Sunday, March 31, 2013

Legends, Ghosts and Folklore

It is considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in the United States, and it is occupied with famous and restless walking corpses from generals and mayors to influential businessmen and writers.

Westminster Presbyterian Western Burial Ground in Baltimore, Maryland was originally constructed in 1786. The church was built directly over the burial grounds, and finally completed in 1852, but the structures original massive arches created underground catacombs that have been a constant source of ghostly rumors both below and above ground.

Over time bodies were constantly disarranged and even removed from their original resting place in an effort to accommodate the strict policies that city officials once enforced in the mid 1800's. Medical students also took part in these disturbances as dissecting bodies was a common practice in gaining medical knowledge. Soldiers from the civil war took refuge within the catacombs and stored weapons and other gear within the tombs.

Some believe that Edgar Allan Poe has been spotted on various accounts, mostly occurring around his January 19th birthday. Some believe he walks the grounds dressed in a black wool coat and black pants with a black hat and black scarf with his walking stick.

Other folklore tales report that many interred in this graveyard were buried alive and their restless souls wander the grounds. These souls wander around searching for the ones who buried them alive and seek revenge for their savage death.

"Many ghost hunters believe that the problem exists within the original construction and lay-out of the burial grounds and the church. Not all of the deceased can be properly visited due to bad planning. Some of the headstones are unreadable due to their age, and visitors to the cemetery are unaware of the hard to find parts of the graveyard that have been partially covered by the massive Gothic Revival- style Westminster Church. The hidden underground catacombs are the only access to some of the most restless souls on the planet."

Restless spirits are rumored to walk aimlessly in the dark passageways of the catacombs and witnesses to those who have seen these ghosts claim to smell a horrible stench and hear muffled screams.

Sixteen year old Lucia Watson Taylor is a frequent visitor of the cemetery, especially if it is dark and misty. Her white flowing dress is hard to miss, as is her beautiful head of long hair. The problem with this vision is that she crossed over in late 1816.

"Over time bodies have been disturbed from their original resting place in an effort to accommodate the strict policies that city officials once enforced in the mid 1800's. Safety and health concerns that loomed within Baltimore's city limits soon became apparent, and cemeteries were to be accompanied by a church. This posed a slight problem as the burial grounds already existed."

As a genealogist, I have walked among the dead in various cemeteries and graveyards throughout this country as well as in other countries. There is a peace within its walls and when I walk, I think of those souls whom have walked the earth before me. There is a peace at Westminster Hall, but at the same time, there is a sense of restlessness. I did not feel evil, but goodness and sadness. The only cemetery I felt evil was in New Orleans, and it was such an overwhelming feeling, I had to get out.

The cemetery is filled with well-known Baltimore folks, and tells a story of the early times of a city known as the third largest immigration port. Those who resided in Baltimore were Scot-Irish, which explains the lack of Catholic Churches in the 18th & 19th centuries. If you seek out Edgar Allan Poe's house, you will find it in the middle of a housing project that came straight out of the series "The Wire". Speaking of Poe, He was born in 1809 and died in 1849 of a "lingering death". He was a known alcoholic, so I wonder if that "lingering death" was liver disease. it is certainly worth researching.


Famous Interred at Westminster Hall Cemetery

  • James Calhoun (1743–1816), first Mayor of Baltimore
  • James Morrison Harris (1817–1898), U.S. Representative
  • Edward Johnson (1767–1829), Mayor of Baltimore
  • Philip Barton Key (1818–1859), son of Francis Scott Key, Shot and killed by Daniel E. Sickles, his lover's husband, at Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C., 27 February 1859
  • James McHenry (1753–1816), signer of the U.S. Constitution and Secretary of War
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), short story writer, editor and critic
  • Robert Smith (1757–1842), Secretary of the Navy, Secretary Of State, and Attorney General
  • Samuel Smith (1752–1839), U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator, and Mayor of Baltimore
  • Samuel Sterett (1758–1833), U.S. Representative
  • David Stewart (1800–1858), U.S. Senator
  • John Stricker (1758–1825), War of 1812 Militia Brigadier General
  • Westminster Hall Cemetery

    One of the most interesting graveyards, I ever did research on. I will show the pictures and write about it at a later date. Enjoy!
    Edgar Allan Poe's New Grave Site
    Edgar Allan Poe's Original Grave Site Located in the Back of the Cemetery

    Look Closely at the Light Surrounding this Burial. Reflection of the Sun or Ghosts?

    The story of Sophie

    Westminster Church

    The most fascinating part of this graveyard is what is buried beneathe its building

    YE who read are still among the living; but I who write shall have long since gone my way into the region of shadows. For indeed strange things shall happen, and secret things be known, and many centuries shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen, there will be some to disbelieve, and some to doubt, and yet a few who will find much to ponder upon in the characters here graven with a stylus of iron.
    Edgar Allan Poe

    Inner Habor