412 South Cherry Street
Richmond, VA 23220
Bella Morte Rating: 5 Tombstones
The gem of Richmond, Virginia, Hollywood Cemetery encompasses 135 acres of hilly terrain alongside the James River. The final resting place of two U.S. Presidents (John Tyler and James Monroe) Hollywood also contains the mortal remains of writers, mayors, industrialists, artists, philanthropists, businessmen and an estimated 18,000 Confederate soldiers, including nearly 2,000 taken from the battlefield of Gettysburg.
Named for the abundance of holly trees on the grounds, Hollywood cemetery is an outstanding example of a rural garden cemetery. Filled with beauty, both natural and man-made, at every turn on the miles of winding roads that make their serpentine way through the cemetery, Hollywood is truly a delight to the senses. Springtime visitors will enjoy the cascade of colours produced by azalea, lilac and a host of other flowering trees and shrubs. Hollywood didn't earn its Bella Morte Five Tombstone Rating for its natural beauty alone, though.
While certainly not the largest cemetery we have ever explored, the hilly topography and sheer number of fascinating monuments and intriguing inscriptions cannot help but seduce the true taphophile into hour after hour of rapt investigation. And don't forget to do your homework before setting foot in this cemetery. Aside from the histories of the famous and not-so famous entombed here, Hollywood boasts a wealth of supernatural tales!
At the top of the list of haunted hotspots is the mausoleum tomb of Mr. William Wortham Poole, better known as The Poole Vampire. Legend has it that, despite repeated attempts by cemetery staff to secure the entrance to the tomb, all locks and other devices are broken by a force moving from the inside of the tomb out. Creepy, yes? But let’s say we want to be a bit more realistic about things and try to look behind the legend. To do that, we’d have to go back to the year 1925 and the tragic collapse of the Church Hill Tunnel. The Tunnel, belonging to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railways, had been questioned in regard to safety on several occasions. Each time, however, railway inspectors pronounced the Tunnel safe. All that came to an end, of course, when the structure collapsed with a train about 200 yards inside the opening. The cave in caused major damage to the streets overhead and, more importantly, 3 men, including the train’s conductor, were trapped below. Shortly thereafter, witnesses are said to have seen a “creature,” blood dripping from its disfigured body, emerge from the rubble and rush off in the direction of Hollywood Cemetery. Clearly, this “thing” was evil and had just fed on the flesh of the men entombed by the collapse. A few brave souls gave chase and followed the “vampire” until it made good its escape at the underground tomb of W.W. Poole where no man would follow. Thus, the legend of the Poole vampire was born.
We love a good spooky tale as much as the next person; however, the fact that news sources of the day recount the story of one of the railroad’s injured employee’s, Benjamin F. Mosby, emerging from the tunnel burned and bloodied shortly after the tragedy, kind of takes the edge off this one. Mr. Mosby, who had been shoveling coal into the train’s furnace at the time of the collapse, died shortly thereafter as a result of his horrific injuries. His autopsy reported lacerations, burns, broken teeth and blistered areas of skin which hung from his body in “flaps measuring up to four inches in width.” Poor Mr. Mosby.
Incidentally, when Mr. Mosby emerged from the tunnel, his associates, quite naturally, ran to his aid. Seeing how grim his condition was, they commented to a press man on the scene that he was “headed for Hollywood,” common lingo for the day referring to the dying as headed for Hollywood Cemetery. That accounts for the “creature” emerging from the tunnel headed for the graveyard.
Of course, many prefer the legend to fact, and, if that’s the case with you, dear reader, do steer clear of the Poole Mausoleum…particularly on dark and windy nights.
Hollywood has other ghost stories as well…
How about the pyramid, erected in honour of the Confederate dead. It’s said to be highly haunted and surrounded by cold spots that can cause nausea and vomiting for those who step inside. And there’s also the cast iron dog which marks the graves of the Reese children. This pooch is said to wander the grounds at night.
To be sure, if you’re looking for a creepy night haunt, Hollywood Cemetery will fit the bill quite well. With all the hills, winding pathways, old gravestones, statues and the James River glittering in the moonlight, this is the kind of bury ground that would make any ghost feel right at home.
Haunted or not, if you love cemeteries, Hollywood simply must be on your "Can't Miss" list. Well worth a trip to Richmond, Virginia, we guarantee this cemetery will not leave you disappointed.