If there was ever a haunted place in America, one would imagine that it would be a cemetery, right? Located at 412 South Cherry Street in Richmond, Virginia, Hollywood Cemetery is one of the most well-known and beautiful cemeteries in America. There is a lot of history associated with this landmark. It’s no surprise that it’s rumored to be haunted. Groundskeepers, tourists and locals alike claim to have experienced strange phenomena at night. From cries for help to the unfortunate death of a child, there are many hauntings linked to this cemetery.
Hollywood Cemetery: A History
Named for the plentiful holly trees scattered throughout the grounds, Hollywood Cemetery is the second most famous graveyard in America, next to Arlington Cemetery. In 1847, inspired by the Mount Auburn cemetery in Boston, William Haxall and Joshua Fry set out to create their own burial grounds. Two years later, they established Hollywood Cemetery, which now spans 135 acres.
Haxall and Fry hired John Notman, one of the most notable architects at the time, to plan the design for the cemetery. His creation is so captivating, that the site has become a popular place for, not only the dead, but the living as well.
Throughout the years, many additions have been made to the cemetery. The first is known as President’s Circle because of the three United States Presidents buried at the site. Then in 1904, demands for burials increased so much that plans for expansion on Midvale Avenue began.
By 1919, the cemetery had become a very popular tourist attraction. Because of this, landlords allowed civilians to drive their cars through the grounds. They also began offering guided tours in Ford cars. Groups of four to five curious tourists paid a fee of $.35 to be driven around the scenic grounds of Hollywood Cemetery.
In 1923, expansion of the cemetery began with Clark Springs. A year later, finalized plans for the new addition near Midvale Avenue led to 148 new burial lots.
In 1969, the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places added Hollywood Cemetery to its list. Furthermore, in 1993, the Historic Richmond Foundation presented Hollywood Cemetery with three preservation awards for its long-term maintenance.
In 2011, renovation of Presidents Circle began and a new granite walk leading up to and surrounding the monument was added. It included 900 lots, permitting 1,800 new burials at the site. Restoration of several monuments, fences, and curbing also took place.
Monuments and Famous Burials
In 1858, President James Monroe’s remains were transferred to Hollywood Cemetery and the James Monroe Tomb was built. Four years later, in 1862, President John Tyler was buried in President’s Circle opposite President Monroe’s gravesite. Six years after his death in 1893, Jefferson Davis—the only President of the Confederate States of America— had a life-size bronze statue of his likeness erected.
Not only is the cemetery the resting place for three of America’s Presidents, but it’s also the resting place of thousands of Confederate soldiers. In 1863, the cemetery became one of the largest locations for military funerals during the Civil War, burying a total of 18,000 Confederate soldiers. This area became known as the Confederate Section and houses the most famous monument in the cemetery. In 1866, the Hollywood Ladies Memorial Association was established and helped to create the pyramid. The 90-foot-tall granite pyramid was designed by Charles H. Dimmock, a Captain in the Confederate Army. Its purpose was to honor the brave Confederate soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War.
In 1953, the United Daughters of the Confederacy created a list of all the distinguished people buried at Hollywood Cemetery. The list included three American presidents, six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, 22 Confederate generals and thousands of Confederate soldiers. The bronze plaque currently hangs in the cemetery office.
Hollywood Cemetery: A Haunting
People love to tell ghost stories and it’s especially exciting when they’re linked to a cemetery. There are three popular ghost stories associated with Hollywood Cemetery. The most popular one is the tale of the Richmond Vampire. Another story tells of voices that can be heard coming from the pyramid and the third story is of a little girl who died tragically in 1862. With so much history, it’s perhaps surprising that there are only three ghost stories linked to this resting place of the dead.
The Richmond Vampire
Without a doubt, the Richmond Vampire is the most famous story that occurred at Hollywood Cemetery. On October 2, 1925, a tunnel that was under construction at Church Hill collapsed, burying a number of workers alive. Witnesses claimed to have seen a, “…blood covered creature with jagged teeth and skin hanging from its muscular body,” emerge from the wreckage. The figure was seen running towards the James River and took refuge in the mausoleum of W. W. Pool (an American bookkeeper). The urban legend of the Richmond Vampire was born.
However, it was later discovered that this man was 28-year-old railroad fireman, Benjamin F. Mosby. Mosby had been shoveling coal into a steam locomotive when the collapse occurred. The boiler ruptured, resulting in his upper body being horribly scalded. Layers of his skin were also torn and were hanging from his body and several of his teeth were shattered. Sadly, he died later that day at Grace Hospital.
Despite the evidence that there is no Richmond Vampire, it’s still a popular story to tell.
As mentioned before, the pyramid at Hollywood Cemetery is ninety feet tall and was built in 1869. It was designed by Charles H. Dimmock, a Captain in the Confederate Army, and was established due, in large part, to the Hollywood Ladies Memorial Association. The purpose of this monument was to honor the thousands of Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
Soft moans have been heard coming from around and inside the pyramid early in the morning and at dusk. People have also reported coming into contact with cold spots at the various corners of the pyramid. Some say they are the cries of the unidentified soldiers who are trying to make their presence known.
The Little Girl and Her Guardian
Located at a very short distance from the pyramid is the grave of a girl known as Rees; her first name was likely Bernadine, Florence, or Elizabeth. What people know about this little girl is that she died at the age of three from Scarlett Fever. Her family placed a three-foot-high cast iron statue of a dog near her grave.
What isn’t known, however, is why the dog was placed next to Rees’ resting place. There are two possible reasons. The first tells that the family wanted the dog to watch over their daughter in the afterlife. The second says that, to save their assets, Reese’ family put the statue near her grave to prevent it from being melted down into ammunition.
Whatever the reason, people claim to have seen a little girl playing with a dog late at night by the grave. Furthermore, grounds keepers, tourists, and locals sometimes hear a dog barking or growling when they approach the burial site. If this isn’t strange enough, people claim that the dog moves on occasion. The grounds crew and visitors say that when they pass by, the dog is pointing one way and when they come back, it’s pointed in another.
Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, there’s no question that it’s important to respect a burial site. People over the centuries have worked very hard to create and maintain the beauty of Hollywood Cemetery. Victims and families may be decades (or even a century or more) apart, but they come together to honor their loved ones, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and their country. Remembering lives that have been lost throughout the centuries is important and people visit Hollywood Cemetery to do so. The cemetery is a beautiful part of Richmond, Virginia and should be treated as such.
However, it’s not surprising that this national treasure is rumored to be haunted. Ghosts of lost souls roam the grounds, and have not only been heard, but also seen by various people. Their presence is a reminder of the tragic events that have occurred throughout America’s history.