A few weekends back Jeff and I took a short weekend trip to Louisville, Kentucky. We had no real reason to go. I mean, not that we ever do when we go somewhere. We just wanted to check out somewhere that we had never been together. Our plans were basically completely open, we just wanted to explore.
While doing research on the area I stumbled across a few mentions of Eastern Cemetery. The golden word ~ abandoned ~ was used. I quickly searched for some photos but nothing struck me as too interesting. It just looked slightly overgrown. I’ve seen plenty of cemeteries online that look overgrown only for me to show up to a pristine cemetery. Not to mention, some kind folks have been working on cleaning up the cemetery for a few years now. My thought was that the chances it was actually abandoned or anything like Mount Moriah were slim.
I added it to my list of things I might be interested in checking out if we found nothing else and basically forgot about it. We leisurely made our way down to Louisville, checked into the hotel, rested a bit, and decided to head out into the city to explore. Using the FindAGrave app I noted that the cemetery was super close to our hotel, and then checking on the Geocaching app I saw that there were two caches. Sooo maybe it wouldn’t be too great of a cemetery but it was close and I’d be able to geocache while we were there. Might as well check it out…
‘Jeff, I’m going to be a while. It’s okay if you just wanna sit in the car with the air on.’ was essentially what I tried to spit out as I slung my camera bag on my back and nearly jumped out of the car. Eastern Cemetery was overgrown beyond what I could have ever imagined. Not only that, it’s SO much bigger than I was picturing.
28 acres, only 16,000 graves but around 138,000 documented bodies! Pauper’s graves account for some of that but in 1989 it was revealed that the owners had been reusing purchased grave sites. Bodies had been buried on top of other bodies, others were excavated for reuse, and medical cadaver parts were buried in-mass. Human bones were found in inappropriate places including a tool box, a glove compartment, and perhaps most disturbingly of all, a fast food bag. When this information was brought to light the cemetery fell into disrepair.
Friends of Eastern Cemetery is a non-profit volunteer group working to restore Eastern Cemetery. Since March of 2013 they’ve been picking up trash, and doing their best to maintain the grounds. They’ve even held workshops on how to properly restore headstones so the volunteers can help, not harm, the aging stones. Weather permitting, they meet each Sunday April through November. There is only so much a small group of volunteers can do though, maintaining such a large area is a huge task.
I don’t even know that these photos properly show how incredibly overgrown the cemetery was on the day I visited. I fell more than once, stepped very carefully but still managed to trip on a handful of completely hidden headstones, and left covered in burs. (To be honest, I’m mother nature’s BFF, I somehow always manage to get covered in burs wherever we go.) There were spots in the cemetery where the grass was up past my waist!
I am so glad we stopped, and that I got to experience Eastern Cemetery. It was incredibly beautiful. I could have easily wandered around for hours and hours.
More from Louisville – Jerry’s Junk.
Another beautiful abandoned cemetery – Mount Moriah.
We stopped at Eastern Cemetery completely by accident – we made a wrong turn thinking it was Cave Hill (which is next to Eastern). It was incredible! I still can’t believe the neglect and shady business practices, and I wonder how many other cemeteries resell old graves without anyone knowing ;0
Hah! The funniest thing is that I ended up in Eastern a few years ago (during the winter so I didn’t realize how neglected it was) because I was trying to get into Cave Hill. Apparently getting into Cave Hill is confusing for some of us. 😛
I’ve been wanting to do a road trip to Kentucky… mostly because I want to stay in the weird cement wigwam village there & go to Jungle Jim’s on the drive home! Also, bourbon.
I can’t say enough good things about Wigwam Village and Jungle Jims is so much fun! I bought soooo much random candy when I went. Definitely worth the trip.
This cemetery is absolutely stunning. If it wasn’t so far away (read: in another country) I would love to visit it!
I can totally sympathise about the burs. So many times I’ve gone on an exploratory photography expedition to come back covered in bites, burs and various other natural goodies!