The Creepy Gravestones of Boston

Granary Burying Ground

If you’re searching for inspiration for your Halloween graveyard scene look no further than the gravestones of Boston. I mean really, this is as creepy as it gets! Time has a way of changing what was once beautiful and orderly into something slightly odd and crooked. Stone slabs with cracks and chips and missing sections are scattered amongst each other. Olive colored damp moss grows from the cracks of most of the sandstone or slate tablets. Walking through an old graveyard like this might give you the willy’s or it might just inspire your Halloween creativity like it did for me!

View of the gravestones from The Granary Burying Ground in Boston
View of The Granary Burying Ground

When I was in Boston last fall we visited The Granary Burying Ground, Boston’s third-oldest cemetery. Founded in 1660, this graveyard is more than meets the eye. Although this cemetery has 2,345 grave markers it is believed that as many as 5,000 people are buried here! Who knows what happened to their markers. Is it possible that some have sunken completely, as if the earth had swallowed them up whole? In 2009 an unknown crypt was discovered when a tourist (much like myself) on a self-guided tour accidentally fell through the ground into what appeared to be a stairway. She had stepped on an old slate on the ground that had been covered with grass. Due to its age it broke and uncovered a stairway that led to a hidden crypt underneath that was perfectly intact. Crazy, right?

Skull and crossbones gravestone in Boston.
Old tombstones often have carved imagery of skulls and crossbones.

These headstones are absolutely remarkable. Besides being so old, the markings on them are truly artistic. Many have recurring symbols carved into them such as skull and crossbones, or “soul effigy” which is a skull with a wing on each side. To the average person these symbols look pretty morbid. However, to the Bostonians of the time they represented their one chance for artistic expression. Puritans looked down upon art because they believed it distracted from God and led you closer to the devil. Since gravestones were considered historical it was one of the only places art was allowed to be displayed. That is why markers from this time period often showcased a memento mori symbol on it to help remind Puritans of the inevitability of death.

Gravestones from The Granary Burying Ground
Ornate carvings in gravestones from The Granary Burying Ground in Boston.

I just love how the stones have naturally sunken into the ground so the markers are all angled differently as they rest next to each other. Just goes to show how much soil can shift. When I build my gravestones and organize them into a Halloween scene this year I will definitely try to mimic this style of uneven tombstones for a much creepier effect!

Paul Revere's Grave
The gravesite of Paul Revere.

The Granary Burying Ground is interesting not only because of its age, but because some very famous Americans are buried here. “Listen my children, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” Yep, that’s believed to be Paul Revere’s grave in the photo above. It’s a really weird little marker because it’s so much smaller than the other markers in the cemetery and it’s much more simple in design. Before his infamous ride to inform Americans that the “British were coming”, he was a copper engraver. That’s why you might see pennies placed at the foot of his stone marker. Visitors like to leave coins to commemorate their visit to his grave.

You know that Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer you like to drink so much? Well the real Samual Adams for which the beer is named after is buried here. Who could forget John Hancock, the statesman and signer of the Declaration of Independence? Yep, he’s here too! Then there is Mary Goose who some believe is the original “Mother Goose”. She’s buried here too. I didn’t even know Mother Goose was a real person!

There you have it! I hope this gives you some inspiration when your setting up your own gravestones for your Halloween yard displays this weekend. It’s certainly inspired me!

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