"Show me your cemeteries and I will tell you what kind of people you have."
- Benjamin Franklin
For some secrets, even being buried beneath six feet of earth isn't enough to keep them hidden away forever. For others, their gravestones and gravesites spawn years of conjecture and theories. Unearth the mysteries at these cemeteries:
The Peyton Randolph House and the Forgotten Graves of Williamsburg, Virginia.
From Yorktown National Cemetery to Cedar Grove Cemetery to the Bruton Parish Church cemetery, there are many famous cemeteries in the Williamsburg area. The most interesting ones, however, are those gravesites cloaking the past in mystery and rumored to be the causes of some of the most terrifying hauntings in Williamsburg.
Case in point: The Peyton Randolph House – considered one of the most haunted homes on the East Coast – is among haunted hotspots to see a ghost in the graveyard. And it's all due to the forgotten Native American burial sites.
"The Native American burial sites of Powhatan natives were not moved," said Jill Pongonis of Visit Williamsburg. "They were destroyed. While the actual gravesites of the infamous Chief Powhatan and his famous daughter, Pocahontas, cannot be verified to have been buried near or under the site of the Peyton Randolph House, many historical accounts and statements taken from former residents of the property show that there was once an abundance of artifacts and remains.
"Beneath this house is the tunnel for the colonial parkway" she added.
The graves were originally discovered in 1938 and were destroyed when the National Parkway Tunnel was built in 1940.
"We believe that this is a most credible explanation to the hauntings in the Peyton Randolph House," said Pongoni. "The many strange deaths and occurrences in the house over the past 300 years only serve to compound the activity likely caused by the disturbed forgotten graves of Williamsburg – the Native American Powhatan burial sites on Randolph House grounds.
Learn more: Read about Peyton Randolph House hauntings and the forgotten graves of Williamsburg in Colonial Ghosts' popular haunted history and ghost blogs at www.colonialghosts.com/blog or hear it about on a live virtual tour and on-demand through www.colonialghosts.com/ghostflix. Visitors can also arrange a tour through Colonial Ghosts at www.colonialghosts.com.
Herman Melville – Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx, New York
It may surprise lovers of literature that Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" was not only disregarded by critics when it was published in 1851 (at the time entitled "The Whale", it was largely ignored. Astonishingly, only 3,000 copies sold during Melville's lifetime; the book brought him neither fame nor fortune. The author died 40 years later, in 1891, and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.
Melville is in good company at Woodlawn, once considered "America's most prestigious cemetery for men and women of accomplishment" and today an outdoor museum that hosts more than 100,000 visitors annually. Here, too, are journalist Nelly Bly, reformer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, musician Irving Berlin, poet Dorothy Parker, Joseph Pulitzer and W.C. Handy – the Father of the Blues – among other luminaries.
Melville's tombstone, located at Plot Catalpa, Section 23, is adorned with a blank scroll, a seeming anomaly for the wordy writer whose masterpiece comes in at a hefty 206,052 words.
Melville's intended meaning behind the scroll has perplexed visitors for decades. Is it a joke? The author's way to get back at the world for not seeing the literary merit of "Moby Dick" during his lifetime? Was it intentionally left that way to symbolize, as many believe, a blank canvas and creativity?
Learn more: Woodlawn offers a number of ways to experience the cemetery, including self-guided tours and a series of guided tours and events. Upcoming themed tours include Fall Foliage of Woodlawn Trolley Tour, 2-4 p.m. Nov. 8; World War I Veterans of Woodlawn Walking Tour, 12-2 p.m. Nov. 8 and 14; The Greats of Jazz and Vaudeville: A Victrola Trolley Tour, 1-3 p.m. Nov 21; and Dorothy Parker and the Talk of the Town New Yorkers, 1-3 p.m. Dec. 13. For more information about the author and his works, visit www.melvillesociety.org.
"Tent Girl" – Georgetown Cemetery, Georgetown, Kentucky
For nearly 30 years, this mysterious grave marker in Section W-4 at the Georgetown Cemetery raised more questions than it answered:
FOUND MAY 17 1968
ON U.S. HIGHWAY 25, N.
DIED ABOUT APRIL 26-MAY 3, 1968
AGE ABOUT 16-19 YEARS
HEIGHT 5 FEET 1 INCH
WEIGHT 110 TO 115 LBS.
REDDISH BROWN HAIR
What happened: A young mother was murdered in the spring of 1968. The prime suspect? Her husband, George Earl Taylor, a carnival worker. A man named Wilbur Riddle found the remains, but both murderer and manner of death remain unsolved for decades.
Fast forward to 1998 when a perfect storm of relentless detective work (by Riddle's son-in-law, Todd Matthews), the dawning of the Internet age and DNA testing led to a positive ID. The remains were those of Barbara Ann "Bobbie" Hackmann-Taylor. At the time she went missing, George told Bobbie's family she had left him for another man.
Today, there is a second tombstone that was erected by Hackmann's family. It bears Bobbie's birth name (but omits her married name), her nickname, date of birth, presumed date of death and the inscription, "Loving Mother, Grandmother & Sister."
Learn more: Watch the TV crime series, "Who Killed Jane Doe?" The first episode of season two, first broadcast Jan. 23, 2018, featured the mystery of "The Tent Girl."
(Author and travel and lifestyle writer Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there's just too much to see and do in the world. Contact her at KathyWitt24@gmail.com, @KathyWitt.)
(c)2020 Kathy Witt
Visit Kathy Witt at www.kathywitt.com
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