Walking through a timeworn cemetery is like entering a history book, and in New England, that history runs rich and deep. Each headstone tells a story of our past and reminds us of the struggles and sacrifices the early settlers endured to make this “New World” the place we know and love today.
In honor of their lives, and in the spirit of Halloween, these 5 tours provide plenty of scares while staying true and respectful to history.
Center Church Crypt Tour
New Haven, CT
This unique tour leads you into the 203-year-old basement of Center Church for a free, volunteer-led experience where you’ll meet Benedict Arnold’s first wife; President Rutherford B. Hayes’s grandmother; poor Sarah Whiting the “painfull mother of eight children”; and Sarah Trowbridge, whose 330-year-old gravestone is the oldest of all. The church was built on top of a crypt in 1814, protecting the identified remains of 137 residents. Tours are available on Saturdays in April–October.
Dead of Night Ghost Tours
Jan Williams gave up her career as a paramedic 16 years ago, purchased a hearse on eBay, and began offering lantern-lit tours of New England’s oldest town, including the Burial Hill Cemetery and two haunted historic houses. Her tours are more fun than frightening, but Williams is a true believer, claiming to have had dozens of encounters with Plymouth’s restless spirits. Tours are offered year-round and depart from Plymouth Rock.
This PG-13 tour gives you a dose of haunted history with a dramtic flair! A gravedigger, a black widow, or one of the other sinister Ghosts & Gravestones characters will lead you to the North End’s Copp’s Hill cemetery and downtown’s Granary Burying Ground where Samuel Adams and Paul Revere currently reside. The nightime tours include a trolley ride and the only legal access to Boston’s cemeteries after-dark. The experience is an educational blend of horror, humor, and history. Tours take place April through mid-November.
New England Curiosities’ Shadows and Stones Cemetery Tour
Portsmouth’s Point of Graves features fascinating final resting places dating back to 1682. Tours are led by folklorist, Roxie Zwicker and her “co-guide,” Elizabeth Pierce – who died of consumption in 1717. Zwicker uses L-rod dowsing to communicate with her spirit from the great beyond. Tours are by appointment on select Fridays and depart from Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium.
Spirits Alive’s Eastern Cemetery Walking Tour
Spirits Alive is a group of volunteers devoted to restoring and preserving the hundreds of gravestones in Portland’s oldest cemetery, which will mark its 350th anniversary in 2018. The passionate tour guides – who are also volunteers – spin yarns of cemetery segregation and show off the artistry of local stonecutter Bartlett Adams, whose work adorns 700 headstones. Evening tours are available as Halloween approaches from October 19 – 22 and 26 – 29.
H/T to Yankee Magazine