Use These Connections to Find the Most Haunted Cemeteries

Who wants to bother with ho-hum, not-very-creepy “haunted” cemeteries?

Not me.

I’ll bet you feel the same way. If you’re going to spend an hour or two in a cemetery, you want to be sure it’s haunted.

And, once you’re there, you want to know where to investigate for the best results.

Here’s one technique I’ve used with success, to find intensely haunted graves… the kinds of graves that are eerie, even in broad daylight.

Start with any grave that seems to get your attention. Maybe you’ve noticed something odd about it. More often, you don’t know why you’re drawn to it… but you are.

Read the gravestone carefully. See what other graves are nearby.

Where I find one member of a family with a gravestone that seems to stand out, I look for a relative with a second “odd” gravestone.

Usually – but not always – it’s nearby, but not necessarily in the same plot enclosure.

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

For example, the following photos shows the memorial of Capt. Bird Holland. It’s 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.

The unusual Holland family plot

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 Holland 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.)

The lesson – Look for unusual gravestones

Book - Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries

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,” historical research may improve your investigation results.

Sometimes, you can do some quick historical research, on site, with your phone… if you have a good Internet connection. (At many haunted sites, phones seem to have connection problems, or batteries go completely flat.)

More often, you may need to visit a local library or historical society.

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… fighting for the other side.

Damaged Gravestones and Neglected Graves

When ghost hunting in haunted cemeteries, I always look for damaged gravestones. In many cases, we find paranormal energy around those graves and markers.

Sometimes the person named on them is indignant or grief-stricken over what’s happened.

That’s understandable. The grave was his or her final resting place, and it’s been neglected or even vandalized. There’s no excuse for that.

Usually, there’s little we can do besides offer sympathy and consolation. I’m not sure that’s enough to give closure to the spirit, so he (or she) can “cross over.”

However, it’s worth a try.

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

(Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, this illustration shows the kinds of pictures I’ve featured.)

Damaged graves

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

Every Gravestone Tells a Story

Iron headstone (NH)In the first edition of my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries, I listed signs and symbols to look for on or near gravestones. The artwork and inscriptions can tell a story.

(Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, the following illustration shows the kinds of pictures I’ve featured.)

Unexpected materials in gravestones

Left to right: Wooden grave marker (TX), iron headstone (Henniker, NH), and a zinc monument designed to look like granite (Nashua, NH).

Note: When I’m selecting graves to investigate, I’m always interested in expensive and ornate grave markers. Among them, I focus on neglected and damaged stones, as they usually tell a tragic story of a once-great family or individual.

When a gravestone was expensive, it usually represents an individual or family with wealth and power.

Since that burial, something changed so the grave hasn’t been maintained. It could be enough reason for a haunting.


Mysterious Metal in Haunted Cemeteries

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. Much of it is twisted.

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. Also, some gravestones have been mounted with metal supports (inside) or broken headstones repaired with metal.

Book - Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries

One of the biggest surprises was when we were investigating a Northfield (NH, USA) cemetery.

We kept seeing strange, fleeting EMF spikes near the stone wall surrounding the cemetery.

Was it a ghost? Maybe, but there was a logical explanation.

Looking closely, we found 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, and parts of it seemed to retain magnetic energy.

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

But… what if…?

Consider the flip side of that.

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 be in a “hot” spot for hauntings.

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? Maybe.
  • And, something odd seems to happen to metal at some cemeteries. Often, 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.

At the Northfield site – on the quiet side of town – I figured iron fences had been taken down at some point, and stacked, and some of the metal bent under the weight. Or, a branch might have fallen and bent the metal on impact.

Those are reasonable explanations for some twisted cemetery fences.

That’s not enough to explain the volume of distortion I’ve seen in haunted cemeteries across the U.S. and Britain.

(Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, the following thumbnail illustrations show the kinds of pictures I’ve featured.)

Metal in cemeteries

Cemeteries are great places for paranormal research. Just watch out for metal that can skew your EMF readings.

And then look for twisted and deformed metal that’s just plain weird.

Damaged Crypts at Haunted Cemeteries – Physical and Spiritual Risks

Open, above-ground grave in Austin, TX
Open grave: Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, TX (USA)

You probably know that broken and discarded gravestones can point to ghosts.

Unfortunately, severely damaged above-ground graves and crypts should be avoided.

Not if you’re looking for ghosts, anyway.

What lingers there might be a ghost, or it could be something far more dangerous.

  • In some cases, the ghost shows up to complain whenever they realize an audience is present. They can be really annoying.
  • More often, the ghost has crossed over, or has followed the body (or selected pieces of it) to wherever it’s stored, now.

Darker Entities at Empty Graves and Open Crypts

Many empty graves and open crypts also attract something non-ghostly.

I know that something seems to frequent those sites, and it’s not human. Never was, unless it’s the ghost of a completely emotionless sociopath.

I avoid whatever-it-is. Too often, it’s malicious.

My sense is that it’s a sort of energy vampire. I’m not sure if it’s demonic. All I know is: it’s dangerous.

I haven’t tried EVP at those locations. It’s not a ghost, so I’m not interested.

You may feel differently. Investigate at your own risk.

Above all, do not enter an open crypt. That’s trespassing, and – even with a mask – the air inside could make you ill, at the very least.

According to local lore, bodies in crypts in New Orleans (and probably other very hot climates) decay to dust within a year. So, those warm-climate crypts are probably less risky than those in more northern locations.

You might still inhale dust from rat droppings and health-endangering bacteria and viruses. That can kill you.

Avoid open crypts and vandalized graves. There’s nothing to gain by ghost hunting there, and a lot that can put you at risk.

Ghost Photos – False Anomaly Tests

I used to say that most “ghost orbs” were dust, insects, humidity, or something else

Then, a long-time friend challenged me. He insisted that all orbs were ghost photos.

After that – for over six years – I tried to create fake convincing “ghost photos.” I wanted to prove I was right.

So, I tried to recreate circumstances I’d blamed for photos with orbs, apparent vortices, and so on.

I took all of these pictures in low-light conditions. I always used the flash on my camera to highlight the deceptive object or issue. I wanted to create false anomalies.

Hair in “Ghost Photos”

Ghost photos - false anomaly testsThe first group of photos are things that could look paranormal if you didn’t know what was in the picture. Half of the photos show a single piece of hair or a few strands of it. That could happen if a photographer has long hair (as I do) and doesn’t pin it back.

The other photos in this first group show camera straps.

I used to think pictures of camera straps always showed both ends of the strap exiting the frame of the photo.

Not true.

Now I know camera straps can look weird. And, it can “vanish” from one side of the image.

Sometimes, both ends of the camera strap seem to disappear, so, the “vortex” seems suspended in front of the photographer.

Also, my camera strap is almost black. The reason it looks white is because the camera’s flash is very bright, and it highlights the camera strap.

About 90% of the “vortex” pictures I’ve seen were probably camera straps, or something like them. If you use a camera strap (recommended, especially in dark settings), be sure to loop it around your wrist or — if it’s a very long strap — over your arm or shoulder.

(I lost my original photos when this site moved to new hosting. I’m still looking for those photos among my backups.  Until then, the following thumbnail illustrations show the kinds of pictures I’ve featured.)

Photos of hair and camera straps

The Fake Orbs Problem

The second group of photos shows how difficult it is to create convincing, fake “ghost orbs.”

The first few pictures are flash photos taken on a densely foggy morning. Even the one with the white lines (a spiderweb) doesn’t show convincing-looking orbs.

Next, you’ll see smoke photos. Unless your camera is sensitive to smoke, you’d need to be surrounded by smokers for smoke to be a significant issue.  Regular cigarette smoke barely showed up. When we tested clove cigarettes (a different density of smoke), that was slightly more convincing.

Incense looked anomalous in my photos. However, unless your team is using a sage smudge, or the client burns lots of incense at home, I’m not certain we need to worry about smoke.

I could not get chimney smoke to show up in photos. Unless the weather is “just so,” hot air — and wood smoke — rise into the atmosphere. Smoke is not likely to descend and remain thick enough to be an issue.  However, smoke from a nearby campfire could be an issue.

The remaining photos show random samples of test photos, trying to create lens flares and fake orbs. Insects, house lights, and even sparkly, reflective jewelry produced nothing noteworthy.


Attempts to create false orbs and anomalies

After years of study, using film and digital cameras, I finally had to admit that I’d been mistaken about false, ghostly anomalies.

True Confessions about Ghost Photos

For nearly 10 years, I was a hardcore skeptic about orbs in ghost photos. And, I said so, in my articles.

So, I need to make a few points very clear.

  • Orbs are much harder to fake than I’d expected. Moisture, reflective surfaces, and even house lights rarely create convincing orbs. Most lens flares are too obvious to confuse with unexplained orbs, and lens flares are far more difficult to create in typical ghost hunting circumstances.
  • Camera straps can cause “vortex” images, even if one or two ends of the strap seem to vanish in the photo. Keep your camera strap wound around your wrist or arm.
  • Hair can cause weird looking lines and swirls, some of them dotted with an orb at the end. They can look like vortex images, too. Wear a scarf if you’re taking ghost photos.
  • Cigarette smoke is very difficult to capture in a photo. We tried traditional cigarettes (it’s nearly invisible) and clove cigarettes (before the ban). Cloves gave better results, but still aren’t enough to worry about.
  • Smoke from the right incense can appear ghostly. However, unless you’re using sage smudges at a site, I don’t think that’s an issue. Cone incense and incense on charcoal dispersed too quickly to photograph. Stick incense produced the best results, but someone had to wave it right in front of the lens, even on a still night.
  • Fog causes faint, repeating orbs. In hundreds of foggy photos, I saw nothing I’d confuse with a ghostly orb.
  • Jewelry, house lights, and spider webs don’t seem to create confusing images in photos.

Don’t take my word for it.

Run tests with your own phones and cameras. That’s important. Know how they respond to these kinds of issues. No two cameras have the same sensitivities.

Then, you’ll know if you’ve taken an actual ghost photo… or something else.