11 Allegedly Haunted or Cursed Graves Around the U.S. 

iStock.com/MmeEmil
iStock.com/MmeEmil

Despite their macabre associations, graveyards aren't usually ground zero when it comes to reported hauntings—maybe because the connection is just too obvious. Nevertheless, there are a collection of strange graves around the country that have more than their fair share of legends, often nourished by disease epidemics and unusual inscriptions. Several of them are favorite spots for Halloween excursions, although if you visit, remember to respect the dead no matter how creepy their grave. Better yet, make yourself a seasonal beverage and enjoy these spooky tales from the comfort of your own home. You're much less likely to get cursed.

1. THE WEEPING WOMAN // CALIFORNIA

The Adelaida Cemetery in Paso Robles is a favorite haunt for local ghost-hunters, who describe strange mists, glowing scarlet eyes, and the sounds of footsteps following them around the graveyard. But the most persistent legend among the moss-draped trees relates to Charlotte M. Sitton, supposedly a Mennonite woman whose children both died in a diphtheria epidemic. A distraught Sitton ended her own life, according to some accounts by hanging herself in the local school. Today she's said to appear every Friday evening between 10 and 11:30 p.m. to lay flowers at her childrens' grave, and then to wander among the trees and headstones in a white dress, weeping.

2. THE VAMPIRE'S GRAVE // COLORADO

Perhaps it's not surprising that a grave with "born in Transylvania" etched on the stone would invite vampire comparisons, but the people of Lafayette have really gone all-out. Local legends say that a tree growing over the grave sprung from the stake that killed the vampire inside, and that the red rosebushes nearby are his bloody fingernails still growing after death. There are also reports of a tall, slender man in a dark coat with black hair and long fingernails who sometimes sits on the tombstone, and a local police chief said he once found a doll stuck with pins through its heart laying on top of the grave. It's not clear what the man who bought the plot—Fodor Glava, a miner who died in 1918—would have thought of all the stories, especially since he might not have actually been buried there. Nevertheless, his crudely etched tombstone (its evident haste perhaps the result of the 1918 flu epidemic) has become a popular place to take pictures on Halloween.

3. MIDNIGHT MARY // CONNECTICUT

The Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven is home to another grave with an unusual—and far more troubling—inscription: the phrase "The people shall be troubled at midnight and pass away" ring the top half of Mary E. Hart's grave. Hart reportedly died under unusual circumstances in 1872, and her quick death combined with her odd tombstone have given rise to some strange legends. It's said that Hart was a witch and that the inscription on her grave is a curse, and that if you visit her final resting place at midnight, she'll rise from the grave and make sure you die a horrible death. If you strike her grave at any time, you'll die that night at midnight. (Killjoy myth-busters like to point out that the line is actually a Bible verse, from Job 34:20.)

4. THE UNDEAD CRYPT-KEEPER // NEW YORK

In the bucolic West Edmeston cemetery off Route 8 near the Unadilla River stands an austere mausoleum in honor of one Eunice Welch. There was nothing unusual about Eunice's death—she was in her seventies when she died in 1922 of natural causes—but in the decades since, a legend has arisen of an undead crypt-keeper living inside her mausoleum. Supposedly, if you knock on the door, you'll soon hear a rustling from inside the brick, and after a few moments your knock will be returned. There are even reports of a voice hissing "Leave me, leave me, go!" from inside. By some accounts, the mausoleum is a former winter storage space where bodies were kept before the spring thaw—when it was too cold to dig graves—so it's possible that whoever is haunting the crypt today has nothing to do with Welch herself. In fact, her actual grave is located in another part of the cemetery.

5. MARY THE WITCH // NEW JERSEY

One of the oldest graveyards in New Jersey, Piscatawaytown Burial Ground is steeped in Revolutionary War history. Its oldest tombstone, from 1693, rests above a pair of brothers who died after eating poisonous mushrooms [PDF]. In 1731 the burial ground became the final home of one Mary Moore, a local woman who was allegedly a witch—or at least a woman who grew strange plants in her yard, made animals do strange things, and dressed oddly. Today, it's said that if you walk around Mary's grave three times at night and spit, her spirit will appear to you. However, finding the grave might be tricky; two boys are said to have stolen the tombstone decades ago, and, being cursed by Mary, died soon afterward, with the tombstone either being smashed to pieces or falling into a sewer.

6. THE CURSE OF THE COLONEL // MAINE

The gray stone tomb of Bucksport town founder Colonel Jonathan Buck looks ordinary enough, except for a rather suspicious-looking stain. The mark resembles a person's lower leg and foot, and is said to have come about after Buck burned a witch, whose leg then rolled out of the fire. Seeing his mother's charred appendage, the witch's deformed son allegedly shouted "Your tomb shall bear the mark of a witch's foot for all eternity!" According to Roadside America, the fact that Buck didn't have the authority to be burning any witches hasn't stopped the grave from becoming a bonafide tourist stop, complete with a wheelchair-friendly ramp leading up to the site and its image emblazoned on local postcards. Supposedly, Buck's heirs have repeatedly tried cleaning the grave, but the stain always comes back … clear evidence of a curse, or perhaps a particularly stubborn crack that lets in the rain.

7. BLACK AGNES // VERMONT

John Hubbard was a Montpelier businessman who could reportedly be stingy with his money, but he apparently wasn't too cheap to skimp on his tombstone. He left enough funds for a haunting copper sculpture near his grave that's become known as "Black Agnes." Local legends tell of its eyes glowing red at night, of piercing screams being heard nearby, and of a horrible fate that will befall anyone who dares sit in its lap: certain death within seven days. However, despite the moniker and a feminine-looking face, the statue is actually of a man—or at least an androgynous being. The sculpture is titled Thanatos, Greek for "death."

8. LEGEND OF THE VANDERBILT TOMB // NEW YORK

Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest Americans of the 19th century (and indeed all of history), is interred in a three-story tomb on the bottom of Todt Hill in Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island. His elaborate tomb—a replica of a Romanesque church in France—is off-limits to the public, but there are reports of a strange light in the shape of a female figure, allegedly connected to the spirit a woman who died when a heavy iron door nearby fell on her. There are also accounts of a man in a gray suit (Cornelius himself?) chasing away trespassers, and—perhaps strangest of all—those who swear that pictures of the tomb tend to either be missing their human subjects or contain an extra figure who wasn't there when the photo was taken.

9. SMILEY'S GHOST // TEXAS

A single plot in the Mills cemetery in Garland, Texas, is home to five members of the Smiley family, who all died on the same day—allegedly because of a murder-suicide. Rumor has it that if you lie down on the grave at midnight (especially at midnight on Halloween), you'll find it very difficult to rise back up, as the ghost of old man Smiley tries to pull you down, hoping to add one more member to the family's eternal resting place.

10. THE GREEN GLOW // NEW YORK

The abandoned Forest Park Cemetery (also known as Pinewoods Cemetery) near Troy is known for several urban legends. One of the strangest concerns local taxi drivers, who say they pick up fares nearby asking to go home, only to have the passenger mysteriously vanish when they drive by the cemetery. Others tell of a decapitated angel statue that bleeds from its neck—although the effect may be attributed to a certain kind of moss. But one of the eeriest parts of the grounds is a dilapidated, roofless mausoleum said to be home to a green, glowing light about the size of a half-dollar, right where the coffins used to be located.

11. THE BLEEDING HEADSTONE // PENNSYLVANIA

The Union Cemetery in Millheim has one of the nation's weirder headstones: It's said to bleed, as if the letters were cut into flesh instead of stone. The grave belongs to 19th-century local William Musser, whose descendants tried repeatedly to replace the tombstone, but the blood kept coming back until they added an iron plate on top. Supposedly, a knife has also appeared on the tombstone, because Musser was a murderer (although by all accounts he was instead a peaceful local businessman).

BONUS: THE BLACK ANGEL // IOWA

It's not a specific grave, but the Black Angel statue that stands near the edge of Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa, has accrued a collection of ominous legends. It's said to come to life after sundown and fly around the graves, to shoot fire from its eyes, to make children disappear, and to have turned black because of its inherent evil (or the evil of those buried nearby).

Up in the Air: When 'Balloon Boy' Took Flight

John Moore, Getty Images
John Moore, Getty Images

It was like a Weekly World News cover come to life. On October 15, 2009, most of the major network and cable broadcasters interrupted their daytime programming to cover what appeared to be a silver flying saucer streaking through the air. Out of context, it was as though the world was getting its first sight of a genuine UFO.

Reading the scroll at the bottom, or listening to the somewhat frantic newscasters, provided an explanation: It was not alien craft but a homemade balloon that had inadvertently taken off from the backyard of a family home in Fort Collins, Colorado. That, of course, was not inherently newsworthy. What made this story must-see television was the fact that authorities believed a 6-year-old boy was somehow trapped inside.

As the helium-filled balloon careened through the air and toward Denver International Airport, millions of people watched and wondered if its passenger could survive the perilous trip. When the craft finally touched down after floating for some 60 miles, responders surrounded it, expecting the worst. The boy was nowhere to be seen. Had he already fallen out?

The brief saga that became known as the Balloon Boy incident was one of the biggest indictments of the burgeoning worlds of reality television and breathless 24/7 news coverage. It seemed to check off every box that observers associated with societal decline. There was the morbidity of a child speeding through the air without control; the unwavering gaze of news networks who cut away from reports on world affairs and even ignored their commercial breaks to obtain footage of an aircraft that measure around 20 feet wide and 5 feet high and resembled a bag of Jiffy Pop.

 

The boy in question was Falcon Heene, one of Richard and Mayumi Heene's three children. The couple had met in California and bonded over their mutual desire to get into the entertainment business. Richard dreamed of becoming a comedian; Mayumi played guitar. The couple married in 1997 and eventually relocated to Colorado; they got their first taste of Hollywood in 2008, when they made their first of two appearances on the reality series Wife Swap.

But Richard Heene wanted more. The avid tinkerer envisioned a show that followed his family around, while at the same time working on his new inventions—one of which was sitting in his backyard. It was essentially a Mylar balloon staked to the ground, which he would later describe as a very early prototype for a low-altitude commuter vehicle.

 sheriff's deputies seach a field for Falcon Heene before learning he had been found October 15, 2009 southeast of Ft. Collins, Colorado
Sheriff's deputies search a Colorado field for Falcon Heene before learning he had been found safe at home.
John Moore, Getty Images

It was this balloon, Bradford Heene told police in 2009, that his brother Falcon had climbed into just before it had taken flight. Earlier, Richard said, Falcon had been playing near the contraption and was scolded for potentially creating a dangerous situation. Now, Falcon was gone, the balloon was in the air, and Falcon's parents feared the worst. Mayumi called the authorities.

“My other son said that Falcon was at the bottom of the flying saucer,” Mayumi told the 911 dispatcher. “I can’t find him anywhere!”

As news cameras watched and the National Guard and U.S. Forest Service followed, the balloon reached an altitude of 7000 feet. Police made a painstaking search of the Heene household, looking for any sign of Falcon. After three passes, they determined it was possible he was inside the balloon.

Approximately one hour later, the balloon seemed to deflate. Authorities cleared the air space near Denver International Airport and greeted the craft as it landed, tethering it to the ground so no air current could hoist it back up and out of reach.

No one was inside the small cabin under the balloon, which left three possibilities: Falcon was hiding somewhere, he had run away ... or he had fallen out.

 

Not long after the craft had landed, a police officer at the Heene house decided to investigate an attic space above the garage. It had gone ignored because it didn’t seem possible Falcon could have reached the entrance on his own.

Yet there he was, hiding.

Elated, authorities explained to the media that they thought Falcon had untethered the balloon by accident and then hid because he knew his father would be upset with him.

Jim Alderden, the sheriff of Colorado's Larimer County, assured reporters that the Heenes had not done anything suspect. They demonstrated all the concern for their missing child that one would expect. Alderden stuck to that even after the Heenes were interviewed on CNN and Falcon appeared to slip up. When asked by Wolf Blitzer if he had heard his parents calling for him, the boy admitted that he had but was ignoring them “for a show.”

Though the Heenes seemed to scramble to cover up for their son's gaffe, Blitzer didn’t appear to register the comment at first. He came back around to it, though, insisting on clarification. Richard would later state that Falcon was referring to the news cameras who wanted to see where he had been hiding. That was the "show" he meant.

Alderden reiterated that he didn’t think the boy could remain still and quiet for five hours in an attic if he had been instructed to. But he admitted the CNN interview raised questions. After initially clearing the family of any wrongdoing, Alderden said he would sit down and speak to them again.

Within the week, Alderden was holding a press conference with an entirely different mood. He solemnly explained that the Heenes had perpetuated a hoax and speculated that they could be charged with up to three felonies, including conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Outlets had already tracked down an associate of Richard’s who detailed his reality series idea, with one episode devoted to the balloon.

 

Richard and Mayumi voluntarily turned themselves into authorities. They each pled guilty: Richard for attempting to influence a public servant and Mayumi for making a false report. In addition to paying $36,016 in restitution, Richard wound up with a 90-day jail sentence, 60 days of which was served on supervised work release. Mayumi got 20 days. Though they pled guilty, Richard maintained that he and his family had not perpetuated any kind of a hoax. In a 2010 video posted to YouTube, Richard said he only pled guilty because authorities were threatening to deport his wife.

Mayumi, meanwhile, reportedly told police it had all been an act (though critics of the prosecution argued that Mayumi's imperfect English made that confession open to interpretation). Mayumi later stated she had no firm understanding of the word "hoax."

Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi Heene (R) are flanked by members of the media after they both plead guilty to charges related to the alleged hoax of the couple claiming that their son, Falcon Heene was last month onboard a helium balloon, at the Larime
Richard and Mayumi Heene surrounded by the media after they both plead guilty to charges related to the "Balloon Boy Hoax" on November 13, 2009.
Matt McClain, Getty Images

In addition to the fine and jail sentences, the judge also mandated that the family not seek to profit from the incident for a period of four years, which meant any potential for Richard to grab a reality show opportunity would be put on hold until long after the public had lost interest in the "Balloon Boy."

The Heenes moved to Florida in 2010, and soon after their three boys formed a heavy metal band—reputed to be the world’s youngest—dubbed the Heene Boyz. They’ve self-released several albums, and in 2014 even released a song called "Balloon Boy No Hoax."

Richard also peddles some of his inventions, including a wall-mounted back scratcher that allows users to alleviate itching by rubbing up against it. It’s called the Bear Scratch.

In October 2019, Robert Sanchez, a writer for 5280 magazine in Denver, profiled the Heenes and produced a smoking gun of sorts. Sanchez, who was allowed access to the Heene case file by Mayumi's defense attorney, discovered copies of Mayumi's notes about the events leading up to the flight. In one entry, she disclosed Richard had asked her about the possibility of letting the craft go off while Falcon remained in the basement, stirring up attention for the news networks. Later, when the saucer flew away, Richard was confused when Falcon wasn't downstairs. (He chose instead to hide in the attic.) That made the Heenes believe he might really be inside.

When confronted with the document, Mayumi told Sanchez she had made that story up in an attempt to "save" herself and her children, presumably from being separated in the ensuing legal struggle. In the Balloon Boy story, the saucer may have come crashing back to Earth, but the truth remains up in the air.

Invasive Snakehead Fish That Can Breathe on Land Is Roaming Georgia

Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A fish recently found in Georgia has wildlife officials stirred up. In fact, they’re advising anyone who sees a northern snakehead to kill it on sight.

That death sentence might sound extreme, but there’s good reason for it. The northern snakehead, which can survive for brief periods on land and breathe air, is an invasive species in North America. With one specimen found in a privately owned pond in Gwinnett County, the state wants to take swift action to make certain the fish, which is native to East Asia, doesn’t continue to spread. Non-native species can upset local ecosystems by competing with native species for food and habitat.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is advising people who encounter the snakehead—a long, splotchy-brown fish that can reach 3 feet in length—to kill it and freeze it, then report the catch to the agency's fisheries office.

Wildlife authorities believe snakeheads wind up in non-native areas as a result of the aquarium trade or food industry. A snakehead was recently caught in southwestern Pennsylvania. The species has been spotted in 14 states.

[h/t CNN]

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