Last week, I went with one of my girlfriends to Laurel Hill Cemetery for one of their Halloween tours, "Strange Exits and Freakish Ends". The title alone intrigued me, but honestly I'm always excited to find out more about the lives (and deaths) of past Philadelphians.
The tour was lead by the adorable and super knowledgeable Alexis Jeffcoat, a guide at Laurel Hill Cemetery. Alexis was super articulate and animated (hence me not being able to get an in-focus photo of her). She started off by telling us how Laurel Hill Cemetery was founded in 1836 by Quaker and Librarian, John Jay Smith. Sadly, Mr. Smith's daughter had passed away, and due to Philadelphia's overcrowded and unsanitary churchyard conditions, he could not find a suitable resting place for her. It was because of this, that he set out to find a better place to bury and honor deceased Philadelphians.
With the amazing views of the Schuylkill River and Fairmount Park, Mr. Smith couldn't have found a better spot than the beautiful 78 acres of Laurel Hill. Unlike other cemeteries of the time, it was a permanent burial place and was not affiliated with any particular religion or church. Beyond the history of its creation, there were many other stories that we were told that evening. Some creepy, some crazy, some freaky, and all interesting.
After it got dark, we walked around with flash lights and were told the most haunting of stories. One of them was about a young spinster, Martha Drennan. In the early 1900's Martha's father worked at the cemetery and she was often found hanging out among the graves and walking the grounds. One winter morning she left her house at 5:30 a.m. to take what was to be her last little stroll along the river. She went missing, and eventually, her headless body was found floating on a chunk of ice a few miles outside of the city. No one knows what happened to her, and for some odd reason, supposedly because no one liked spinsters, her death was ruled a suicide! How do you chop your own head off? Oh yeah... you don't! She is now buried, headless, at Laurel Hill Cemetery and her death will forever be a mystery.
If you live near the city or are coming here to visit, I definitely recommend a trip to the unique, mysterious, and beautiful Laurel Hill Cemetery. There is amazing architecture, ornate gravestones, and absolutely brilliant views! It is serene, peaceful, and breathtaking.
Even if you're not someone that's super into cemeteries, you HAVE to go for the fabulous views of the Schuylkill River... definitely the best in the city! The night we went, there was the most incredible sunset! It doesn't get any better than pink rivers and violet skies!
For more information about Laurel Hill and to find out about upcoming events, check out their website: www.thelaurelhillcemetery.org.