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Published October 31, 2018

North Carolina’s Most Haunted Burial Ground: Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery

Riverside Cemetery, located near Asheville, is a very peaceful, quiet place–most of the time. It’s the resting place of some of the city’s notable individuals, from authors and artists to politicians and presidential bodyguards.

Famous American authors William Sydney Porter (also known by his pen name O. Henry) and Thomas Wolfe rest in Riverside Cemetery.

O. Henry became a heavy drinker in his later years, soon after his high school sweetheart and wife left him. He died on June, 5, 1910 of Cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, and enlarged heart. Wolfe died in 1938 of Miliary Tuberculosis, about a month before his 38th birthday.

Wolfe is buried beside his parents, W.O and Julia Wolfe, along with many siblings. There are other notable graves in the cemetery as well, such as Captain James Posey, a one-time bodyguard of Abraham Lincoln, and Japanese photographer, George Masa, a contributor to establishing the Great Smoky mountains national park.

It’s also the resting place of North Carolina governors Locke Craig and Zebulon Vance. Congressmen James Britt, John Brown, George Shuford, Richmond Pearson, Thomas Johnston, and James Gudger Jr. are also buried here. Each grave at Riverside has a story and some are disturbing.

Some of the people buried here were viciously and brutally murdered and small kids who died of illnesses such as the flu or pneumonia.

Some died unintentionally. Witnesses have said that the cemetery is haunted by many spirits. The ghostly laughter of two children can be heard on misty mornings, and an apparition of an elderly man walks amongst the gravestones even during the day. The cemetery was created in 1885, and the oldest grave at Riverside is the grave of Charlie Hall, 25, who was buried at Riverside Cemetery on December 12, 1885.

Some gravestones there are so old the engraving is barely visible. Some graves have handmade tombstones — or no gravestones at all. One of the most unsettling tales involves thousands of men who aren’t even buried there. Witnesses have reported hearing gunfire and seeing the presences of Confederate soldiers marching through the cemetery. Probably because Riverside is located along the trail to the 1865 Battle of Asheville, which is located about a mile from Riverside.

Riverside Cemetery is home to over 14,000 graves. In fact, other cemetery companies in the area were scared that they would go out of business due to the low rates provided by Riverside. Some plots could be purchased for less than 5 dollars.

However, the cemetery fell into disrepair in the 1940’s after the cemetery company ran out of money due to the Great Depression, and many of its then current stockholders died. Many residents of Asheville began to wonder what the future of Riverside might be. In 1952, the city council made an offer to purchase the cemetery for $10. The cemetery is currently active, with about 250 burials a year.

Riverside Cemetery is located at 53 Birch St, Asheville, NC. If you have been before, what was your experience and do you think it’s haunted?

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  • Sarah

  • Sarah is a 6th grader in central North Carolina. She loves to write about anything and everything! Sarah's interests are baking, computers, and photography. Sarah also loves to read. All my articles.

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