Creepy legends about the Richmond cemetery where two presidents are buried

Creepy Legends About The Richmond Cemetery Where Two Presidents Are Buried

Photo courtesy of the Virginia Tourism Corporation

By Aila Boyd

May 20, 2024

Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond is unlike any other cemetery in Virginia, given that it serves as the final resting place of two presidents, six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, and a slew of other notables.

Due to its wide variety of burials and sprawling size, it should come as no surprise that there’s no shortage of local legends about the cemetery.

Origin of the cemetery

The cemetery was established in 1847, having been designed by noted architect John Notman of Philadelphia. Known as a garden cemetery, it features a landscape style that was popular in the 19th century. Instead of utilizing the standard grid design, it was designed with the living in mind to be a place for people to go to escape the city and enjoy a peaceful setting.

Spanning 135 acres, the cemetery stretches along the banks of the James River. The river can be viewed from many spots in the cemetery, with the best views at the Palmer Chapel Mausoleum and Presidents Circle.

Arboretum

The cemetery is registered as an arboretum due to its unique assortment of over 2,000 trees. Some of the notable varieties include stately tulip poplars, black gums, white oaks, live oaks, and a 140-foot bald cypress. Some of the trees have been at the cemetery since it was first established.

Fun fact: the cemetery was named after the Holly trees that are planted along the path that descends the hill from the entrance.

Presidential burials

Both the 5th and 10th presidents of the United States are buried in the cemetery in what is referred to as Presidents Circle.

James Monroe, the 5th president, was laid to rest in the cemetery in 1858, a surprising 27 years after he died in New York City. Those who visit will likely marvel at the intricacies of his tomb, “The Birdcage,” which was erected in 1859.

“The structure is made of granite sarcophagus that is surrounded by an ornate Gothic-style cage made from cast iron,” the cemetery said of the tomb, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971. In 2015, the tomb was repaired and restored to its original ivory color.

The fifth president, John Tyler, was also buried at the cemetery in 1862. Notably, he is the only president whose death wasn’t officially recognized in Washington, D.C. due to his allegiance to the Confederate States of America. “Tyler requested arrangements for a simple burial, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis hosted a grand event, complete with a Confederate flag draped over the coffin,” the cemetery said.

Other notable burials

Other notable burials include President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis, governors Fitzhugh Lee, Charles T. O’Ferrall, John Garland Pollard, William Smith, Claude A. Swanson and Henry A. Wise, and justices Peter V. Daniel and Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

Literary fans may be delighted to learn that it’s also the final resting place of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Richmond native Ellen Glasgow.

Additionally, more than 18,000 Confederate soldiers were laid to rest in the cemetery beneath a 90-foot mortarless pyramid.

Creepy stories

Richmond residents believe the cemetery to be haunted, according to Virginia Is for Lovers. A site that is often pointed to as being especially creepy is the tomb marked W.W. Poole.

“The site seems similar to the other mausoleum style graves, but according to gossip and lore, the Richmond Vampire dwells inside the tomb,” Virginia is for Lovers said. “These local legends have Richmond residents believing that those buried in Hollywood Cemetery may not be resting in peace, but instead roaming the grounds at night, looking to prey on unsuspecting visitors.”

The Commonwealth Times was the first to report on the vampire when it alleged that it escaped during the deadly Church Hill train tunnel collapse in 1925. “After the collapse killed and buried several railway workers, the first fanged-creature sighting was reported near bookkeeper William Wortham Pool’s grave,” the paper said.

Still in use today

Unlike many older cemeteries, Hollywood Cemetery continues to operate as a working cemetery. It offers numerous burial options, including lots, cremation niches, and a scattering garden. Funerals are held Monday through Saturday.

Tour options

The cemetery, which is ranked as one of the most visited in Virginia, draws in visitors from around the world who want to take in its sights and hear its stories.

It offers several tour options, each of which is “filled with a wealth of knowledge about the historic site and the famous personalities buried there.” They’re primarily held from April through November. Tour options include tours by car or foot, historical walking tours, Gem Car tours, Segway tours, trolley tours, and Tuk Tuk tours. Those who decide to go on a self-guided tour will likely want to use this map.

Even if you can’t visit the cemetery in person, you can still get a sense of it via the virtual tour option. It includes a highlights tour, as well as tours for notable trees and burials.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Creepy legends about the Richmond cemetery where two presidents are buriedCreepy legends about the Richmond cemetery where two presidents are buried

  • Aila Boyd

    Aila Boyd is a Virginia-based educator and journalist. She received her MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.

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