There is always something mystical and creepy about cemeteries. By definition a Cemetery (from the Greek koimeterion or Latin coemeterium, meaning sleeping place) is place or ground set aside for burying the dead. The word was first applied to the early Christian catacombs.
While still considered a strange destination on holiday, a growing number of people are seeking out cemeteries to visit. Unusual or historical cemeteries have become popular tourist attractions – cemetery tourism, the ‘dark’ side of tourism, is a growing phenomenon around the world.
Here is the list of 10 world’s most unusual cemeteries:
1 – Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery, Gangster graveyard, Russia
In the 1990s, Yekaterinburg was known as ‘The crime capital of Russia.’ Many of the leaders of the Russian Mafia lived there and Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery was the final resting place for many of them. Very expensive tombs, black marble, precious stones, laser-engraved images and life-size granite gravestones are common here. The nicknames of the deceased mobsters are engraved along with some of the things they were known for, for example: He was an expert in using knifes.
2 – Underwater Cemetery, Neptune Memorial Reef, Miami USA
The Neptune Memorial Reef (also known as the Atlantis Memorial Reef or the Atlantis Reef) is the world’s first underwater mausoleum for cremated remains and the world’s largest man-made reef. Opened in 2007, off the coast of Miami Beach, the Neptune Memorial Reef is the perfect final resting place for those who loved the sea.
3 – Hanging Coffins, Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province, China
Hanging coffins is an ancient funeral custom found only in Asia: there are hanging coffins in China, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Some coffins are cantilevered out on wooden stakes, while some lay on rock projections. Other coffins are simply placed in caves.
The hanging coffins of the Bo people in Gongxian, Sichuan Province, the Guyue people of Dragon Tiger Mountain and the Guyue people of Wuyi Mountain are the most famous. The Wuyi Mountain coffins are the oldest; some are more than 3,750 years old.
As bizarre as it may seem, it makes sense. Why bury a coffin three meters under the ground, if you want to go to heaven?
4 – Futuristic Cemetery, Japan
The Ruriden columbarium, operated by the Koukokuji Buddhist Temple in Tokyo, is as futuristic as the capital of Japan itself. Believe it or not, this is a cemetery.
The Ruriden is home to 2,046 small altars, with glass Buddha statues that correspond to drawers storing the ashes of the deceased. People can visit their beloved lost ones with the help of a smart card which grants access to the building and lights up their corresponding statue.
The Ruriden took two years to build and the ashes are stored for 33 years before being buried below the Ruriden. Currently 600 altars are in use—and another 300 are reserved.
5 – Gates of Hell, Stull Cemetery, Kansas, USA
Located in Kansas, this cemetery has gained the reputation as one of the world’s most haunted cemeteries. Some people even consider it to be one of the seven gateways to Hell. There are so many legends, stories of witchcraft, ghosts and supernatural happenings surrounding it that even Pope John Paul II allegedly ordered his private jet not to fly over Stull while he was on the way to a public appearance in Colorado in 1995. The Pope considered Stull “unholy ground”.
But just how terrifying is this place? There aren’t many places as controversial as Stull Cemetery. My favorite tale is that the devil’s only half-human son is buried there with his mother. Perhaps that’s why the devil himself has been visiting the Stull Cemetery at least once (some legends report twice) a year since 1850. However, Tracy Morris, author of the Tranquility series of paranormal humor mysteries, asks a legitimate question: “Presumably, Mrs. Lucifer and little Luci Jr. would go to hell upon death, where the Prince of Darkness reigns supreme. So if they’re in hell with him, why visit their graves at all? Maybe he just wants a vacation.”
6 – Cemetery of Dogs, France
Opened in 1899, the Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques is the oldest pet cemetery in Europe, and perhaps the world, depending on your definition of a “pet cemetery.” The grave of Rin Tin Tin is here, along with a race horse and a menagerie of other pets. Just past the entrance is a monument to Barry the Saint Bernard, a famed rescue dog. Obviously, some graves are more famous than others, but it’s safe to say that each belongs to an animal who had a very loving family.
To this day, many of the tombs are decorated with dog toys, with some of them permanently affixed to the tombstones. The stone entrance was designed by Art Nouveau architect Eugene Petit and can be easily seen as you cross the Seine. Instead of mausoleums, many of the tombs are stone dog houses. There is a house at the back of the cemetery where they take care of stray cats. A small entrance fee is paid at the gate, and then you are free to wander the tombs.
7 – Sucre’s General Cemetery, Bolivia
In Bolivia, at the Sucre’s Cementerio General, the family pays for a vault upon their loved one’s demise: $10,000 for seven years. After those seven years are up, the deceased’s corpse is moved from the vault into the ground. And after twenty years in the ground, the remains are removed entirely. Seems kind of harsh, but still: there are probably very few people whose deaths need more than 27 years of mourning.
8 – City Of The Dead, The Republic of North Ossetia-Alania
Christian churches, agricultural prosperity and a magnificent ancient necropolis, known as the City of the Dead attract tourists from all over Russia. The village of Dargavs, or as the locals call it, the City of the Dead, has a cemetery with almost 100 ancient stone crypts where people that lived in the valley buried their loved ones along with clothes and belongings.
The first mention about the City of the Dead dates back to the beginning of the 14th Century. The ancestors of Ossetians settled down on the five mountain ridges, but the land was so expensive they were forced to choose the windiest and most unserviceable place for their cemetery. In the times of the plague many people, with no one left to bury them, would come to the crypt and wait for their death.
9 – Single Woman’s Churchyard, England, UK
The Cross Bones Graveyard is an unusual cemetery located in the United Kingdom. It is a post-medieval disused burial ground in London, England. Originally, this graveyard was established as an unconsecrated graveyard for ‘single women,’ a euphemism for prostitutes and was known as the ‘Single Woman’s Churchyard’. It had become a pauper’s cemetery in 1769. It is believed that more than 15,000 people have been buried there.
10 – The Merry Cemetery of Sapanța, Romania
The Merry Cemetery of Sapanța – Maramures is the best place to go if you want to see the quality of the Romanian creative expression through wood art.
It is believed that a cheerful attitude in front of death was a Dacian custom. Dacias believed in life after death, death being just a gate into another world. They did not regard death as a tragic end, but rather as an opportunity to meet their god, Zamolxe.
In many areas of Romania, according to romanian tradition, the parting with the dead is a joyful event. The wake is regarded as the last party where there are present both the deceased and the living he left behind. With this perspective in mind, Ioan Stan Patras tried to transpose into his work the essence of the deceased’s life in a joyful way, thus making people accept death more easily.