Bizarre and Taboo

Creepy Graves and The Stories Behind Them

There is something fascinating about old creepy graves and tombstones with epitaphs that freeze strange and messages into time. Even more interesting are the histories that are associated with the people in those graves – histories with enough details to wildly spark our curiosity and imagination. Here are some ten great examples of creepy graves.

1.  Kitty Jay (Jay’s Grave)

Kitty's grave. Credit Fiona Avis, Wiki Commons

Kitty’s grave. Credit Fiona Avis, Wiki Commons

The story of Kitty Jay’s Grave begins in the 1700s when a poor, young maid hung herself in a barn at a place called Forder, England. It is unclear why Kitty hung herself, but one tale says that she had been raped, while another says she fell in love and became pregnant. Ashamed, she took her own life. In the tradition of the time, anyone who committed suicide, considered “self-murder,” would be buried in the manner similar for criminals…at a crossroads. This was to confuse the wicked soul from ever returning to haunt the living. Today, her grave is marked with a rough head stone and a mound of grass, always adorned with flowers put there mysteriously. Some people report seeing a dark cloaked figure kneeling at her gravesite or her ghost in their rearview mirrors as they drive by.

2.  Inez Clark

Gravesite statue of Inez "Clarke". Credit: Kathy Padgett Baker.

Gravesite statue of Inez “Clarke”. Credit: Kathy Padgett Baker.

Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, is the resting place of a mysterious statue of a young girl encased in glass, and presumably this girl lies beneath the statue. Strangely, the name on the statue is Inez Clarke, but there is no record of anyone by this name buried there. The mystery appears to have been solved regarding the identity of the little girl; it appears that she may have been abandoned by her mother and was raised by grandparents of a previous marriage. A number of interesting legends were created about the statue and Inez Clarke. One legend has it that Inez died in a thunderstorm while she was locked outside. It is said that during thunderstorms at the graveyard the statue disappears, and on one stormy night a watchman came upon the case, but found that it was empty. He was so freaked out, he ran away never to return.

3.  Lilly E. Gray

Lilly E. Gray's gravestone. Credit: Anonymous.

Lilly E. Gray’s gravestone. Credit: Anonymous.

The epitaph of Mrs. Gray reads “Lilly E. Gray June 6, 1881 – Nov. 14, 1958 Victim Of The Beast 666.” It has been quite a mystery until recently, and has stirred every imaginable thought regarding demons and satanism. But, as it turns out, there isn’t much really creepy about this, except a man’s sick sense of humor. According to research conducted by Richelle Hawks, Elmer L. Gray, Lilly’s strange husband, hated the police and the justice system, because he had previously been arrested. He blamed the police for his wife’s death (I imagine she suffered a lot of stress as a result of her husband’s prior arrest), and may have been an angry conspiracy theorist, coupled with having a twisted sense of humor. It’s possible he was referring to the police as Satan on poor Lilly’s gravestone.

Rosalia Lombardo Mummy 1982

Rosalia Lombardo Mummy 1982. Credit: Wiki Commons

4. Rosalia Lombardo

Rosalia Lombardo was an Italian girl born on Dec. 13, 1918. She died less than two years later on Dec. 6, 1920 of pneumonia. Her father grieved her loss so profoundly, he made arrangements to have her preserved. Her corpse was mummified and she still lies encased in glass at the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Italy, for the world to view. Although the photograph appears to depict a well-preserved corpse in 1982, it has begun to decay, so her coffin was transferred to a nitrogen-filled chamber in a drier part of the catacombs. She appears to be sleeping peacefully, thanks to the work of master embalmer, Alfredo Salafia. Although this may seem very creepy to many people, it gave solace to a much-grieved family after her death.

5.  Specimens

creepy graves Headstone in TICO Cemetery

Headstone in TICO Cemetery

The TICO (Training Institute of Central Ohio) cemetery, also known as the Columbus State Hospital Asylum Cemetery, has an interesting history and an interesting tombstone that reads “Specimens.” The cemetery lies adjacent to what used to be a juvenile detention center (TICO). The asylum is located just behind the spot where the TICO building used to be located. The cemetery was used for indigent patients of the hospital and children who died at TICO.

A 1981 government abstract put out by the National Criminal Justice Reference Center stated that TICO was an example of an institution that imposed “substantial suffering and punishment on their inmates…” There have been reports of rapes and severe beatings by the guards, and of children who were reportedly released but, in actuality, died there. In the cemetery lies a tombstone that says “Specimens.” Although it is uncertain what lies under the stone, someone wrote in response to an article that was published on, and said that he was one of the kids at TICO when they were medicating the inmates with Triavil 4-50, an anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drug. He also said some of the kids didn’t “make it” and were buried at the cemetery under the Specimens stone. These details cannot be verified, however it makes for great fodder for the imagination.

6.  Unidentified Baby Girl

Headstone of Baby Girl. Credit: Findagrave, Raymond Riley

Headstone of Baby Girl. Credit: Findagrave, Raymond Riley

In 1977, the body of an infant girl just a few weeks old was pulled up in the Walnut Creek part of the Delaware River by two men who were bait fishing. She had been placed in a garbage bag and dumped there. A pathologist believes she was alive when she was put into the bag, which would have made it a murder, however, the case was never solved. Tissue samples of the baby were taken when she was found, and fortunately they were kept on ice; the case has been reopened and investigators are now tracking new leads.

For nearly 30 years the baby girl remained buried in the Oskaloosa Pleasant View cemetery without a headstone, marked only by a piece of tin, which eventually disappeared. Thanks to a few thoughtful men who cared and a kind financial donor, she now has a gravestone that reads: “Unidentified Baby Girl Found in the Delaware River May 1977.”

7.  Giles Corey

Memorial Marker

Giles Corey Memorial Marker in Salem. Wiki Commons.

According to his epitaph, Giles Corey suffered an unimaginable death at the hands of Salem witch hunters. His headstone reads, “Giles Corey Pressed to Death Sept. 19, 1692. He had been arrested in April of that year and was accused of being a warlock. Instead of pleading guilty or not guilty, he remained silent on the matter. As was commonplace in those days, torture was used as a means to force a confession. Giles was initially loaded down with a board that covered his naked body. The board was piled with large, heavy stones, but he still refused to plead, and he remained silent without crying out. The board was removed and the stones were placed directly on top of Giles’ body, but again he said nothing except, “More weight.” His torturers complied and put even more weight upon him, until he finally died, two days after his torture began.

Headstone Hugh Emmerson. Credit: Aurora Henry

Headstone Hugh Emmerson. Credit: Aurora Henry

8.  Hugh Emmerson

Nobody knows where this man truly came from or where else he had been. On one census Hugh Emmerson reported he was born in New York, while on another he said Vermont. Even the birth years are off by one year. Sadly, perhaps nobody even cared. His epitaph reads: “Hugh Emmerson of New York Came To Snohomish Co., In 1876. Died Nov. 23, 1889. Aged About 70 Years. His Friends And Kindred All Unknown, He Died As He Had Lived: Alone.” Where did the money come from to give him such a nice burial and headstone? This would not have been considered a paupers grave, especially in the 1800s. Perhaps he had amassed some wealth? And why would he travel across the country all alone around the age of 54 just to live alone and die alone? The mysterious details of Hugh’s life may never be known, since they appear to be, like the man, buried and gone forever.

9.  Herman Harband

Headstone of Herman Harband. Credit: unknown.

Headstone of Herman Harband. Credit: unknown.

If we are to believe this epitaph, poor Herman had a greedy, mean wife who took all his money, tried to poison him, and literally left him in the dark. As it turns out, Herman was not really buried here, according the Find A Grave website. He owned a cemetery plot in this spot at the Beth David Memorial Gardens, and after he died someone felt compelled to spend the money for this stone and had this erected, although his body was placed elsewhere. Also, according to Findagrave, his wife requested that his empty plot be sold back to the cemetery and to have the stone taken down. And it was – but not before this photograph was well-circulated across the Internet.


10. Timothy Clark Smith

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a widespread fear of being buried alive (called taphephobia) surfaced in Western society. This fear correlated with cholera outbreaks and rampant reports by doctors of victims coming back to life after having been pronounced dead. Stories of people that were found in their graves after trying to claw and scratch their way out fueled this fear even more. Edgar Allen Poe also published a book in 1844 about victims of premature burial. This sweeping fear led to a number of inventions for safety coffins, which would allow a person to breathe (via tubes), be heard and viewed (via bells and windows), and ultimately escape from his burial chamber (via stairways) if he was buried prematurely. This is the kind of grave one can find today at Timothy Clark Smith’s gravesite.

Glass window over Timothy Clarke's grave

Glass window over Timothy Clark Smith’s grave. Credit: Bill McKern.

Smith was a doctor who died in 1893. He lived during the height of taphephobia and he had a profound case of it. Prior to his death, he made arrangements to have special features built into his burial chamber. Today, you can see the 4 square foot window that sits six feet above his face, but with age and wear, the view is clouded. There’s also a capstone next to his burial mound, supposedly under which there is a staircase that leads out from the grave. It is also said that he was buried with a bell and airtube. These special features appear to have gone unused, so I think it’s safe to say that he remained dead.


Kimberly Lin

Kimberly's number one passion is bringing history to the world, and she has written for various websites since 2011. She spent several years living in Italy and her travels in Europe and Asia have given her a keen interest in archaeology, world history, culture, and really great food. Her degrees are in International Business and Finance from the University of Hawaii.