This article was published on August 21st, 2011
New Orleans has been made famous for many things; The Sazerac and Hurricane cocktails, steam boats, Bourbon Street, beignets, and jazz music. The most spooky thing Nawlins is known for is the many above ground cemeteries.
There are 42 cemeteries located in New Orleans. The aboveground tombs in the cemeteries are often referred to as “cities of the dead” because of the tombs, crypts and vaults create street-like patterns.
Many of the cemeteries have large, rusty gates at the entrance into the mysterious and spooky plots of sun bleached marble and granite graves. Many of the unique and ornate tombs date back as early as the 1700’s.
The city of New Orleans is located below sea level and the early settlers found it difficult to bury the dead. This is because just a few feet below ground the earth is soft and muddy. Once the coffin was laid and buried, the muddy grave would fill with water and the casket would literally float to the surface.
They tried placing rocks on top of the caskets and drilling holes, but they would still float to the surface. Taking the learnings from the Spanish, New Orleans began to burry the dead above ground in tombs, vaults and crypts.
A local ordinance allows multiple family members to be buried in one crypt. It is required the crypt be sealed for a minimum two years before the next person can be added. The remains of the previous person can be placed into a special made burial bag to be placed at the back of the crypt. Newer cemeteries are equipped with temporary burial plots if there has not be a two year period between the deaths of family members.
The above ground cemeteries are easy to get to. The easiest and safer cemeteries are accessible by taking the Canal Street streetcar to the top of Canal Street. There are six large cemeteries at the end of the rail line.
Because the above cemeteries have become popular attractions for visitors, crime has followed. There are frequent muggings inside the cemeteries. It is not recommended to go alone; it is much safer to travel in groups or take a guided tour. It is also recommended to visit during the middle of the day; avoid the time between the start of dusk and the end of dawn. Don’t forget to use common sense!