Haunted Cemeteries – Look for Connections

Here’s an interesting pattern I’ve noticed when I’m investigating haunted cemeteries: Where I find one member of a family with a gravestone that seems to stand out, there’s usually another one (or more), not necessarily in the same family plot.

And, when two or more related gravestones (or graves) hold my interest, there’s usually a story to be told.

For example, the memorial of Capt. Bird Holland is a classic example of the respect given to fallen soldiers in the War Between the States. This tribute stands out because the inscription is so ornate.

However — for me, as a paranormal researcher — something more than that seemed odd. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Memorial to Capt. Bird HollandCaptain Holland was a widower at the time of his death. His wife, Matilda Rust Holland, preceded him in 1858, after only one year of marriage. Her apparent grave is unusual, for another reason: Only leaves fill the space beneath the horizontal stone. (I’ve indicated that space with a red rectangle.) The leaves are inside some ornate ironwork. I assume her body is there, under the ground, but it is an unusual grave design.

Open area at Matilda Rust Holland's grave marker.Recently, my research into the Holland family uncovered an interesting history. Bird Holland may have fathered as many as three sons — Milton, William, and James — by a second woman named Matilda Holland. She was a slave on Bird’s father’s plantation.

During or shortly before the 1850s, Bird purchased freedom for those three sons (but not their brother, Toby, who may have had a different father) and sent the them to school in Ohio.

In the Civil War, Bird, fought on the side of the Confederacy. His son, Milton, was a Union soldier and led the troops in a battle at Petersburg, Virginia. Both men were heroes.

You can read more of the story here: Milton Holland, born August 1st, 1844, and in the book Texas Cemeteries by Bill Harvey. (If I’d had that information when I was researching in Austin, Texas, I might have had better EVP results.)

My point is: When you see one unusual gravestone, keep it in mind as you continue your research. When you find a second, related grave that seems “odd,” it may be time for historical research to improve your investigation results.

Frankly, I’d love to ask Matilda Rust Holland how she felt about her husband’s sons. And, I’d be interested in how Bird felt about his son Milton’s heroism — being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor — for his valor during the war.

Damaged Gravestones and Neglected Graves

When ghost hunting in haunted cemeteries, I always look for damaged gravestones. Sometimes the person named on them is indignant or grief-stricken over what’s happened. The grave was his or her final resting place, and it’s been neglected or even vandalized. There’s no excuse for that.

The following photos show the kinds of damage I’ve seen — and investigated, successfully — in haunted cemeteries.

Broken and damaged grave markers.

For more information about cemetery research, read my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.

Every Gravestone Tells a Story

In my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries, I list signs and symbols to look for on or near gravestones. The artwork and inscriptions can tell a story.

The following photos show a range of graves with interesting features.

Samples of gravestone art

Note: When I’m selecting graves to investigate, I’m always interested in expensive and ornate grave markers that have been neglected or even damaged. That’s usually an individual or family with wealth and power, and something changed so the grave hasn’t been maintained.

 

Haunted Cemeteries – Watch Out for Metal

It would be simple to say, “avoid metal when ghost hunting in haunted cemeteries.”

Unfortunately, the metal issue is more complex. Like many things we encounter when ghost hunting, there are two (or more) sides to this topic.

An abundance of metal in a haunted Columbus (TX) cemetery.

This Columbus (TX) cemetery is lovely, and has an abundance of metal in it.

Metal can retain magnetic charge. That can happen for a variety of reasons, and it’s so common, you must do a baseline check of anything metal near your equipment. You’ll also look for things that might contain metal, including reinforced cement walls and some gravestones that have been mounted with metal supports (inside) or broken headstones repaired with metal.

One of the biggest surprises was when we were investigating a Northfield (NH, USA) cemetery and kept seeing strange, fleeting EMF spikes near the stone wall surrounding the cemetery.

We finally found some barbed wire that a tree had grown around — the wire was barely noticeable at dusk, but we found it on a follow-up visit in daylight (photo below) — and parts of it seemed to retain magnetic energy.

So, look carefully for any metal that might need a baseline check.

However, as I said, there’s another side to this: Metal might attract ghostly energy, as well. We’re still trying to figure this out, but — for now — I recommend looking for metal when you’re in a haunted cemetery. As long as you do baseline checks, so the metal doesn’t skew your EMF readings, you might benefit from nearby metal.

Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Metal — and I don’t mean just shiny, reflective metal — seems to increase the likelihood of orbs. As you can see in the photos, below, orbs show up around old, corroded and mossy metal.
  • We seem to record better EVP around metal in cemeteries. Is it acting like an antenna or an amplifier? I have no idea.
  • Then there’s what seems to happen to metal at some cemeteries. As some photos show, the metal — especially wrought iron — seems to get twisted. It’s unlikely anyone stood there and did that with their bare hands.

The twisting is difficult to explain. Initially, I figured the iron fences had been taken down at some point, and stacked, and some of the metal bent under the weight. Or, I thought a branch might have fallen and bent the metal on impact.

Those are reasonable explanations for some twisted cemetery fences, but that’s not enough to explain the volume of distortion I’ve seen in haunted cemeteries across the U.S. and Britain.

The following photos show some examples of metal to look for — and look out for — when you’re ghost hunting in cemeteries.

Click on any photo to see it larger.

Metal in cemeteries

To learn more about getting the most from haunted cemetery investigations, read my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.

Haunted Cemeteries – Unmarked Graves

Unmarked graves can be among the most active areas in any cemetery.  However, they can be among the most difficult — and perhaps dangerous — to deal with.

Many unmarked graves reflect a sad story. Perhaps the family couldn’t afford a gravestone, or the marker was moved, lost, or stolen. In some cases, the graves contain multiple bodies, especially from times of war, or rampant and contagious disease when the bodies had to be put to rest quickly.

Others graves are unmarked for a reason: The deceased may have been a criminal, or despised by family and community.

It’s difficult to know. However, unmarked graves can be haunted by angry or even mean spirits. EVP from those gravesites can tell quite a story.

The following photos show examples of unmarked graves.

Unmarked graves

In three photos, you can see what to look for in some cemeteries: depressions in the ground. They’re easiest to spot when a natural feature — stacks of leaves or parched grass — define them.

Two photos show signs that indicate unmarked graves. They could be anywhere in the cemetery. (The metal marker is from City Cemetery in Columbus, Texas. It’s one of my favorite ghost hunting locations. The other is a marker at a cemetery in Austin, Texas. The bodies probably aren’t there. The marker is a memorial to the many soldiers who never returned, and are buried in unknown locations where the American Civil War (the War between the States) was fought.

One photo shows a large family plot at Arch Hill Cemetery in Northfield, NH (USA). That’s an odd plot because it’s well defined. The memorial indicates that the family was wealthy at one time. However, the size of the plot and the lack of markers to indicate others buried there… that’s odd.

I explain more about unmarked graves in my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.