This may seem to be a weird hobby, but I love visiting cemeteries. Besides the fact that cemeteries are free and fascinating, there are many reasons to visit.

1. The art and beauty

While many gravestones are simple blocks, some are beautiful sculptures. Sweet and yet sad angels and cherubs predominate but some imitate the appearance of wooden logs or stumps.

Der Stadt Freidhof in Fredericksburg, Texas.

One cemetery I visited had a headstone carved by a Elisabet Ney, who did busts of kings and major composers in Europe.

Bonaventure Cemetery is on many lists of the best cemeteries to visit along with lists of the most haunted. The Spanish Moss helps give the cemetery a creepy atmosphere.

Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.

Cemeteries early in the morning can make for subtle views for photography.

Horicon, Wisconsin.

2. The stories

The Ghoul of Whitmire Cemetery was in the news in 1957. Someone visited local cemeteries and opened up graves. The mystery increased when the story was relegated to the back pages of the local newspaper as if someone important was suppressing the story.

Bad luck seemed to follow the Craigmiles family that included their 7 year-old daughter dying and a bust for her grave being lost on the Titanic. The story is that red stains like blood appeared in the white marble in the mausoleum made for her.

Cleveland, Tennessee.

What better place to find ghosts than a cemetery? Many are listed on I’ve never seen a ghost nor had one show up on a picture, but one could pretend the sun beams were spirits.

Goliad, Texas.

3. The history

I’ve read more about battles and wars (particularly the Civil War) after visiting national cemeteries or other military cemeteries.

Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Boothill Cemetery is full of history with the graves of many early settlers and gunmen including the men who were shot at OK Corral.

Boothill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona.

4. The people

There is something about a gravesite that makes you feel connected to those that lie there. I can’t talk to Louisa May Alcott, but I was at her grave. Her grave was surrounded by remembrances such as pencils, pens and notes.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

Visiting a gravesite has motivated me to read more about the people. I read “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” after visiting his gravesite.

Visit to see where various famous people or your long-lost relatives are buried.

5. The culture

I grew up with cemeteries with simple gravestones. If people visited, they left flowers (often plastic). Turns out cultures within the United States and over the years have different ways of honoring the dead. Back in Roman times, people left coins on a gravesite. This was restarted for soldiers where the denomination of the coin showed how the visitor was connected to the deceased. Now I see coins on both military and non-military graves.

Along the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Stones were originally left on Jewish graves as a remembrance. This came from when the graves were a cairn (a pile of stones) so that adding a stone was a way to keep the site and memory strong.

Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.

Other items are left that include things that remind you of the deceased like pinecones and pencils for Henry David Thoreau or shells (common in the past in the South).

6. The types

While above ground stones and below ground graves are typical, cast iron has been used as a gravestone. Stones without names are used in some slave cemeteries. New Orleans is famous for having the graves above ground. Children can have special types of memorials. This one is called a cradle and can be separate or close by their parents or used for adults.

Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.

An ironwork fence that looks like a crib is used to mark some children’s graves.

Der Stadt Freidhof in Fredericksburg, Texas.

7. The unique

Cemeteries don’t have to be boring. Memorial Park in Memphis has an underground grotto that is just amazing.

Memorial Park in Memphis, Tennessee.

This dog cemetery was dedicated to the bird dogs raised by a rich man. Each had an epitaph hinting at their personality or skills.

Waynesboro, Georgia.

Of course, be courteous both to the living visitors and the dead, but cemeteries provide a variety of things to see. Do you visit cemeteries?