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Cemeteries as Tourist Attractions?

by Staff

in Just Because

Celebrity grave sites have been popular with fans and tourists for decades. Some of the more visited graves include Elvis Presley’s at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee, Jim Morrison’s at the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France and Marilyn Monroe’s at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California. Even local and national political figures, infamous criminals and writers like Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare have their graves visited by the curious, mourning locals and tourists alike. The difference is that none of these cemeteries (with the exception of Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.) offer tours and plan for visitors to appear.

Expect all of this to change, thanks to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. This cemetery recently began offering a tour called, “Scalawags, Scoundrels and Murder Most Foul,” for $25 per person. The guided tour includes glimpses of the seedy underbelly of early New York City, thanks to a crypt used by mobsters during Prohibition and the graves of Emma Cunningham, accused of killing her husband in 1857, and Bill “The Butcher” Poole. Other well-known – yet renowned for happier reasons – graves include those belonging to Leonard Bernstein and Henry Ward Beecher. The cost of each tour goes to a maintenance and up-keep fund to ensure that the cemetery is well-kept for all visitors, whether they’ve paid for the tour, want to wander the cemetery on their own, or are coming to mourn their loved ones.

As more and more independent cemeteries are running out of funds and relying on volunteers to perform simple maintenance tasks, expect to see others follow suit. Many larger cemeteries nationwide have interesting burials and spooky stories to tell, and since these tours are a good source of revenue, they will come up with a plan and find a tour guide. Plus, as these tours bring in a good deal of interest from local newspapers, they drum up other interest in the cemetery at the same time.

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