If you’re in the mood for a spooky ghost story, forget haunted houses and looming gothic castles because the most spine-chilling of tales are found in the graveyard. For thousands of years, we've been bringing our dead together in cemeteries and graveyards. So it can be no surprise that people talk of spirits lingering near the final resting place of their bodies, perhaps clinging to their former life or serving as a grim omen. Some of these graveyards, however, boast more ghost stories than others.
These are 10 of the most haunted graveyards in the world. For those of you brave or indeed foolish enough to seek them out, we’ve also included where you’ll find them.
1. Highgate Cemetery
Location: Swain’s Lane, Highgate, London N6 6PJ, England
London’s Highgate Cemetery offers some of the finest funerary architecture in England. The cemetery was first opened in 1839 by a private company hoping to turn it into a profitable venture. Highgate quickly became became one of London’s most high profile places to be buried. However, by the mid-20th century, the idea of a for-profit cemetery had lost its luster and Highgate was largely left abandoned, with nature reclaiming much of the land. Now, you might imagine ghosts would be a typical sight here, but there’s something even more frightening that has been said to be lurking amongst the tombstones… a vampire.
In the 1970s, trespassers were regularly slipping into Highgate Cemetery at night; it wasn’t long before rumors of Satanism and occult activities circulated. Then came sightings of a “floating” man in a Victorian suit and top hat gliding through the cemetery. Catching the attention of the local newspapers, numerous vampire hunts began to take place and as curious visitors flocked to the once forgotten cemetery, so too did reports of people being mesmerized by a strange figure with burning red eyes. The vampire panic didn’t last long, however, and interest in the nocturnal creature dissipated until it was largely forgotten.
Today, sightings of the vampire still occasionally trickle in, so if you are thinking of taking a stroll around this beautiful cemetery, it’s worth keeping a watchful eye out for a man with a hypnotic gaze, lest you find yourself the victim of the Highgate Vampire.
2. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery
Location: 5900 W Midlothian Turnpike, Midlothian, IL 60445, USA
Hidden just outside the urban sprawl of Chicago is one of America’s most haunted cemeteries. In fact, the site has logged over one hundred cases of paranormal sightings on the property. Opened in the early 19th century, its name comes from the Batchelder family who once lived in the area. The first recorded burial took place in 1844, but by the time the last body was laid to rest in 1965 the cemetery had become a popular “lover’s lane” and the victim of vandalism. However, it soon, it took on a much more eerie reputation as sightings of spirits, phantom cars and “ghost lights” became rampant. Yet it wasn’t until 1991 that the cemetery found nationwide fame, thanks in part to a photograph that became known as the “Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove”.
After hearing of the haunting reputation of the cemetery, the Ghost Research Society of America decided to pay a visit. Picking up on some unusual readings on their equipment the group began to take pictures of the cemetery, and although invisible to the naked eye, an apparition appeared in one of the photographs. The figure appears to be a woman sitting on a gravestone, perhaps in prayer. The photograph has since become one of the most compelling paranormal pictures ever taken and cemented Bachelor’s Grove’s place as one of the most haunted locations in America.
3. Greyfriars Kirkyard
Location: Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ, Scotland
This Scottish cemetery has been interring bodies since the 16th century, making it one of the oldest burial sites in Edinburgh. The entrance to the graveyard reads “Non Omnis Moriar” which translates to “not all of me will die”, a seemingly apt warning of the poltergeist that calls Greyfriar’s Kirkland home. This troublesome spirit lurks in the Black Mausoleum section of Covenanter’s Prison, an area of enclosed vaults that was used to imprison around 400 prisoners from the Covenanting Wars. Lord Advocate George Mackenzie, known as “Bluidy Mackenzie”, oversaw brutal and inhuman treatment of the prisoners but was laid to rest just yards from the prison itself and unwittingly tied his spirit to the land he once terrorized.
The Mackenzie Poltergeist is said to be a malevolent spirit that attacks visitors. These attacks were taken so seriously that the city council closed the cemetery until the Black Harts group started offering guided tours. There have been over four hundred reported cases of people claiming some sort of strange phenomenon while in the cemetery; including cold spots, scratches, bruises, and even faintings, making Greyfriars Kirkyard a destination for only the bravest of sightseers.
4. Catacombs of Paris
Location: 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, France
Known as the ‘Empire of Death’, the Catacombs of Paris lie 20 meters below the bustling streets of the city. The tunnels date back thousand years to the Merovingian kings but fully came into use in 1785, as a solution to Paris’s overflowing cemeteries. It’s estimated the immense ossuary holds over 6 million bodies. Visitors to the catacombs often claim that the walls, covered in skulls and other remains, seem to be talking to them. There are also rumors that local cultists use the dark energy of the ossuary to perform rituals in more the hidden parts of the tunnels.
The winding maze has also become a must-see destination for explorers (“cataphiles”) who have been known to get lost in the subterranean labyrinth. In 2010, a video camera was discovered deep within the catacombs. The footage appeared to show a lost man, wandering aimlessly in the darkness as he grew more and more desperate for escape. Like something out of a horror film, the footage was recovered, but the man never was.
5. Union Cemetery
Location: Easton, CT 06612, USA
This Connecticut cemetery looks like a looming, dark, terrifying place from the first glance. And things don’t get any better the closer you get. This 400-year-old cemetery is so haunted that world-famous paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, investigated Union Cemetery extensively during their career and even wrote the book Graveyard on their findings.
The most prominent ghost in the area is that of a woman in white who has been spotted on camera and with the naked eye. She’s been known to appear before on-coming cars, startling drivers as she hovers between tombstones with a calm melancholy. Something more malevolent, known as Red Eyes, has been spotted with a much more sinister vibe to his presence.
6. Saint Louis Cemetery
Location: 300 N Claiborne Ave, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
The Saint Louis Cemetery is one of the most famous and photographed cemeteries in the world. Located in New Orleans and dating back to the 18th century, this graveyard is filled with aboveground vaults that create a maze-like layout. The cemetery interred its first body in 1789 and has since become home to some famous residents, including prominent citizens, politicians, pirates and even Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. After rampant vandalism, in 2015, the graveyard was closed to the general public, although strictly guided tours are still allowed. Visitors regularly report sightings of Marie Laveau wandering casually among the tombs. The ghost of Henry Vignes, a 19th-century sailor, has also been spotted and a spirit known only as Alphonse is said to grab visitors and warn them against going near the Pinead family plot, prompting many to believe he had bad blood with this family in life.
7. Boothill Graveyard
Location: 408 AZ-80, Tombstone, AZ 85638, USA
The Wild West is awash with ghost stories, from murdered cowboys to desecrated native populations. And Tombstone, Arizona has the honor of being among the most haunted town in all the West. While Tombstone is well-known as the home of numerous spirits of cowboys and criminals, the ghost of Marshal Fred White, the man who famously brought law and order to Tombstone, is said to rule over them all. Keeping the peace in even in the afterlife. The town was also famously the location of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with lawmen Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Two of the three outlaws killed in the shootout are buried in Boothill Cemetery, which in recent years has gained a haunted reputation of its own.
While the Boothill is dotted with graves of those who helped win the west, it was the above photograph that has made the cemetery famous. Taken by Ike Clanton who visited Boothill with a friend, they only discovered the mysterious figure in the background after developing the photos. Dressed in period clothing and holding what looks to be a knife, Clanton swears he and his friend were alone in the cemetery that day, leading many to question the if figure could be one of those buried in Boot Hill Cemetery?
8. Howard Street Cemetery
Location: Howard St, Salem, MA 01970, USA
Few towns can conjure up images of the supernatural and fear quite like Salem. The small hamlet was once the setting of the most famous witch hunts in history and has never lost its reputation as a place of paranoia and injustice. While the witch trials took place in 1692, the pain the panic caused has endured in the form of restless spirits, especially at the Howard Street Burial Ground.
The most famous ghost said to roam the grounds is that of Giles Corey. Eighty-one-year-old Corey was accused of witchcraft shortly after his wife was imprisoned. When he refused to plead guilty or innocent to the charges, he underwent a form of pressing torture that lasted two days with Corey famously shouting “more weight” when he was asked to confess. His ghost is said to linger at his unmarked grave in Howard Cemetery and according to legend, he appears before terrible events, as an omen of the horrors to come.
9. Aoyama Cemetery
Location: 107-0062 Tokyo, Minamiaoyama, 2−32−2, Japan
Travel across oceans to Tokyo, Japan, a bustling place of urban sprawl that, at first glance, doesn’t seem like the place one might find a quiet haunted corner. Famous for its cherry blossom, the Aoyama Cemetery originally belonged to the Aoyama family in what was then the province of Mino. It eventually became Japan’s first public cemetery. Among the many famous residents laid to rest in Aoyama, the grave of Hachiko, is arguably a little more unusual than most. The only dog to be buried in the cemetery, the story of Hachiko’s loyalty has also earned him a memorial statue at Shibuya Station, where he waited dutifully every day for nine years for his master, Professor Ueno, who would never return.
One of the most famous supernatural stories connected to Aoyama Cemetery is that of “ghost taxis” where local taxis drivers regularly tell stories of being hailed by passengers who ask to be taken to Aoyama but when the driver arrives and turns to collect the fare, they find their car mysteriously empty. The cemetery is also said to be haunted by the ghosts of a group of Samurai warriors who, according to legend, died before they were able to honor their family name. Refusing to die in shame, their souls remain, cursed to guard Aoyama cemetery until their honor can be restored.
10. La Noria Cemetery
One last stop on this virtual ghost tour takes us to South America in the country of Chile where one of the creepiest cemeteries you’ll ever come across lies in wait. Founded in 1872, La Noria is one of Chile’s most notorious mining towns, with a dark history of forced labor and slavery. By the 1960s the mining business had declined and the town was left abandoned... by the living, that is. Many of the graves in the town cemetery were left open and the remains of the deceased left visible for all to see. It’s said the dead rise from their graves each night.
In the North side of the town, visitors report hearing disembodied voices, screams and the sound of footsteps when no one else is around. On the South side, people have reported seeing spirits wandering the streets. Local residents of nearby towns are so terrified that they refuse to step foot in La Noria day or night leaving the town empty except for the bravest of tourists and of course, the restless spirits of La Noria’s past.