The solemn grounds of a graveyard evoke a range of emotions for many people. Usually, it involves the various stages of grieving for our family and friends who have died.
Though it’s true that most of us will be laid to rest in a cemetery when our time has come, it is inconceivable to think of one’s own passing occurring in such a desolate and eerie setting. From heartbreaking mishaps to horrifying murders, the following 10 stories delve into a myriad of tragic circumstances too bizarre for one to believe or imagine.
10 Crushed To Death
In July 2012, four-year-old Carson Dean Cheney was visiting Glenwood Cemetery in Park City, Utah, when the unthinkable happened. While the child’s family casually strolled through the 19th-century graveyard taking photographs of historic tombs, the rambunctious youngster began playing on a headstone dating back to 1889.
Without warning, the 2-meter (6 ft), 113-kilogram (250 lb) stone detached from its foundation and fell on Carson, trapping him between it and a footstone in the ground. Three men hastily struggled to pull the stone slab off the child, but their efforts to save Carson proved futile.
The four-year-old was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital after sustaining blunt force trauma to his head, chest, and abdomen. Sadly, horrific cases of deaths due to falling tombstones are far too common. Case in point, a girl who also happened to be four years old was crushed to death when a massive cross fell on her as she played in a North Carolina cemetery just one month before Carson was killed.
Of course, children are not the only victims of such unimaginable freak accidents. In 2013, a groundskeeper at an Edinburg, Texas, cemetery was killed instantly after he was crushed by a tombstone weighing 900 kilograms (2,000 lb).
9 Suspicious Circumstances
At 3:30 PM on an August day in 2016, Batavia Cemetery caretakers in Batavia, New York, stumbled upon two dead bodies lying in the midst of the graveyard headstones. Drug paraphernalia was strewn around their corpses. However, it was apparent by the physical state of the bodies that their demise was not related to drugs.
About 12 hours earlier, a severe thunderstorm had blown through the region. Working jointly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, investigators were able to determine that a lightning strike occurred in the area where the pair was found.
The autopsy revealed that the victims, 34-year-old Richard Garlock and 32-year-old Jenea Macleod, had sustained thermal injuries consistent with a lightning strike. Detective sergeant Todd Crossett explained, “It seems they had just gone to a back part of the cemetery and were just hanging out there.”
Nevertheless, one can only surmise their reasons for doing so at such a suspicious hour. At the time of their deaths, 18 people had already been killed by lightning in the United States that year, nine fewer than the entire previous year.
8 Justice Denied
In February 1994, James Montgomery and Tony Carruthers, both 28, were determined to seize control of the drug trade in their Memphis, Tennessee, community while simultaneously demonstrating their ruthlessness to their fellow gang members. In doing so, the duo kidnapped drug dealer Marcellos Anderson, 21, Anderson’s mother, Delois, 43, and Anderson’s teenage friend, Frederick Tucker, 17.
The three were bound and tortured before being taken to local graveyard where Anderson and Tucker were shot. The gunshots were not immediately fatal, but the kidnappers’ next actions rendered that point moot. All three victims were buried alive in a grave dug for someone else. By the time they were found, they had smothered to death.
The kidnappers were found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. However, the judicial system of the United States had a change of heart nearly 20 years after their convictions. Following the ruling by an appeals court that Montgomery should have been given a separate trial from codefendant Carruthers, Montgomery pleaded guilty to lesser counts of second-degree murder. In December 2015, he was released from prison with time served and no parole or probation.
The victim’s families were both frightened and outraged, which was worsened by the fact that they were not notified of his release. As of today, Montgomery walks the streets a free man while his accomplice, Carruthers, continues to fight for his freedom.
7 All For Nothing
While visiting a secluded Clay County cemetery in rural Kentucky in 2009, Jerry Weaver, his wife, and their young daughter came across a deceased male dangling from a tree with a rope tied around his neck. The victim had been gagged. His wrists, feet, and eyes had been duct-taped, and he only wore a pair of socks. The word “Fed” was scrawled on his chest, and an identification tag was duct-taped to the side of his neck.
His identity was later confirmed as 51-year-old Bill Sparkman who worked part-time for the United States Census Bureau. Investigators were horrified at the grotesque nature of the crime, yet they were puzzled by the lack of evidence of a struggle.
Sparkman’s body showed no signs of defensive wounds or trauma, his toxicology results were negative, and his knees were less than 15 centimeters (6 in) from the ground. There was no DNA, other than his own, on the rope or the rag in his mouth.
After further investigation, state police, the FBI, the medical examiner’s office, and the Clay County coroner ruled that the cause of death was a suicide. Sparkman, who had survived a bout of cancer, had recently confided to a friend that he believed that the cancer had returned and would be fatal. After Sparkman’s death, the medical examiner determined that Sparkman’s cancer had not returned.
Investigators concluded that Sparkman staged the ghastly scene before killing himself to preserve for his son $600,000 in benefits from two life insurance policies. The benefits would only be paid if he died of an accident or murder but not natural causes or suicide.
In the end, his dreadful scheme proved futile as no insurance payment was issued.
6 Caught On Film
On Thanksgiving 1992, 15-year-old Yoandra Nunez ended her own life with a bullet to the chest. Nearly two months later, Yoandra’s father, Emilio, contacted the Spanish-language network Telemundo urging them to do a story about his daughter’s death. Standing at Yoandra’s grave at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale, Florida, reporter Ingrid Cruz was conducting the interview with the despondent father when Emilio’s ex-wife, Maritza Martin Munoz, unexpectedly arrived.
Seconds later, Emilio pulled out a handgun and shot Maritza in the back of the head as the camera rolled. While Cruz and her cameraman ran for cover, Emilio—who blamed his ex-wife for their daughter’s death—fired 11 more shots into Maritza as she lay on the ground a few feet from her daughter’s grave.
After seven years of incarceration, Emilio finally had his day in court. During the trial, footage of the shooting was played for the jury, who took a little over an hour to bring in a guilty verdict. Emilio Nunez was sentenced by Broward Circuit Judge Daniel Andrews to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years before being eligible for parole.
5 Signs From Beyond The Grave
September 2, 2016, was the last day of Raydell Hurt Jr.’s life. On that fateful Friday afternoon, the 10-year-old from Davenport, Iowa, was riding his bicycle on a steep hill in Fairmount Cemetery when he crashed while making a sharp turn. Raydell’s body was discovered later in the day by a man who had lost his own 11-year-old son to drowning.
Interestingly enough, this would be the beginning of eerie coincidences or perhaps angelic messages from beyond the grave. On the morning that Raydell died, his mother, Stefanie Barker, had framed a painted self-portrait of Raydell that had been hanging on their refrigerator for months. In the prophetic art, Raydell depicted himself flying through the air between two trees after falling from his skateboard on a curved road.
Following the boy’s funeral, loved ones began finding dimes on a constant basis. Barker said, “It’s kind of unreal how often it happens. Friends and family, when they’re having a bad day, they always find dimes.”
Supposedly, spirits send messages to loved ones through dimes. It means that the loved ones are doing the right thing or are valued. Raydell’s grieving parents firmly believe that their boy is sending them signs that he is okay and with God.
To date, numerous family members claim to regularly see, hear, and feel evidence that Raydell’s spirit is present—from a flock of cardinals and dragonflies randomly appearing at the boy’s home on his birthday to butterflies keeping the family company at his grave.
4 Delayed Justice
On the evening of March 15, 1991, 15-year-old Jessica Keen was abducted while waiting at a bus stop in Columbus, Ohio. A short time later, Keen managed to escape from her abductor, fleeing to the nearby Foster Chapel Cemetery in Madison County.
As she ran for her life in the dark and desolate graveyard, at times hiding behind headstones in a fruitless attempt to evade capture, Keen ran into a fence post, knocking her to the ground. Before she could find the strength to get back on her feet, she was bludgeoned to death with an old, 32-kilogram (70 lb) tombstone that her killer had jerked from the ground. Her ravaged remains, wearing only a torn bra and one sock, were discovered two days later.
For the next 18 years, the case was cold. However, by using new technology in 2008, state crime lab technicians matched DNA evidence from Keen’s murder to Marvin Lee Smith, a two-time convicted rapist who was out on bond at the time of her murder.
In a deal that spared his life from the death penalty, Smith confessed to raping and murdering the young Westland High School cheerleader. In 2009, he was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.
3 Stirrings From Within The Tomb
One night in La Entrada, Honduras, 16-year-old Neysi Perez collapsed at her home and never regained consciousness. The day after her funeral, family members visited the pregnant teen’s concrete tomb. All of a sudden, they heard banging and screams coming from within.
Neysi’s mother, Maria Gutierrez, said, “As I put my hand on her grave, I could hear noises inside. I heard banging, then I heard her voice. She was screaming for help.” Family members immediately began breaking open the tomb with a sledgehammer, trying desperately to free her.
By the time the coffin was extracted, the crowd which had gathered noted that the glass window on the casket was shattered. A motionless Neysi, who was still warm to the touch, had scratches on her forehead and bruises on her fingers. Despite being rushed to the hospital by her frantic loved ones, she was once again declared dead.
Doctors theorize that Neysi may have suffered a severe panic attack which temporarily stopped her heart on the night of her collapse. It’s also possible that a cataplexy attack caused a loss of voluntary muscle function. Her family firmly believes that the teen was buried alive and that she suffered oxygen deprivation while attempting to free herself. This led to her actual death in the darkness of the tomb.
2 Summer Of ‘97
On a rainy afternoon in May 1997, Finn’s Point National Cemetery groundskeeper William Reese was listening to a Christian broadcasting station when there was a sudden knock at the door of the caretaker’s house. Moments later, Reese was led to the basement of this building in the cemetery. There, he was shot once in the head at point-blank range.
The locals of Pennsville, New Jersey, were flabbergasted at the senseless murder of the beloved sole caretaker at Finn’s Point. It was one of the few cemeteries where nearly 2,500 Union and Confederate soldiers were laid to rest in the same ground. Over the next two months, investigators discovered that Reese was killed solely for his unobtrusive red Chevrolet pickup truck that would be discovered in a parking garage in Miami’s South Beach on July 15, 1997.
Just two blocks away on the same summer day, fashion mogul Gianni Versace was gunned down on the steps of his luxurious mansion. Versace and Reese, whose lives were utterly dissimilar from one another, shared one horrific element—their killer, Andrew Cunanan. In the end, the cowardly, cold-blooded murderer committed suicide on a Miami houseboat with a bullet to the head on July 23, 1997.
1 Belfast, Ireland
On March 16, 1988, mourners gathered at the Milltown Cemetery in Belfast, Ireland, to honor three IRA members who had been killed days earlier by British Special Forces. As the coffins were lowered into the ground, Michael Stone, a member of the Ulster Freedom Fighters who had infiltrated the mourners, opened fire on the crowd.
The blistering sound of gunshots ceased momentarily as Stone pulled the pins from his grenades, hurling them at helpless civilians in attendance. Attempting to make a swift escape, Stone was chased by a large, seething crowd thirsty for vengeance.
Despite throwing more grenades and firing shots at his pursuers, the lone loyalist was tackled and severely beaten prior to being taken into custody by the police. In all, 50 were injured and three were killed, including IRA member Kevin Brady. At Brady’s funeral three days later, two British Army corporals who inadvertently drove into the funeral procession were pulled from their vehicle, taken to a nearby waste ground, and shot dead.
Despite receiving a number of life sentences, Stone was released in 2000 under the controversial terms of the Good Friday Agreement. In November 2006, Stone was arrested after breaking into parliament buildings in Northern Ireland armed with an axe, knives, and explosives. After being found guilty of the attempted murders of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, two Sinn Fein leaders, Stone was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.
Read more haunting stories about graveyards on 10 Graveyards Supposedly Haunted By Vampires and 10 Eerie Ghost Stories From New England Graveyards.