World's Most Haunting Cemeteries
Just in time for Halloween, we found 11 burial grounds that are destinations in their own right. From a mausoleum that was closed down after too many ghost sightings to a graveyard that doubles as a small town, these places are perfect for a fall tour—if you dare.
L.A.'s Hollywood Forever Cemetery seems like something you'd see in a film noir. Clad in a vintage black evening gown, dark sunglasses, and carrying a black lace parasol, Hollywood historian/tour guide Karie Bible appears to have stepped right out of a film noir movie as she leads guests through L.A.'s Hollywood Forever Cemetery. With the Paramount Studios Water Tower and Hollywood sign peaking out above the grounds, Bible tells tales of famous residents like director Cecil B. DeMille, '50s horror hostess Vampira, and rocker Johnny Ramone. 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., 818/517-5988, cemeterytour.com, most Saturdays at noon (check website for exact dates), $12.
The Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah is best known as the site for the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. If graveyards were created by set designers, they would all look like Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery, where elaborate, ivy-covered crypts are guarded by disturbingly lifelike statues, and mausoleums are laced with stained glass, all set among the mossy oak trees and blooming gardens of an 18th-century plantation on a bluff overlooking the Wilmington River. The scenic graveyard's popularity boomed after it appeared in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and many guides now offer driving tours of the 100-acre cemetery, although you'll miss the charm of wandering through its many hidden corners. Instead, follow the Bonaventure Historical Society's self-guided tour, available at the weekend-only visitors center. 330 Bonaventure Rd., 912/352-1885, bonaventurehistorical.org, free.
This cemetery in Rome seems to cast a spell over visitors—Percy Bysshe Shelley was so taken by its eerie beauty that he extolled its merits in a poem and was later laid to rest here. Wedged between a towering, 2,000-year-old pyramid entombing a Roman dignitary and a surviving section of the 12-mile-long brick wall built to protect ancient Rome, the Non-Catholic Cemetery is a serene oasis in the middle of this modern metropolis. One of Italy's most enchanting urban settings, the graveyard's stately cypress trees, poetic statues, and oasis-like ambiance, inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley to write, "It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place." Shelley got his wish, and his grave is something of a pilgrimage for writers, many of whom, similarly enchanted, have opted to rest here themselves. The cemetery's English-language tours ensure you won't miss any of the boldface names and—in case you fall for the spell yourself—yes, it is still possible to be buried here. Via Caio Cestio 6, 011-39/06-574-1900, protestantcemetery.it, openMondays and Saturdays 9 a.m.–5p.m., Sundays 9 a.m.–1 p.m., tours $4 (by appointment only,minimum of five people).
Graveyard guards have their work cut out for them at Paris's Cimetière du Père- Lachaise, where fans of the many celebrities buried here go to great lengths to pay their respects. Irish aesthete Oscar Wilde would undoubtedly be pleased to find his sphinxlike tomb at Paris'sCimetière du Père-Lachaise covered in hundreds of red-lipstick marks from admiring fans. (Graveyard guards are less amused—fats in the lipstick are causing the structure to deteriorate) Many outfitters include a brief stop at this 109-acre walled compound in Paris's northeast corner on longer city itineraries, but it's worth grabbing a self-guided tour map from the conservation office and spending a day finding the many famous graves—from Jim Morrison to Chopin—hidden among the cobblestoned paths and grassy expanses. Don't forget to pack a lunch—macabre as it may sound, Parisians love to picnic inside the cemetery, one of the city's largest green spaces. 16 rue du Repos, 011-33/1-55 25-82-10, free.
In Buenos Aires, the resting place of Eva Perón is at once opulent and melancholy. An ominous black door, guarded by a melancholy young woman carved from marble, leads into a spacious room where a single grave is topped with an ornate sculpted rose. It's just one of the many opulent mausoleums at Recoleta Cemetery; burying the dead here is a posh afterlife status symbol practiced by Buenos Aires's wealthiest families for 200 years. A trip inside is topped only by hearing the myriad stories among Recoleta's 6,000-plus temples, pyramids, and castles—in this case, the rose-topped tomb was erected to assuage a family's guilt after a young woman slipped into a coma and was buried alive. Nearby you'll find the flower-strewn grave of Eva Perón; she was buried below 27 feet of steel and cement as a precaution since political rivals had previously stolen her corpse. Calle Junín 1790, 011-54/11-4804-7040, English-language tours Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11a.m., free.
One of the most overlooked sections of the Arlington National Cemetery in D.C. is also the most haunting. While thousands of D.C.'s daily tourists zip across the Potomac River for quick photo ops at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns and the Kennedy family plot, a few venture farther from the tour bus to explore the graves of the 300,000 other people buried here. Grab your walking shoes (but not your wallet) and join DC By Foot's free, 1.5-mile walking tour, which takes visitors through lesser-seen stops inside the vast burial ground, such as the segment of the cemetery that once housed a village of freed slaves and the memorial to Confederate soldiers. 214 McNair Rd., 202/370-1830, dcbyfoot.com, tours Mar. 20–Nov. 14 onSaturdays at 10 a..m, free.