Recently, I found myself wondering if there were any haunted pet cemeteries in New Orleans. The good lady Miss Karret then showed me a story entitled: “The creepiest place I’ve ever been: Urban explorer finds forgotten pet cemetery in a swamp, 30 years after owner was murdered”.
The first murder was in 1845, when plantation owner Phillipe Toca shot Gilbert Leonard dead in a duel. In 1931, Grace Wynne ditched her husband in Oklahoma City and ran off with seven year old daughter Dorothy to Kansas City, where she reconnected with an old lover, corrupt politician Jack Thompson. Three years later, Grace murdered Jack’s wife with a pistol, was committed to a Missouri mental asylum then fled with Dorothy to New Orleans, where she opened a flower shop on Freret Street and played the organ at a church. Grace and her daughter ensconced themselves in a large creepy home in the middle of an abandoned sugar cane field, the Toca Plantation. In the fading fields that once nourished cane, Grace created her dream project, a pet cemetery.
More than 5,000 animals were buried on the premises, including dogs, cats, parakeets, parrots, rabbits, monkeys, hens, at least one cheetah and a famous boa constrictor named Serita—It had performed on The Tonight Show. Some pet graves reportedly cost $2,000. One cat’s tomb was adorned with a human-sized statue of Buddha. But the pet cemetery was far from serene. In November of 1970 Dorothy fatally shot her husband, 41 year old Logan Banks. He was killed in the cemetery after a “domestic squabble”, according to police reports. In 1976 Dorothy remarried one of the properties caretakers, two years later he was found on the grounds, shot to death. No charges were filed. Come 1985, Dorothy herself was dead, her body found in the nearby Mississippi River, wrapped in steel chains with a plastic bag tied around her head with wire. In 2012, the murderer was finally brought to justice, one Brandon Nodier, another former Toca Plantation caretaker.
It seems that at the time of his arrest, Nodier was living in Arabi, a rural Mississippi River community just east of New Orleans, where in 2012 Miss Karret and I happen to have moved. We swiftly moved out, for a variety of reasons I will not go into right now—poisonous water, poisonous air, poisonous spiders, neighbors who randomly shot guns at their sisters, neighbors who seemed to wear the skin of other humans over their faces, skin that may well have been their sister’s—, but suffice it to say, we were not at all surprised that a murderer of other murderers was living down the street from us. So for personal reasons, and reasons more general, the Toca Plantation earns the rank of #1 Most Haunted Cemetery on earth. Here are ten others that are pretty damn haunted.
# 10. Hyde Park Pet Cemetery, London – The pint-sized pet cemetery is said to be one of the oldest in the world. According to one London travel blog, it is confusingly located, “nestled within the bushes of Victoria Gate Lodge’s garden on Bayswater Road and behind the fortifying iron gates of the Park’s perimeter.” There are some 300 graves, quaint and moss-covered and shaped like whimsical Advil tablets. The first dog buried there was Cherry, a Maltese terrier that died on April 28, 1881. “Poor Cherry”, reads an inscription on the dog’s tomb, placed in what was at the time a garden. The idea caught on and other well-to-do Londonites dug holes to put their pets in. This pet cemetery surely has had enough time for the ghosts to ripen, but its chic quaintness has likely kept any serious haunting at bay, why it only makes # 10 ten on our list.
# 9. The Semi-Secret Pet Cemetery of Disneyland – That is, this pet cemetery used to be secret, only visible to those who utilized the wheelchair ramp into the main foyer of the Haunted Mansion. In it are statues of a dog, cat, skunk and frog, complete with corny epitaphs:
In memoriam MISS KITTY
After losing eight lives you still had no fear.
You caught a snake in your ninth and that’s why you’re here.
You didn’t drink, you didn’t smoke.
I just can’t figure what made you croak.
A new pet cemetery has been built near the front entrance of the Haunted Mansion but according to at least one blogger, this one is also pretty lame. “Much of the front yard version simply repeats the formula of the old one,” reads a post on Long-Forgotten. “Once again you’ve got a lot of store-bought statuary sitting on pedestals with macabre epitaphs.” While no ghosts seem to have been cited, these pet cemeteries make the list because the fact that they are located at Disneyland is creepy enough.
#8. Cimetiere du Chiens, Paris and Ghosts of a Million Crudely Disposed of Nineteenth Century House Pets – In 1898 the city of Paris declared that no longer could owners toss their dead pets in the trash or dump them in the Seine; cats and dogs would have to be buried in graves at least 100 meters from the nearest dwelling. A year later the first pet cemetery was founded on a slim plot of land on the outskirts of the city, Le Cimetière des Chiens. In the past 125 years more than 40,000 animals have been buried there, including cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, birds, and one racehorse, one lion and one monkey. While ghostly dog sightings and the like appear to be infrequent at Cimetiere du Chiens, at least one arm-chair historian has proposed the theory that the cemetery is haunted by ghosts of all the old dead Paris pets that were not given proper burials and merely dumped in the trash or the river. The ghosts are honorable, however, in that they only appear before animal abusers. Then, they claw out their eyes and infect the sockets with ghostly flesh-eating French bacteria.
#7. Bubastis, Egypt, and the Ghosts of a Billion Utterly Haunted Ancient Egyptian Cats – Bubastis was center of worship for the goddess Bast, who represented fertility, motherhood and the benevolent aspects of the sun. Starting in the 10th century BC it was also the nexus for the cult of the cat. Close to the city center was a large temple. In 450 BC Herodotus visited and declared it the most beautiful temple in all of Egypt. He described a courtyard with groves of trees that led to an interior with a massive statue of Bast and many cats, which were cared for by temple priests with donations from pilgrims. “The temple’s cat population, while respected, was extremely large, and needed to be moderated by the periodic sacrificial culling of kittens, which were then mummified and sold to pilgrims as relics,” reads the Wikipedia entry for “Cats in ancient Egypt”. Artisans throughout the city sold bronze cat sculptures, cat amulets and all sorts of other sacred and beautiful cat objects. All of these objects are clearly now utterly haunted, see photo here. In the early 20th century the Swiss Egyptologist Édouard Naville exhumed a burial site at Bubastis and found more than 720 cubic feet of cat remains!
#6. Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park and the Ghost of Kabar the Clairvoyant Cat – The cemetery, which was founded by a veterinarian in 1928 covers ten acres in Calabasas, California and has over 40,000 animals interred within. Of course there are numerous dogs and cats, but also parrots, a hen and an MGM lion named Tawny that died in 1940. Steven Spielberg, infamous author of the book that made pet cemeteries infamous has a pet buried here, as do Jack Russell, Henry James, Mae West and Charlie Chapman, whose cat is buried here. There is also a cat named Room 8 who spent 16 years living in Room 8 of an elementary school in Echo Park, California. When Room 8 passed away the Los Angeles Times ran a three column obituary. But the most famous, and ghostly, resident is Rudolph Valentino’s dog, Kabar, a Great Dane. It is Kabar that apparently haunts the grounds, licking unsuspecting visitor’s hands. When Valentino died on August 23, 1926 at a hospital in New York, Kabar, some 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, let out an “unearthly howl”. Somehow it makes sense that this clairvoyant pet is now a ghost.
#5 San Francisco’s Presidio Pet Cemetery, and the Dead Dogs of Wars Past – Located under a grove of handsome Monterey pines, themselves nestled on an awkward plot of land beneath the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, the pet cemetery at San Francisco’s Presidio represents an unknown piece of American military history. The Presidio, a former military base, is now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The pet cemetery is believed to have been authorized by Lieutenant General Joseph M. Swing in the early 1950s. The half-acre plot of land is surrounded by a white picket fence. Most of the markers are wood, and stenciled in large black lettering. The cemetery contains the remains of parakeets, canaries, pigeons, macaws, rabbits, hamsters, rats, lizards, goldfish and mice. Several pets, like the owners, lived the military lifestyle, traveling the world from base to base. Some were born in places as far away as China, England, Germany and Australia. Ghost sightings appear to be low, but any pet cemetery located under an often fog-cloaked bridge on a decommissioned military base and containing the remains of dogs, lizards and parakeets that have traveled the globe and whose owners fought in various major wars is most surely haunted.
#4 St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, and the Zombified Cat Ghost of a Voodoo Queen – True, these ornate crumbling marble tombs are filled with dead humans, but what about when humans turn into red-eyed cats in the afterlife? The cemetery contains the remains of many illustrious New Orleanians, including the French aristocrat Bernard de Marigny, infamous architect pirate Barthelemy Lafon and Paul Morphy, an early chess champion. When actor Nicolas Cage eventually dies, it will contain his remains too—he is to be buried inside a large stone pyramid tomb. The cemetery was opened in 1788 and in typical New Orleans’ cemetery style—because of the low water table—contains only aboveground vaults. The most common occupant is Voodoo Priestess Marie Catherine Laveau. Born in 1794, she performed voodoo ceremonies on Lake Pontchartrain and had a pet snake named Zombi, after an African God. Several visitors have seen the snake’s ghost slithering about the cemetery. The more common sighting, though, is of Mary Laveau herself, often as a “shiny large black Voodoo cat, with fire red eyes.” Slightly less evil ghost cats and dogs are said to prowl the cemetery, they apparently once belonged to a nineteenth century cemetery caretaker and tend to keep their meanderings to a great wall of oven tombs. The caretaker was buried in an adjacent cemetery and the story is that the ghost dogs are waiting for him to return and feed them. But until he arrives, they seek their nourishment elsewhere—the elbows of visitors. Or so I have been told.
#3 Stull Cemetery, Kansas City, Kansas, Home of the World’s Only Half Dog Devil Child – This insanely haunted place is nicknamed “The Cemetery of the Damned” and “The Seventh Gate to Hell”. It is the burial ground of a child said to be the spawn between the devil and a human. During his lifetime, the child was able to turn himself into a dog, cat or wolf—why Digital Dying technically considers this cemetery to be a pet cemetery. Apparently the lad was born with long red hair and a double set of teeth. As an infant, he was chained under the house (the devil’s house?) and thrown scraps of food like a wild animal. When he was about ten years old he chewed off his left hand and escaped then went on a murderous spree across small town America, killing everyone he met. Eleven months and countless lives later, a lone farmer was somehow able to kill him. The devil child dog may or may not be a hermaphrodite. Visitors looking for maximum nefariousness should go during the spring or autumn equinoxes, when, “evil forces, orbs and lights are supposed to materialize…over his grave.”
#2 Salem Cemetery, Hendrysburg, Ohio, Ghost Dogs, Witches and Disappearances – Packs of large, black and red ghost dogs (also known as hell hounds or devil dogs) run through the cemetery, growling and howling. The ghost of Louiza Catharine Fox, murdered nearby, weeps at her own grave. If you walk around the outside of the cemetery six times you will disappear. Several witches are buried here. A lonely young man named Alvin who died of a broken heart chases around young female visitors and occasionally pinches them on the bum. The arm of a truck driver who crashed into the cemetery late one night—he survived the crash but lost an arm—prowls the place, scratching its way across the tombs, seeking some ridiculous sort of revenge. But really all you need to know is ghost dogs, freaking ghost dogs! The most haunted cemetery on earth, except the one at Toca Plantation and…
#1 Boulder City, Nevada’s Mysterious Pet Cemetery, Where Pet Dogs and Goldfish Are Buried Beside Decapitated Mobsters – Surrounded by creosote bushes, mesquite trees and sand, in the middle of the vast desert that encircles Las Vegas is a cemetery that truly reveals America’s sense of murderous ingenuity. You may have heard the old Vegas mob stories. Snitches and enemies were driven out into the desert to be shot and buried in shallow graves, or deep ones. Avoiding detection by the law or lost hikers or hungry vultures and coyotes was a serious objective. Considering such concerns, what better way to cloak the existence of an off the grid cemetery of murdered human mobsters than to bury them alongside pet dogs and cats and fish? That way, were anyone to stumble upon the site, it would just look like a spooky forgotten pet cemetery. The problem is, while the infamous dead mobster pet cemetery has long been conjectured by Vegas area historians and aficionados, finding it has been all but impossible. But recently an enterprising news team made their way to the spot, which was built illegally on federal land near Boulder City, about two hours by car southeast of Las Vegas and not far from the infamous dam to which the town is named after.
“Finding this hidden gem is a bit tricky,” reads the Examiner’s directions to the place. “Take the 95/93 from Las Vegas towards Boulder City. Then about halfway between these two cities, the 95 changes direction and heads out towards Laughlin, while the 93 continues on to Boulder City. Turn onto the 95 and continue for just a few miles. Once the opposing lanes split and become separated by desert land, take the first possible U-turn. Drive back the way you came, only for a few seconds, and just before the lanes come together again, take a right onto a dirt road, which has an open white gate at its entrance. This leads to the beginning of the cemetery.”
The cemetery is in the middle of a flash food area, which means the grounds are pockmarked with gullies and holes, and invariably pet bones have been pulled from the ground and floated away. This means that the bones of mobsters have also been unearthed, and that means that somewhere circling in the dark desert night is a ghoulish murderous mongrel mobster dog creature, ravenous for revenge, against the owner who foolishly buried it on unstable ground, against the mob boss who brutally took its life. For this reason alone, and for its sheer remoteness and strangeness, the Boulder City dead mobster/pet cemetery is number one on our list!
Surely we have missed pet cemeteries in other countries, and maybe even some here in the United States. If you know something we don’t, write a comment and tell us about a new one!