Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Hollywood Cemetery and the Richmond Vampire
My favorite atmospheric cemetery around these parts is Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond on a brooding hillside with its plunging valleys and somber trees.
Generally in terms of spooky atmosphere quota I find British cemeteries are superior to those in America, although there are some fantastic cemeteries in Charleston, South Carolina, that moulder away under southern skies, draped in Spanish moss. I would link here to an earlier blog if I could be bothered to find it. Scotland has some dank and brooding acropolises in which hulking granite tombs with large angel wings and yawning vaults hint at doom under cloudy skies.
Hollywood Cemetery is one of the most famous boneyards in the United States. Those buried here include President James Monroe and John Tyler and Jefferson Davies, the only President of the Confederacy.
There's a huge imposing pyramid here that's a monument to the thousands of Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. Hollywood Cemetery encapsulates all of the dashed dreams of the old Confederate capital.
The tale of the Richmond Vampire is one of the most eerie episodes associated with this massive cemetery. And it appears to be based in fact.
Back in 1925, Church Hill suffered a massive cave-in of a train tunnel. A train was trapped in the tunnel, and people died in the darkness.
There were tales of a strange and ghastly creature that clawed his way out of the collapsed tunnel. Reports say his mouth was covered with blood, his teeth were jagged, and there was decomposing skin hanging off his arms and legs.
The tale suggests instead of seeking medical attention, the creature headed to Hollywood Cemetery, where he hid himself in a crypt marked WW Poole. There was no birth date on the grave, just a date of death in 1922, three years before the tunnel cave-in. There's another story which sounds more plausible if no less ghastly. Local historian Greg Maitland advances the tale of Benjamin F. Mosby, a fireman who was shovelling coal when the tunnel collapse occurred. He was burned beyond all recognition and his skin hung over his body and face in strips.
Mosby was rushed to Grace Hospital, where he died 24 hours later. "And did you know that at the time, the saying 'going to Hollywood' meant that you were dying?" Maitland explains. "Most urban legends have some basis in truth. And the same is true in this case."