Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier (Paris, France)

Baelish explains why this building is a must-see for the morbidly-minded:

I’d like to say that I’m disappointed you have the Notre Dame Cathedral listed, but don’t have the fabulously misleading Palais Garnier in Paris, France listed amongst your morbid sights!

To the non-franciasophiles, the Palais Garnier is most commonly known as the Paris Opera House. It was built between 1862 and 1875 by French architect Charles Garnier, and is the only theatre in the world to boast being built over thousands of corpses, a brief stint as a prison, a fatal accident involving a falling counterweight, and being the abode of the most famous, and well-traveled, ghost in the world!

(Not my site, but there are some phenomenal pictures here:

Theatres are always charged full of spooky energy, especially opera houses where the fantastic and morbid were played out every night in front of a charged audience, and especially old opera houses which add the history of centuries to the already supernatural air.

But in addition to being able to catch a ballet here (with any luck you can sit in the exact seat where, in 1896, one of the counterweights for the massive chandelier broke loose and crashed through the ceiling, killing an unfortunate patron), they host tours of the building and on rare occasion have allowed groups down into the labyrinth-like cellars that inspired an author by the name of Gaston Leroux to pen his classic, The Phantom of the Opera, which has been adapted into several movies and a hit musical that has played around the world. Besides being inspired by the building, Leroux was so impressed with it’s macabre splendour that he set his story here as well, giving his Phantom a home in it’s lair-like cellars.

Unguided groups aren’t allowed near the basement, and no tourists are allowed past the third cellar because of the high risk of getting lost, or getting caught in a collapse. However, if you did manage to end up in the fifth floor of the cellar, hundreds feet below ground, you would find yourself in a black cavern containing an underground lake. Wander down one of the side passages and you’ll find yourself in the Communards Cellar where, during the 1871 Seige of Paris, the half-finished building was used as a prison and munition storage. Nearly a hundred prisoners were chained to the walls and left alone in the darkness, with just the steady dripping of water and the fear of instant death caused by a too-careless guard around the stores of gunpowder. To this day, you can see initials carved into the walls next to rusted manacles.

If you manage to get yourself hopelessly lost you may end up in the catacombs, which are connected to the opera cellars in several places. Get lost down there and you could never be found, as the catacombs are labyrinthian, stretching under most of Paris, and filled to the brim with human skeletons.

You can see why this historic, and beautiful, building is truly a morbid sight to see. (Not to mention why I’m a teeny bit enamored with it.)

More Info:
Opéra national de Paris
Great Buildings Online

Edgar Allan Poe House

Edgar Allan Poe House (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

When I was in Philadelphia, I tragically missed visiting the home in which Edgar Allan Poe had spent his most productive years. Next time, I won’t make the same mistake. This is the house in which Poe resided from 1833-1844 and where he wrote such classics as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” And it was here that Poe’s wife Virginia became ill with the Tuberculosis that would claim her life and hasn’t the despairing self-destruction that would lead to Poe’s demise. A must-see for all enthusiasts of the macabre. Free admission too!
(Thank you to Blackalis for the suggestion.)

Edgar Allen Poe’s Grave

Edgar Allan Poe’s Gravesite
Westminster Hall, Baltimore, MD
June 13, 2001

On an oppressively hot and humid June day, I rode the light rail to downtown Baltimore to spend a half hour wandering about the hallowed morbid soil of the Westminster Burying Grounds – the churchyard and cemetery where Edgar Allan Poe’s grave is located. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of that special unknown black-clad someone who lays three red roses and a bottle of cognac at Poe’s grave every year on the anniversary of his birth. Well, this is where it happens. This is actually the third resting place for Edgar’s remains – the first two being on the other side of the burial grounds (which we’ll get to later.  Edgar’s remains were disinterred and moved to this memorial gravesite in 1875.)Anyway, I wandered about the monument to see the epitaphs for other members of the Poe family all along its sides: Edgar’s beloved aunt (and mother-in-law), Edgar’s wife (and cousin), and Edgar himself. Edgar’s epitaph was significantly more eroded than the other two, which makes me think that a lot of people have placed their marble-damaging hands against his name. I refrained from such abuse of The Original Master Of The Macabre’s grave – aren’t you proud?After spending some reverent time at Edgar’s grave, I turned to explore the rest of the graveyard. There were quite a few interesting old gravestones – including this one which, though partially concealed, reveals a poignant elegy: “Sacred to the memory of Fanny H. Peachey, Consort of Thomas G. Peachey, who was born November the 24, 1799 and departed this transitory life February the 11, 1822, in the 23rd year of her age. The amiable qualities of this interesting female were such as endeared her to all who knew her: she was a dutiful child and a truly affectionate wife. In early life she bore the cross of Jesus and by that life has left ample reason to believe that she has ascended to the… bliss.” Yep, Fanny was Peachey! <groan…>Many of the graves here were of a rather peculiar design (by west coast standards, that is). They looked rather depressingly like crematoriums more than crypts. And these ones against the wall weren’t very pretty either. But, by and large, hospital construction next door aside, I thought it was a most attractive and serene little cemetery. Here are some additional photographs from the site (with descriptions when applicable).

Unfortunately, I arrived at the Burying Grounds on a Wednesday afternoon, and tours of the graveyard and catacombs are only given on Fridays, so I wasn’t able to view the catacombs. If anyone has actually seen them, please let me know what they’re like and send any pictures you might have so I can flesh out – so to speak – this page. Rumor has it that they put on an excellent Halloween tour as well. I’d love to go to that some year!

For more information on the Westminster Burying Grounds, also see:
The Edgar Allan Poe Society Of Baltimore


Bonaventure Cemetery

Bonaventure Cemetery (Savannah, Georgia)
Comtesse Travelogue to Savannah’s most beautiful cemetery – made famous in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Midday in the Garden of Good and Evil

Bonaventure Cemetery
Savannah, GA – July 23, 2001

Bonaventure Cemetery
330 Bonaventure Road
Savannah, GA 31404

Colonial Park Cemetery may be older and more historic, but Bonaventure Cemetery is definitely the most beautiful of Savannah’s cemeteries. There’s something just hauntingly romantic about the splendid Victorian statuary among Spanish Moss draped trees and the lush greenery. A stroll among these peaceful tombs, surrounded by marshland and rivers, is like walking through the best parts of a Southern Gothic novel.Although it is strikingly beautiful, Bonaventure is not a particularly old cemetery. It was founded on the site of a plantation in 1868 and was originally called Evergreen Cemetery. The name was changed to Bonaventure in 1907. However, Bonaventure is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Savannah. The reason for this can be summed up in eight words: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. John Berendt’s book was partially set in this cemetery, and the haunting cover photograph was taken in its confines. (Dean Smiley writes to inform me:  “The cover photo was taken in Bonaventure but the cemetery setting is actually in Beaufort.  This can be found in the book chapter by the same name as the book.”  Guess I should read that book someday!)  However, so many people were flocking to visit the “Bird Girl” statue that graced the front cover, that the family to whom the tomb belonged decided to move the statue to a museum. (Apparently, the last straw was the day they arrived at the gravesite to find a family of tourists picnicking.) If you want to see the original Bird Girl statue nowadays, you need to go to the Telfair Museum Of Art in Savannah, where it is on permanent display. (I didn’t make it there, myself, while I was in town.)Anyway, enough of my blabbing… On with the show!

I found this carved wood burl to be quite interesting, in a creepy sort of way…

The elegantly sad grave of Charles Hohenstein (Aug. 16, 1854 – Aug. 30, 1915) and his beloved wife Mary Doyle (Mary 27, 1858 – Oct. 1, 1921).


John C. Von Hohenstein wrote on 12/6/07: “I am very pleased that you posted the picture of my ancester’s tomb; Charles and Mary Hohenstein. They are my Great Great Grandparents. Charles and his Brother came from Germany at the end of the Civil War. They were shipping merchants who came to capitalize on the rebuilding of Savannah, Atlanta, and New Orleans. The Hohenstein Shipping Yard is still in operation at the Port of Savannah.”

Lovely flowers grace the grave of Charles Seiler (Aug. 15, 1839 – Jan. 9, 1912) and his beloved wife Ernstine (Nov. 8, 1838 – Jan. 28, 1894)

I really loved this one – the grave of Nannie Herndon Mercer, the beloved wife of George A. Mercer (Dec. 17, 1841 – June 16, 1885).


Here’s the other most famous reason that people visit Bonaventure: Gracie. As the tomb marker states, “Little Gracie Watson was born in 1883, the only child of her parents. Her father was manager of the Pulaski Hotels, where the beautiful and charming little girl was a favorite with the guests. Two days before Easter, in April 1889, Gracie died of pnemonia at the age of six. In 1890, when the rising sculptor, John Walz, moved to Savannah, he carved from a photograph this life-sized, delicately detailed marble statue, which for almost a century has captured the interest of all passersby.”

Gracie’s ghost is rumored to haunt numerous Savannah buildings as well (more on that in the upcoming Ghost Tour), so she continues to be an intrinsic part of Savannah folklore.

Unfortunately, little Gracie has taken some abuse over the years. You’ll notice her nose is chipped – that’s thanks to a well-aimed rock thrown by some boys in the 1940s. With all the extra publicity around the cemetery sinceMidnight in the Garden, some steps have been taken to try and protect Gracie from harm (intentional or unintentional). There’s now a tall iron fence around her grave (I had to get my shots by sticking the camera through the gaps in the fence). However, there has been some evidence that idiots have been climbing the fence to get at Gracie. It’s quite sad to think that someone would want to damage such a beautiful piece of history and artistry…

Another beauty…

And still another eerie beauty – this one for Corinne Elliott Lawton who died on January 24th, 1877.

“Allured to brighter worlds
and led the way.”

SavannahNow provides some background info:

“Corinne Lawton died at the age of 33 in 1877. Her father was A.R. Lawton, who had risen in ranks to become the Quartermaster General for the Confederacy. After he died, a building was erected on Bull Street and dedicated to the memory of the father and daughter. The Lawton Memorial was an auditorium where the public could hear a musical recital, attend a lecture, or hear speeches from the politicians. Sold in the 1940s, the Lawton Memorial is what we know today as St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church.”

Here’s Jesus standing beside the Gateway to the Beyond. I mainly took this one to show the river beyond the cemetery. What a wonderful place to spend eternity… unless, of course, you’re afraid of water!

This simple grave is actually my personal favorite, because you know I love those olde “death head” sculptures. “Be Of Good Courage,” is a refreshingly simple epitaph as well. The grave itself – though it looks very old – actually dates from 1920, strangely enough. The top of the grave is too difficult to read for me to display for you, but it wins the Gravestone Cliché award by a country mile:

“He fought the Good Fight
He ran the Straight Race
His children shall rise up
Forever more and call
him Blessed”

(Yeah, I thought it would rhyme too – go figure…)

Here’s a very poignant gravestone for two doomed children of G. & C. R. Hartman: Mary R. M. (Oct. 9, 1858 – April 18, 1860) and Emma C. (Oct. 15, 1860 – March 4, 1861).

Here’s another of my favorite statues in the cemetery. The staining on the face adds a certain creepy quality to it, don’t you think? This is the grave of Gertrude A. Bliss, wife of Thomas H. McMillan (October 15, 1864 – April 14, 1903)


I guess now we know where the Army got their slogan, huh?

Deborah Coffey wrote me with this little tidbit of information: “One comment, we stayed at the McMillan Inn…absolutely awesome Bed and Breakfast.  The pretty McMillan lady statue is that of the 2nd wife of the man that owned the house.  He is in the same section, buried next to his first wife.”

Here’s another nice angel statue… With a fearfully sad look on its face…

Another beautiful and tragic children’s tomb, this one for Pearce (Sept. 21, 1892 – May 24, 1895) and Catherine (June 28, 1904 – Oct. 23, 1906) Wheless. They certainly don’t make intricate sculptures like this anymore…

Here’s a nice landscape view of the cemetery. Don’t you wish you were strolling through those grounds right now? (I do…)

Isn’t it about time for a Famous Person’s grave? Well, here we are then – Johnny Mercer!! Oh, come on – you must surely know Johnny Mercer! He’s the lyrical genius behind such songs as “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “Fools Rush In,” “That Old Black Magic,” and – the masterpiece – “Moon River” (best when sung/altered by Morrissey):

“Moon River, wider than a mile
I’ll be crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way
Two drifters off to the see the world
I’m not so sure the world deserves us
We’re after the same rainbow’s end
It’s just around the bend…
It’s just around the bend…
It’s always just around the bend”

I thought these gateways gave a suitably atmospheric tone to the lush cemetery landscape.

Another sad tombstress in repose…
A charming cherubic detail from one of the larger statues…
And with one last sad dropping of flower petals we bid adieu to Bonaventure Cemetery – one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on earth.

For more excellent photos of the cemetery, check out Dana’s collection.

Anyone have any additional tidbits or photos to add?
If so, by all means, write me!

For more information on Bonaventure Cemetery, also see:
Northstar Gallery 
Savannah Now