March 4th. While doing research on The Eastern
Cemetery, that is the date that jumped out at me. Not
only is March 4th my birthday, but it was also the day in
1854 that the Eastern Cemetery was incorporated.
Located across from Phoenix Hill Tavern, and right next to
the famous "Cave Hill Cemetery," - The Eastern Cemetery
contains one of the most historic & chilling histories of
any cemetery in Louisville. The reason is not ghosts,
per say - but greed.
"The Eastern Cemetery Corporation," was created for the
Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal Church, and covered the entire fifteen
acres. This incorporation occurred in 1854, and
according to plot records that were located, it seems that
the grounds were already used for burial long before. As a
matter of fact, bodies were indeed buried there as
early as 1843.
Even today news stories are being broadcast in regards to
the condition of the cemetery, and public records are
scattered across the floor of the non-secured chapel and
crematorium. While back in the late 90's, the
cemeteries upkeep was so poor it was rumored that coffins
stuck out of the ground, and bodies were again buried some
five deep in the same plots. The city sought legal
action against those responsible, and still to this day the
upkeep is maintained by volunteers who cannot provide the
man hours necessary to keep the acreage maintained.
The cemetery now covers 30+ acres, and in it's infant day
"incorporation" birthed Louisville,
Kentucky's first actual crematorium.
"Eastern Cemetery Corporation opened the first crematorium
in the City of Louisville (possibly the State of Kentucky)
in the early 1930s. The crematorium occupied the structure
(now apartments) that fronts on Baxter Avenue. This building
once served as offices, chapel and crematorium. In September
1957, the present offices, chapel, crematorium and
columbarium were completed at a cost of $79,737." (1)
Imagine if you will having a loved one on record being
buried at The Eastern Cemetery, and then a "corporation"
comes along to buy the grounds, and four years later your
families full plot is now considered "available for
purchase." Well, the earliest records of reburial at
The Eastern Cemetery arrive in 1858, taking the plot records
which read "OG," which meant "Old Grave," and having
them marked out. The new graves now were available for
sale, and the Who's Who of Louisville bought them!
"Maps for Eastern Cemetery consist of four versions (1880,
1907, 1962 and circa 1984 – or "modern"). Comparison of
these various versions indicates entire sections were
renamed and reburied. In some cases sections were renamed as
many as three and four times (i.e., Old Slave Ground, became
Cheap Willow, then became Public Section 2, the became Cave
Hill Corner, and finally became Sections 11 & 14). Records
indicate that the renaming of sections was not the only time
a section was reburied. In fact, records clearly indicate
that some sections (i.e., Public Section 2) were reburied
two times while known by one name. Archaeological
investigations of at-need graves by this author indicate
that in every section sampled there was almost a 100%
probability that the at-need grave was occupied, by at least
one prior burial." (2)
One interesting feature found at "The Eastern Cemetery" is
the "crypt" that people speak of when you drive into the
cemetery, that now holds a ton of trash and boxes of
records. The "crypt" was actually never a "crypt" at
all, it was in fact the predecessor of a modern day funeral
home. The "vault," was actually a display house.
Deceased were commonly held at the home of the family,
during a wake. However, if the family did not wish to
have the deceased held at the home they could be put on
display in the "vault," for a short period of time before
they were buried. So, indeed when you visit - you can
now understand more about what that building was used for -
to display bodies of those about to be buried at the
cemetery. Now, in 2006 - it's used as storage for
trash and boxes of records. (See
our Eastern Cemetery Gallery)
Multiple burials continued to exist at the Eastern Cemetery, and currently even the cremated remains
that were stored at the chapel building were removed and
turned over to University of Louisville Anthropologist/Archaeologist, Dr
Phil DiBlasi. He is now in charge of keeping an list
of the cremated remains, and the remains themselves so they
are no longer tampered with.
The court order for Dr. Phil BiBlasi to begin his seizure of
the remains was processed
on February 14th, 2001. (3)
The hauntings of The Eastern Cemetery are almost expected. The theories are quite logical if you were laid to rest
there, due to the multiple bodies buried in the same plots
and the overall neglect of the cemetery itself. While
urban legends arise about ghostly footsteps, hearing "dogs
that are not there," and strange noises - if any cemetery
was haunted, "The Eastern Cemetery" is one of those places.
It is said that figures
appear in the chapel, and on the grounds of the cemetery.
Also, it is said that a mysterious ghostly lady tends to the
babies gravestones which can be found in the back of the
While I do find this cemetery to be fascinating, I do offer
a word of caution. The chapel has been vandalized
quite severely, and it is also now a subject of high
concentration for the local government due to recent media
patrolled by police, and in the basement of the chapel where
the crematorium furnaces are located contain the cities homeless,
as you can clearly find makeshift beds there.
As a former employee of a certain
hospital that caters to the homeless, I give you this
warning - do not go inside. Do not trespass. It
can be extremely dangerous to encounter a person who is
homeless, possibly intoxicated, or mentally ill. It is
also illegal to trespass on private property. You do
not want to be fumbling around the basement of the chapel
with a flashlight, only to find that a homeless person is
sleeping there, could possible be mentally ill, and decides
to defend his territory that he/she has claimed.
DO NOT GO INSIDE THE CHAPEL! DO NOT TRESPASS!
Below are a few photos from The Eastern Cemetery for you to
view, and a HUGE photo gallery you can launch to rummage
through photos. Also, below please find our collection
of external links about The Eastern Cemetery.
Information on the February 2001 court
Information on The Eastern Cemetery,
Phil DiBlasi (1) (2)
Eastern Cemetery Records (A cool