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Haunted cemeteries can be ideal for ghost hunting.
Usually, they’re free to visit, and — no matter where you are — a creepy cemetery is probably nearby.
Many cemeteries are haunted, day and night. For example, at New Hampshire’s Gilson Road Cemetery, ghostly activity often starts shortly before noon.
So, even if an eerie cemetery closes at dusk, it may still be a great location for daytime paranormal research.
With that in mind, here are some tips… sort of “cemetery etiquette.”
1. Don’t talk about ghosts with strangers.
In any cemetery, you may see other visitors. Some may be genealogists, historians, or descendants of the deceased. You may also find people who love to photograph (or transcribe) headstone engravings, or families making gravestone rubbings where the latter are allowed.
Babbling happily about ghosts may distract or even offend these people.
Many people expect respectful silence in a cemetery.
Worse, if someone is visiting the grave of a recently deceased family member, your comments may upset them. They’d rather believe that every departed person has crossed over, and is in a happier place… not lingering around a cemetery.
So, it’s best to speak in subdued tones, and not approach strangers unless they initiate conversation.
2. Avoid jokes about ghosts, the deceased, and death in general.
I’m not saying you have to be dour, but some jokes are in very poor taste.
Sure, even experienced ghost hunters can get nervous sometimes, and manage to blurt the worst possible things.
Avoid saying things that may offend the ghosts.
As a guideline, here are a few “jokes” that could irritate the dead, and probably annoy the living as well:
- “Oops, didn’t mean to shout loud enough to wake the dead. Ha-ha-ha.”
- “Gee, he must have been a cheapskate, not giving his wife her own headstone.”
- “So, when do the ghouls show up, huh? Ha-ha-ha.”
- “Let’s leave soon, I’m feeling dead tired.”
- “Can’t you take a joke? I mean, hey, you’re looking pretty grave. Ha-ha-ha.”
You get the idea. Lines like that might be funny at Disney’s Haunted Mansion… but not at actual cemeteries and graveyards.
If someone starts joking, stop them immediately or leave the cemetery.
I’ve seen jokers suddenly twist an ankle where the ground had seemed perfectly level before, or hear menacing whispers, or encounter other odd problems.
Just the jokers. No one else.
Maybe the ghosts were “getting even.”
If so, it worked. Every time — no exceptions — the joker was terrified. Most quit ghost hunting that night.
3. Don’t trespass.
If the cemetery says, “Closed dusk to dawn,” get permission to visit it after hours.
If you inadvertently stay past dusk, remember that you are breaking the law; leave cheerfully and quickly when you realize your mistake.
Likewise, if the gate is locked, the cemetery is closed. Stay out!
4. Don’t be a vandal, even by mistake.
Cemetery gates, paths, crypts, and grave markers can be old or even ancient. They’re exposed to harsh elements, too.
So, don’t lean against or sit on fragile headstones.
Don’t use shaving cream to reveal inscriptions; many contain perfumes or other ingredients which contribute to decay. (Tip: A halogen flashlight at a sharp angle will reveal nearly as much – and sometimes more – than shaving cream would.)
5. You’re in the ghosts’ “home.” Be polite.
You are visiting – or perhaps trespassing – on the ghosts’ property. It’s okay to ignore belligerent, territorial ghosts, but be as understanding as you can.
- Step carefully on graves.
- Leave no litter.
- Speak in soft tones.
- Loud voices can annoy or frighten some spirits. That may reduce your chances of getting a great photo.
Some people recommend waiting at least a half an hour before taking photos. Then, respectfully ask permission of the deceased. I don’t do this, but many ghost hunters do. Use your best judgement.
6. Don’t bring “gifts” to the dead.
The only exceptions are flowers and (rarely) liquor.
- If you’re leaving flowers — even artificial flowers — make sure you return regularly to make sure they still look nice. (If they don’t, remove them.)
- Other gifts — especially toys for the ghosts of deceased children — may lead the child to remain (as a ghost) rather than abandon the gift you’d given them. (This has been an issue in Edinburgh, where well-meaning visitors have left dolls for the little girl ghost.) If you’ve already made this mistake, return to the cemetery and explain to the ghost that it’s time for the toy or doll to go back to its own home. Then remove the toy and thank the child for relinquishing it.
- Some spiritual and cultural traditions include pouring liquor onto the grave of a loved one. If you do that, aim for an area where the alcohol won’t splash on anything above ground, and won’t seep into the ground to damage the coffin. Then, be sure to fill in any depression made by the liquid.
Note: If the police show up, they may not understand why you have an open bottle of scotch with you. In some communities, they may be able to arrest you, or at least take you to the police station to clarify what you were doing in the cemetery. Generally, I don’t allow anyone to bring alcoholic beverages to our ghost investigations.
7. Don’t move or remove anything.
Leave plants, markers, badges, ribbons, and so on, exactly where you found them. Do not pick anything, even autumn leaves from the trees.
However, if you find obvious trash, empty beer cans, or fast-food wrappers, you can help the cemetery caretaker by putting them in a nearby trash container. (If there’s no trash container nearby, find one, quickly. Never take anything home — even rubbish — from a cemetery.)
8. Do not eat or smoke in the cemetery.
Step outside the cemetery you’re hungry or need a cigarette.
Note: Cigarette smoke can cause false anomalies in photos and videos. So, even when you’re outside the cemetery, be sure no smoke drifts into investigation areas.
So, now you know eight important things NOT to do in a haunted cemetery. I’m sure you can think of others.