There are many names for cemeteries. Graveyards, catacombs, repositories, necropoleis, ossuaries, and even resting places. None of these individual names for a cemetery causes one to pause upon hearing. However for those in and around the Baltimore, Maryland area, whenever the Westminster Burial Ground is brought up in conversation, people tend to give an eerie silence about such a location. And rightfully so.
Is The Westminster Burial Ground Haunted?
The Westminster Burial Ground is a very old cemetery located in the heart of the city of Baltimore. It was built all the way back in 1797 to serve as the local cemetery that was used by the First Presbyterian Church of Baltimore. The parishioners of the church that helped bring about its construction included William Patterson who was a civic architect that was influential in many of Baltimore’s surroundings and Col. John Eager Howard who was a decorated commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The cemetery remained virtually untouched until 1852 when the Westminster Presbyterian Church was erected over a portion of the cemetery which contributed to a smaller arrangement of underground catacombs. In fact, the cemetery has such an incredibly rich historical value that it was actually added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Without a doubt, the most famous and most frequented grave in the entire cemetery is of melancholic poet and author, Edgar Allan Poe. Born in 1809, Poe was a ne’er do well that bounced around from a flurry of odd jobs to even a stint in the United States military. Struggling with family problems as well as periodic bouts of alcoholism, Poe turned to poetry as a way to try and cope. Many women in his life tragically died including his younger wife, Virginia Clemm. Many editors were critical of Poe’s later works as they lamented and dwelled on his many themes of beautiful women dying tragically young. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found, “in great distress, and in need of immediate assistance” according to the man who found him staggering about the streets of Baltimore at night. In a fevered and delirious state, Poe finally succumbed to death all the while muttering the mysterious name of “Reynolds” over and over before he passed. All medical, hospital, and death records for Edgar Allan Poe were officially declared lost and the intimate details of his death were never known.
After he passed, Poe was buried in the Westminster with an elegant tombstone marking his grave. Sometime in the 1920s, the figure of a man clad entirely in black, accompanied by a silver-tipped cane and using a hooded scarf and hat to obscure his identity, became a frequenter at Poe’s grave in Westminster on the anniversary of his death. In the early morning hours, the mysterious figure would enter and then leave roses along with a bottle of cognac at Poe’s grave. The tradition carried up all the way until 2009 when the visitations mysteriously stopped. Notes left by the figure included such statements as, “Edgar, I haven’t forgotten you”, and “The torch will be passed”.
While the mysterious “Poe Toaster” annually visited Poe’s grave, another entity has been spotted there for decades, Poe’s spirit itself. Many visitors to the Westminster who have gone in hoping to catch a glimpse of Poe’s tombstone have walked away totally surprised to have seen Poe’s ghost standing by the grave itself. Described as being in period dress, with dark matted hair, and a sad expression, his ghost is also spotted in the nearby Presbyterian Church. Many paranormal enthusiasts claim that Poe, even in death, is still longing for something unknown to the world.
One of the more terrifying entities in the cemetery is the “Screaming Skull of Cambridge.” According to various oral legends, the skull belonged to that of a minister in the area who was brutally murdered. Details are sparse, but it was rumored that there was a terrible shrieking noise associated with the minster’s body and that cement was stuffed into the skull somehow and buried in the Westminster. Today people have reported hearing an incredibly high-pitched, piercing scream that comes from the area where the screaming skull is said to be buried.
Another popular spirit in the cemetery is that of Lucia Watson Taylor. Just sixteen years old when she passed away in 1816, Lucia’s ghost is one of the more spotted specters. Long dark hair and in a flowing white dress, visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing her ghost kneeling in front of her own grave, hands clasped and in prayer before fading completely away. And for any troublemakers to the cemetery, there is said to be the spirit of a nineteenth-century groundskeeper who is said to walk the rows and vocally call out any loud visitors before he shuffles off and fades away.
Today the Westminster Burial Ground is still fully accessible and highly visited by the public making it one of the more popular places to visit in the entire city of Baltimore.