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.
Two buildings in this Edinburgh graveyard were shut down because of an uncanny abundance of ghostly apparitions. Thousands of 17th-century graves lined with creepy carvings of skeletons and ghouls make Edinburgh's Greyfriars Kirkyard one of the world's most haunting cemeteries. While a stroll through these eerie environs is shivering enough for some, Greyfriars's real draw lies in two on-site structures: the prison where more than 1,000 members of the Covenanters religious movement were imprisoned in 1679, and the adjacent mausoleum where "Bloody" George Mackenzie, who oversaw their persecution, is buried. Local authorities locked both buildings in the 1990s after a wave of paranormal sightings spooked one too many people, but local writer Jan-Andrew Henderson has been permitted to lead tours of both sites, where hundreds of visitors swear they have encountered the "Mackenzie Poltergeist." 88 Candlemaker Row, 011-44/131-225-9044, blackhart.uk.com, daily tours Easter–Halloween at 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Halloween–Easter at 8:30 p.m., $15.
Newcomers to Cairo are often surprised to find the living existing among the dead in this town set within a cemetery.
Egyptians know the four-square-mile stretch of land running through densely populated Cairo as simply al-Qarafa (the cemetery), but to hundreds of thousands of locals, it is much more than that. Many of the city's poorest residents actually live inside this 1,300-year-old cemetery, creating homes, shops, and even schools next to and inside mausoleums, with faded gravestones serving as lawn ornaments. Local authorities have recently discouraged promoting the site as a tourist attraction and are blocking access to large groups and buses, but it's still possible to visit with Casual Cairo detours, an outfitter that takes no more than three people at once. But time to see this one-of-a-kind neighborhood may be running out—the Egyptian government is studying plans to relocate residents, raze the cemetery, and turn it into a public park. 011-2012-415-2726, casualcairo.com, call for prices.
London's Highgate Cemetery has been the backdrop for numerous horror films. Dug into a hillside overlooking London, an imposing Victorian-era archway overgrown with shrubbery leads into a stone tunnel lined with catacombs, the darkness eventually giving way to a circle of sunlit vaults staged around a 300-year-old cedar. It's easy to see why this oldest segment of Highgate Cemetery has been used in many horror films, including Taste the Blood of Dracula and From Beyond the Grave, and it's accessible only by tours, which also visit the graveyard's newer reaches, a maze of decaying tombstones covered in dense greenery and topped by oversize statues ranging from the carved-stone grand piano above one musician's grave to the gigantic bust of Karl Marx adorning his own resting place. Swains Ln., 011-44/20-8340-1834, highgate-cemetery.org, hourly tours weekends Mar.–Oct. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Nov.–Feb. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., weekdays Mar.–Nov. at 2 p.m., $11.
In Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe's final resting place looks as if it's straight out of one of his tales. The raven-topped monument to macabre author Edgar Allan Poe is what brings most visitors to downtown Baltimore's 18th-century graveyard , but look a little closer at Westminster Burying Ground and you'll find a scene that could be pulled right from one of his eerie tales. Three years after Poe's death, much of the graveyard was paved over to make way for a Gothic church, which was built on elevated brick legs that arch over the graves. Today, tours of the property include a visit into the creepy catacombs that now hide below the church's lower level. 519 W. Fayette St., 410/706-2072, westminsterhall.org, tours Apr.–Nov.first and third Fridays at 6:30 p.m., first and third Saturdays at 10 a.m., $5.
Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans, with its chilling collection of aboveground tombs, was the setting for Interview with the Vampire. In a city set below sea level, there is no hiding the dead underground, so in New Orleans, cemeteries are collections of aboveground tombs, a creepy novelty that attracts many visitors to these Gothic graveyards. Concerned about disrepair, local licensed guides volunteer their time to give tours of two of New Orleans's oldest graveyards, Lafayette Cemetery—setting for Interview with the Vampire—and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1—where you'll see "voodoo queen" Marie Laveau's Greek Revival tomb. All proceeds are donated to Save Our Cemeteries, a group that works to preserve and restore the city's graveyards. Lafayette, 1400 block of Washington Ave., Mon., Weds., Fri., and Sat. at 10:30 a.m., $10; St. Louis No. 1, 501 Basin St., Fri., Sat., and Sun. at 10 a.m., $12; 504/525-3377, saveourcemeteries.org.