Greenwood Cemetery was founded in 1880, and the 82 acres it covers are the resting place of some of Orlando, Florida’s most prominent residents. Greenwood Cemetery is Orlando’s first and oldest cemetery, so it’s no surprise that countless reports of strange occurrences have come out of the graveyard’s grounds.
Before Greenwood was established, Orlando did not have a formal burying ground, and the city was also lacking in proper record-keeping for the dead, leading to an issue with lost graves. Regardless of its spooky reputation, Greenwood Cemetery is a quiet and peaceful place, dotted with large trees with hanging Spanish moss, and a neighbor to the Greenwood Urban Wetlands, where cypress trees and Florida wildlife thrive.
Who Rests At Greenwood?
Not all the souls buried at Greenwood are enjoying their eternal slumber. Greenwood is well-known by locals and visitors alike for being haunted, as people often report floating apparitions, disembodied melodies, and laughter, even strange smells if you stand in the right spot. Read on to find out who might be haunting Greenwood Cemetery!
The Spirit of Fred Weeks
Fred Weeks was a northern businessman, arriving in the area to buy land near the cemetery as an investment property. Upon his arrival, he realized that the land was nothing but a worthless swamp. He was furious, having been ripped off by the three English attorneys who had sold him the land, he attempted to get his money back, but to no avail.
Seeking revenge, Weeks then bought another plot of land at the entrance of the Greenwood Cemetery and erected a tombstone inscribed with the men’s names. The tombstone was also inscribed with a biblical verse from Luke 10:30, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves,” clearly directed at the men and their thieving ways. The placement at the front of the cemetery was obvious, he wanted everyone visiting Greenwood to be aware of their dubious character. The three Englishmen promptly bought the land back and removed the tombstone.
Fred never let go of the incident. Around 1910, Mr. Weeks then bought another piece of land in the cemetery, about 100 feet away from the original tombstone. Mr. Weeks built his mausoleum on this land, and once again, inscribed the verse from Luke 10:30. Under the verse is a small square, large enough to fit the names of three men. Some say the names were chiseled off by the families of the men, others say that Weeks had been threatened with lawsuits and was forced to remove the names. No one knows for sure, but we do know that this is the final resting place for Fred Weeks. The controversy took its toll. Weeks died alone; his wife took the children and left. Upon her death, she was then buried in Indiana. A sad ending for Mr. Weeks, indeed.
It is said that Fred Weeks never let go of the scam, even in death. Many still see the ghost of Fred Weeks, usually standing in front of the mausoleum, or not too far from it. It could be that the scam still has Fred turning in his grave. Maybe it’s his wife that keeps his soul from getting proper rest. Either way, the legacy of Fred Weeks is not entirely bad, as someone always seems to leave flowers at the door of the mausoleum, indicating that someone out there still has a soft spot for ol’ Fred.
An especially creepy section of the Greenwood cemetery is known as Babyland, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Babyland is the final resting place for children under the age of five. Many of these children died in the infamous Sunland hospital, once a place for patients of tuberculosis, and later a behavioral center for mentally challenged youth, which we’ll talk about in more detail further below. Many of these children were still infants, and a disturbingly high percentage of them had died on the same day they were born. Their tombstones often don’t have a name and only have one date, the day of their birth and death.
Many visitors to the cemetery report hauntings in and around Babyland, most notably around Babyland 1 and 3. Visitors report hearing the sound of children laughing and playing or the melodies of a child’s music box. Some even say that they’ll feel strange sensations, like a tug on their pants, similar to the way a child would try to gain the attention of an adult.
Just over 10 miles away, Sunland Hospital was originally a place for patients with tuberculosis, but during the 60’s it became a behavioral center for mentally handicapped and disabled children. Due to horrific allegations of abuse and neglect, it was shut down sometime in the 1980s. Many of the children who passed here ended up buried at Babyland.
Sunland, now abandoned, is itself a haunted location, and one of the most infamous in Central Florida. Visitors and urban explorers have heard the disembodied screams of children, seen ghosts in the playground, and have witnessed shadows of hanging bodies, presumably victims of suicide. Being that many of Sunland’s patients were buried at Greenwood, the connection between the two make for a creepy concoction of ghost stories.
The Wilmott family was an influential family in the Orlando area at the turn of the 19th century. They mostly dealt in real estate, and to this day, there are neighborhoods in Orlando named after the Wilmotts. Their mausoleum is positioned on the highest point of the Greenwood Cemetery and is the only other mausoleum beside the Week’s mausoleum.
Despite being a well-to-do family, the Wilmotts weren’t without tragedy. The Wilmott family lost their grandson, Fred Wilmott Jr, and a family friend, Frank Pounds Jr when they both drowned at a swimming hole. Both children were only five years old and had misjudged the depth of the water, leading to them wading in too deep. Freddy Jr and his family are all buried at the mausoleum.
There are reports of a ghost appearing at the Wilmott mausoleum, usually at the entrance. Visitors usually report seeing the same thing; a male figure in old fashioned military uniform, looking off into the distance. It’s not known whether or not this soldier is related to the Wilmott family at all.
People of Influence
Being that the Greenwood Cemetery is Orlando’s first real burial site, many of the area’s most prominent residents are buried here. The graves of business people, politicians, historical figures, and media moguls can all be found at Greenwood. Many of the city’s mayors are buried here as well. Edna Giles Fuller, the first woman to serve in the Florida legislature, also rests at Greenwood. Among other big names buried at Greenwood are baseball hall of famer Joe Tinker, as well as Francis W. Eppes, a former Tallahassee mayor who helped found Florida State University.
July Perry and the Race Riots of 1920
Greenwood holds the grave of Julius “July” Perry, who was lynched in the act of racial unrest. Ocoee, a town near Orlando, was the site of one of the worst incidents of racial violence in recent history, the Ocoee Massacre. On Election Day, 1920, Mose Norman, a prosperous African American farmer, attempted to vote but was turned away twice, along with other members of Ocoee’s Black community. A white mob chased Norman to the home of July Perry, who drove away from the mob when he shot and killed two of the men in front of his home. The mob called for reinforcements and began torching churches, businesses, and other establishments in the Black community. About 30-35 African American people were killed in the ensuing violence. July Perry was murdered and publicly lynched as a message to scare Ocoee’s African American community. Afterward, hundreds of people, including Norman, fled Ocoee, essentially making it an all-white town. Many went to nearby Apopka and Winter Gardens. Along with July Perry, other victims of lynchings in and around Orlando are buried at Greenwood.
Greenwood also houses the graves of Orlando area veterans who fought in many wars past. The cemetery contains a military section, which is the final resting place for veterans of World War I & II, the Spanish-American War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Visitors to the cemetery do make mention of apparitions clad in military garb wandering the cemetery, only to disappear once they are spotted.
Greenwood Lives On
Have you ever visited this historic and haunted cemetery? With such a colorful known past, one can only imagine the number of unknown spirits that were buried here when recordkeeping wasn’t at its forefront. If you reside in the Orlando area, perhaps pay a visit to the cemetery, you may witness some of Orlando’s history with your own two eyes.