Just blocks outside of downtown Charlottesville lies the city’s first official burial site: Maplewood Cemetery. While the grounds continue to serve as a place for people to mourn, visit deceased loved ones, and learn more about the city’s fascinating history, there’s a darker, otherworldly side of this cemetery that can only be experienced after the sun goes down.
Join Charlottesville Ghosts and walk the harrowed grounds of this famous burial site, and hear the chilling reasons why some people believe it’s actually haunted by some of its ghostly residents.
Death is practically synonymous with Charlottesville, thanks to the city’s role as a key location in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. These conflicts were bloody and, therefore, devastating to the US population, with an estimated 25 to 70 thousand American Patriots having died during the war for independence and roughly 620 thousand during the Civil War.
After the fighting, the time came for Charlottesville to establish an official burial ground of its own, leading to the birth of Maplewood Cemetery in 1827 and, later, Oakwood Cemetery in 1873. The majority of graves are from the Civil War, and there are over 100 unmarked graves of Confederate soldiers. Woven between these unmarked gravemarkers are ornate obelisks that display different eras of religious imagery, from palm branches that represent eternal peace to arches to represent entry into heaven. Many of these belonged to famous Charlottesville residents.
Maplewood Cemetery also holds several African American gravesites. Some slaves are even buried adjacent to their owner’s family plots, including that of a “Linie Winston,” whose tombstone inscription reads “a faithful servant” in the plot of Anna and Thomas Williams—her potential owners. This cemetery is a treasure trove of notable faces and fascinating stories, all while being a tragic representation of those who died fighting for their country, children who died far too young, or those who died within the institution of slavery.
Maplewood Cemetery is perhaps the only place where the remains of Civil War soldiers, enslaved Africans, and Freemasons can be found lying side-by-side on the earth. With such an eclectic assortment of people, it’s no surprise that all walks of life can be found in the city’s many burial grounds. In Maplewood Cemetery, locals have shared stories about famous departed residents for decades, like the tale of three sisters who are all buried in a row; one married and died in her 40s, while the other two were never wed and lived well into their 100s. A cautionary tale?
Other famous names include Maud Coleman Woods, the first Miss America, who was laid to rest here after tragically succumbing to Typhoid Fever at the age of just 24. Letitia Shelby, the mother of the first mayor of Kentucky, and Paul McIntire, a prominent benefactor of the City of Charlottesville, are also buried here. The grave of Charlie Ferguson, who played for the Philadelphia Quakers of the National League before dying of disease two weeks after his 25th birthday, can also be found at Maplewood Cemetery.
It might not come as a surprise that cemeteries can be very active sites for hauntings. But why? While many ghosts attach themselves to physical objects or locations that were significant to them throughout their lifetimes, some may be connected to the burial ground their mortal remains rest in because of events that occurred after their deaths—not just before. This could be due to some unfinished business on earth or, in the case of Maplewood Cemetery, an unmarked or even forgotten burial.
Strange manifestations, disembodied sounds, and a strange chill are just a few of the terrifying occurrences to have taken place at Maplewood Cemetery. Visitors often notice the eerie silence that hangs thick over the cemetery and tend to report feeling the sensation of a mysterious, cold phantom caressing their arms and faces. Ominous noises have been heard scattered about the cemetery, including whispers and quiet sobs. Are these the efforts of Confederate soldiers from beyond the grave who never received a proper burial? Or maybe the presence of departed slaves who were unjustly treated during their lives of servitude, only to be buried in the same plots as their owners?
Rumor has it that one particular spirit can be seen roaming the cemetery at night, wandering the grounds before she suddenly disappears into the night. Locals refer to this ghost as the woman in white, as she can be seen wearing wispy white garments. While little else is known about this phantom’s identity or why she continues to haunt the site she herself was possibly buried at, some visitors have been lucky enough to capture her image. A misty figure has frequently been photographed at Maplewood Cemetery, standing over the graves and looking down as if she is perpetually mourning someone she loved during her time on earth.
Today, Maplewood Cemetery can still be found in its original location across from the historic (and equally as haunted) First Presbyterian Church, bordered by Lexington Avenue, Maple Street, 8th Street, and Kelly Avenue. It continues to be visited by hundreds of tourists each year as part of the city’s annual “Spirit Walk,” which celebrates the history and culture of Charlottesville. Residents often use the grounds as a place to take a quiet stroll, surrounded by the memory of the neighbors, family, and friends that came before them. For more on America’s most haunted burial grounds, visit our blog, and be sure to keep up with US Ghost Adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.