You think you’ve seen one sprawling cemetery, you’ve seen them all? Think again. Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California is one of the most stunning cemeteries in the world. Founded in 1906, this 300-acre memorial park contains such notable interments as Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and many, many more.
But Forest Lawn’s riches don’t end with celebrity graves. The park also contains a full size replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, John Trumbull’s The Declaration of Independence, a larger than life version of Michelangelo’s David, and other replicas of priceless art, making the park a veritable Disneyland of Death. Though you might feel as if you’re walking through a museum or an amusement park, Forest Lawn is, after all, a cemetery. Here are some of its most haunting and infamous graves.
Babyland and Lullabyland
Adjacent to one another, Babyland and Lullabyland are reserved plots for infants and small children. Though you wouldn’t know it while inside, Babyland and Lullabyland are both landscaped into the shape of a heart. Visit Babyland, and you’ll be greeted by a bronze baby statue. Across the way, a miniature version of Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland marks the entrance to Lullabyland. On the outskirts of the heart, you’ll find the graves of mothers who wished to be buried in close proximity to their children.
It’s appropriate that Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland, is interred near Babyland and Lullabyland, atop the hill in the Disney family garden. There is something to be said for seeing Disney’s resting place with your own eyes, as he has been the unfortunate victim of urban legend—the idea that he (or his head) was cryogenically frozen. His family has always refuted this odd story by pointing to the fact that he was cremated and his ashes interred at Forest Lawn, in the Little Garden of Communion. That is, of course, if you believe their story.
Thanks to disrespectful fans who have broken Forest Lawn’s request that no still or video photography be taken in the Great Mausoleum, you’ll have to arch your neck to catch a glimpse of a certain crypt at the end of the Sanctuary of Benediction.
What you will see is a family vault marked “Jean Harlow” where Harlow is entombed alongside her mother. Harlow died at the young age of 26 when her kidneys suddenly shut down. Doctors today believe this may have been related to the fact that she had suffered from scarlet fever as a child.
A huge star at the time of her death, MGM shut down the day of Harlow’s funeral at Forest Lawn. Former co-star Clark Gable was a pallbearer, and she was buried in the gown she wore in 1936’s Libeled Lady, a gardenia in one hand and a letter from her partner William Powell that read “Goodnight, my dearest darling.” Her epitaph simply reads “Our Baby.”
Carole Lombard and Clark Gable
In early 1942, on her way home from a war bond rally in her home state of Indiana, Hollywood star Carole Lombard and her entourage had planned to travel back to California by train. But Lombard was eager to get back to Los Angeles to see her beloved husband, Clark Gable, so they took a plane. It crashed, killing all 22 onboard. She was just 33 years old.
Lombard was interred at Forest Lawn, under her married name, “Carole Lombard Gable,” next to her mother, who was also killed in the crash. Despite marrying two more times after Lombard’s death, Clark Gable, her second husband, chose to be entombed next to her in the Great Mausoleum upon his death in 1960. Gable’s fifth wife Kay Williams honored his wishes. Just a few weeks after Gable’s death, she gave birth to his son in the same hospital where Gable died.
When Michael Jackson died of a drug overdose in 2009, his family held a gigantic, televised memorial service at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, followed by a private memorial at Forest Lawn.
Because of his superstar status, Jackson’s family wanted his final resting place to be a quiet, private place, and Forest Lawn was eager to oblige. His marble sarcophagus is closed to the public, located in the Sanctuary of Ascension in the Great Mausoleum, under a beautiful collection of stained glass windows.
If proximity is your aim, the closest you can get to Jackson’s unmarked resting place is actually outside and around the back of the Great Mausoleum. It’s not uncommon to see fans gathered there in remembrance.
Gracie Allen and George Burns
When Gracie Allen, a famous comedian, died in 1964 of a heart attack, her husband George Burns was devastated. He even took to sleeping in her sick bed, and visited her grave in the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn at least once a month. He said he liked to go there to ask Gracie’s advice, especially when it came to career decisions.
When Burns died in 1996 at the age of 100, he was interred right next to his beloved Gracie. Her epitaph was changed to read “Gracie Allen and George Burns, Together Again.” Burns said he wanted Gracie to have top billing.
The Builder: Hubert L. Eaton
Forest Lawn’s founder, or how he preferred to refer to himself, its “builder,” Hubert L. Eaton, is interred in the Great Mausoleum, adjacent to the Last Supper reproduction.
Eaton began as a salesman at Forest Lawn, but had a vision of expanding the cemetery to become a “memorial park,” a place just as much for the living as for the dead. During his lifetime he opened many of the Forest Lawn locations in California, and made Forest Lawn the destination for celebrity weddings and funerals.
Deeply religious, his philosophy for Forest Lawn lives on in a gigantic inscribed tablet outside the Great Mausoleum called “the Builder’s Creed.” It reads, in part, “I Believe, Most Of All, In A Christ That Smiles And Loves You And Me… I Therefore Know The Cemeteries Of Today Are Wrong, Because They Depict An End, Not A Beginning. They Have Consequently Become Unsightly Stone yards Full Of Inartistic Symbols And Depressing Customs; Places That Do Nothing For Humanity Save A Practical Act, And Not That Well.”