The 19th Century was a time of unprecedented change in America and indeed the world. The growth of the industrial revolution, westward expansion and the advances in medicine and science influenced changes in lifestyles and attitudes long-held in the centuries before. Even the way people mourned and honored the dead began to change.
In Europe and America, it was most common to bury the dead and memorialize them with a marker of some kind. This was usually done in a church cemetery where the deceased and their family worshiped. However, by the 18th Century, these church cemeteries were becoming over-crowded. In some cities such as Paris and Sedlec, in what is now the Czech Republic, churches began to exhume hundreds of thousands of graves and created an ossuary to house the bones of the dead.
In London and in America, the Victorian attitude was to create large park-like cemeteries separate from a place of worship where mourning the dead became an art form. Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, SC is such a place. Founded in 1849 on the banks of the Cooper River, Magnolia is the oldest public cemetery in Charleston. Winding pathways and scenic ponds surrounded by large live oak trees with hanging spanish moss encouraged Victorian era Charlestonians to spend the day among their deceased loved ones.
During the Civil War and after, Magnolia became the final resting place for over two thousand Confederate soldiers, including five generals. When the H. L. Hunley was discovered in 2000, the crew of the ill-fated submarine was also laid to rest at Magnolia.
Today, Magnolia Cemetery is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The eclectic mix of period ironwork, sculpture, mausoleums and graves are beautiful examples of the 19th Century “garden cemetery” movement and funerary. As a self-identified taphophile, I find the mausoleums some of the most fascinating. One is open (and empty) showing four shelves of stone that once held the corpses. There is also a Egyptian-revival mausoleum in the shape of a pyramid as well as one of the last remaining receiving tombs in Charleston.
While I have seen no documentation of any paranormal research or observation, Magnolia holds some 33,000 souls dating over 160 years. If it is like any number of old cemeteries–especially considering the turbulent history in which many of the interments lived, I can only assume it is just a matter of time before paranormal researchers study this grand old city of the dead.