati. There is also a rumor that Cage is immortal and he uses the tomb to regenerate his body.
No matter the reason, the large pyramid has become an iconic part of the cemetery. It is inscribed with Latin words “omnia ab uno”, which translates to “Everything from One”. He may not have died yet, or maybe he has died hundreds of times in the tomb, but it is still worth stopping by to take a look at its flamboyant magnificence.