Life after death is assumed by those who have seen and heard some of the ghosts of Richmond, VA. Some claim the ghosts of past residents still reside in Richmond and surrounding areas. Hollywood Cemetery, resting place to both famous and infamous, notorious and beloved men, women, and children of all nationalities, is one of Richmond’s historic landmarks, rife with history and legendary tales of woe and heroism.
Are there ghosts roaming the gardens and grounds of the cemetery? The gravestones and monuments upon the rolling hills and tranquil lanes of Hollywood Cemetery offer visitors a history of the City of Richmond itself and even of prominent individuals and events in the history of the United States. From points within the Victorian-styled cemetery one is afforded breathtaking views of both the James River and the city skyline. What an idyllic setting for ghosts to roam at night.
Hollywood Cemetery, which takes its name from a grove of holly trees on the grounds, sold its first gravesite in 1849, but among those buried there are people born as early and 1700. Among the residents there are Confederate soldiers and former U.S. Presidents as well as ordinary citizens. Some will say that the ghosts of some buried there are still at large. Ghosts or not, the legends and folk tales and reports of encounters continue to the current day.
The body of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States and a Virginian, was brought down from New York. John Tyler, tenth President is of the United States and Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy) are both buried at Hollywood Cemetery as well. A pyramid, unmarked stones and towering shade trees make for a surreal trip back in time. And it is here that some of Richmond’s ghosts have been encountered.
Under the great granite pyramid, 90 feet tall and built of James River granite, lay the bodies of 18,000 Civil War veterans. Eleven thousand of the soldiers are unknown soldiers from the Gettysburg battlefield. Some visitors who have been near the pyramid at night swear that when a full moon shines, they hear soft moans from the fallen soldiers. Is it the ghosts of those young men, never allowed to rest in their own marked graves, or just the wind blowing through the trees?
Another ghost story involves a statue of a cast iron dog, which stands almost in the pyramid’s shadow. In the eighteen hundreds, this dog stood in front of a store on Broad Street in downtown Richmond. Every day, legend has it, a little girl would come by the store and pet the dog and talk to it soothingly, as if it were real. The little girl died in an epidemic in 1892 and she was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. Because she had such affection for the dog, it was placed on her gravesite. Legend has it that one gets the distinct feeling the dog, jaw clenched, is keeping watch over her grave to protect her from anyone who might harm her as she sleeps.
A ghost tale involving one of Richmond’s more prominent citizens centers on a gravesite not far from the unknown little girl’s tomb. Nearby is the tomb of a famous Richmond writer, Ellen Glasgow. Her will stipulated that when she died, her two pet dogs, that preceded her in death, be dug up from her back yard and buried with her. There are some who swear they hear the dogs panting and scampering about the cemetery at night. Do folks hear the ghosts of Ellen’s dogs? Or is it just tree branches clicking together on windy nights?
Is there life after death? Those of many faiths believe so. Are there really ghosts among us? Some believe they’ve seen, heard and felt their presence. Who knows? It’s not so hard to imagine that the souls of those with unfinished business here on earth might linger a while.