By Ryan Crawley.
For most of us, our final resting place is not something that we consider until we just about have one foot in the grave. It is not a pleasant talk to have with a spouse. “So where do you want to be buried?” There are many options for an eternal resting place, so choose carefully. Most people would rather have a nice tranquil setting to be buried in. However, the places listed below might be best avoided.
From the fear of being buried alive to dealings with the devil, and a family vault where the dead do anything but rest in peace. Here are seven of the strangest graves and burial sites from around the world.
1. The Grave of Kitty Jay
The grave of Kitty Jay has long been part of Devon’s folklore. Dating back to the late 18th century the legend begins with a young maid who fell in love by a local farm hand. After discovering she was with child her lover abandoned her. Falling into madness and despair she took her own life by hanging herself in the farmer’s barn in Forder, England. As was the custom of the time, because she had committed suicide she could not be buried in consecrated ground. Instead, Kitty Jay was buried at the crossroads of three parishes so that none would have to claim responsibility for her.
Her grave can still be found in the middle of the intersection, compete with a small headstone and a raised mound of grass. And it’s here that the legend of Kitty Jay continues to this day. Over the years fresh flowers have appeared at the grave, yet no-one knows who lays them. Stranger still, drivers on the country road regularly report seeing her ghost in their rearview mirror, while others sometimes see a cloaked shadowy figure kneeling at the grave.
2. The Grave of Lilly E. Gray
In the Salt Lake City Cemetery, there is a small gravestone with a strange inscription that reads “Lilly E. Gray, Victim of the Beast 666.” The bizarre epitaph has inspired countless theories but the mystery endures. What is known is that Lilly Gray lived from June 6, 1881, to November 14, 1958, and according to a newspaper obituary she died of natural causes. She passed away some years before her husband Elmer Gray, who interestingly, was later buried on the other side of the cemetery, far from his wife’s plot.
Elmer was well-known to be a strange man with an unusual sense of humor, and that he had had numerous encounters with the law. In fact, it’s said he blamed the police for causing stress that led to his wife’s death. Was he perhaps comparing the police to the devil? Or was he thinking he himself was the Beast that drove her to an early grave? We may never know. Today, the grave enjoys visits from curious tourists who often leave flowers and small trinkets for the victim of the Beast, whoever or whatever that may be.
3. The Grave of Timothy Clark Smith
During the 18th and 19th centuries the fear of being buried alive (known as Taphephobia) was rampant, and for good reason. It was well known that some very sick people were mistakenly being pronounced dead by their doctors. The phenomenon was called Lazarus Syndrome which is described as “the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation”. Exhumed coffins showed signs of scratch marks on the inside of the coffin lid, where people had woken in horror to find they had been buried alive. Their bodies would be found with broken and bloody fingernails and their faces contorted with fear. Timothy Clark Smith, a doctor who died in 1893, had heard of such stories and went to great precautions to ensure that would never happen to him.
In Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Vermont, Smith made arrangements to have several special features built into his burial chamber. He had a bell and a long air tube that emerged close to his grave. There was a four-foot square window that served as the lid to his deep coffin. The window was placed at ground level, so people passing by could actually see his body. There was even a hidden staircase that was built underground next to his grave so that he could just walk up and out of his grave if need be. As it happened, Smith was indeed dead when he was finally placed in his custom built grave, but as the saying goes it’s better to be safe than sorry.
4. The Glass Coffin of Rosalia Lombardo
Inside the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily, lays the body of Rosalia Lombardo, entombed for eternity inside a coffin made of glass. Devastated by the loss of his two-year-old daughter to pneumonia in 1920, Rosalia’s father turned to Alfredo Salafia, a renowned Sicilian professor of chemistry and a talented embalmer to preserve his daughter. Her corpse was carefully mummified and encased in a glass coffin so they would still be able to see their little daughter. Considered to be one of the best-preserved mummies in the world, for years after her death, her skin retained a warm and pink complexion giving her the eerie appearance of sleeping peacefully. Earning her the nickname the “Sleeping Beauty”.
In 1982 she was transferred to a special nitrogen-filled chamber to preserve her body even further. And there she resides to this day, the star attraction, but by no means is she the only mummy to call the Capuchin Catacombs home.
5. The Capuchin Catacombs
Beneath the busy streets of Palermo, Sicily, curious visitors descend into the Capuchin Catacombs to walk among the dead. Since the 16th-century, monks have been preserving bodies using the cool climate found in the underground space. So skillful was their technique that even some of the oldest skeletons in the catacombs still have skin and hair left on them. Throughout the catacombs these mummified corpses hang from the walls in macabre arrangements, they are stacked on shelves, seated on benches and sealed in glass cases. The corridors and halls are divided into religious figures, virgins, children and wealthy individuals who purchased their place upon the walls. All are fully clothed, with some still wearing their traditional robes.
The catacomb was officially closed in 1880, though interments continued into the early 1900s. One of the last was that of Rosalia Lombardo. To date, according to the last census held the Capuchin Catacombs holds 8000 corpses and 1252 mummies within its underground walls. If you are interested in learning more about the Capuchin Catacombs they are open daily to the public.
6. The City of the Dead
Now you may be asking yourself what is so strange about this ancient necropolis? Nothing much, besides the fact that in the City of the Dead the living live there too. Located in the southeastern part of Cairo, Egypt, the sprawling cemetery dates back to the seventh century and is largely made up of small stone construction buildings that serve as mausoleums. Some of the buildings are below ground, some are above ground, while others are a combination of both, and all are adorned with intricate detailing and carvings. And where once the dead rested peacefully, as the metro area of Cairo became over populated people started to move in.
Today, over 500,000 people occupy the City of the Dead, making their homes in the ancient mausoleums and the gaps in-between. And just like with many slums throughout the world, the people here live in abject poverty, with overcrowding, poor policing and rising crime rates. The newest residents of the City of the Dead will tell you, they are more afraid of the living than they are of the dead or their morbid surroundings.
7. The Chase Family Vault
Originally built in 1724, this haunted vault is located in the Christ Parish Church cemetery in Barbados. When the Chase family purchased it years later it already held the body of a Ms. Thomasina Goddard. The Chase family decided to buy it when their little daughter Mary Ann died at the age of two. Not long after, Mary Ann’s sister Dorcas died and was buried alongside her sibling. Heartbroken, a month after interning his second daughter in the family vault, the patriarch of the family Thomas Chase committed suicide. But when the heavy marble slab was removed from the entrance of the vault to place poor Thomas in there, it was discovered that the lead coffins inside had been thrown around in a violent manner.
The coffins were all in disarray and in different positions from where they had been sealed. There was no evidence of flooding that could have possibly moved things around. There was not an earthquake or any settling of the vault that could have displaced the coffins. The vault’s entrance had been sealed with no sign of tampering, so there was no chance that someone had broken in and moved around the heavy coffins. Mystified the graveyard attendees placed all the coffins back into their proper order and added Thomas’ coffin into the mix.
A year later, another member of the family was going to be added to the crypt. When the vault was opened, all the coffins had been tossed around again. No one could understand how this was happening. Was this the result of a spirit not at rest? Or was a deranged person breaking in somehow and taking joy from moving heavy coffins around? In any case, it was sealed once again. But by this time, the story of the Chase vault and its mysteriously moving coffins had spread like wildfire.
Time passed and it was decided to reopen the vault just to check on the condition of everything inside. A throng of interested onlookers were present when it was opened, and they all gasped as it was discovered that once again that the coffins were in disarray. After this, the decision was made to just go ahead and bury all the coffins in the cemetery. The Chase vault would no longer be used and remains empty to this day. And while the Chase family now rest peacefully in the ground, the many ghost stories they inspired persist.
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