Goblins and ghosts occupy thoughts, store shelves and lawn decorations this time of year, but a tour of a historic cemetery can be a fascinating outing at any time of the year. Sounds ghoulish, but cemeteries can be interesting for their beautiful landscaping and history of the people buried there.
Chicago's cemetery of architects
Designed by 19th-century landscape architects, Graceland Cemetery and Arboretum in Chicago is known as the "Cemetery of the Architects."
Louis Sullivan, who designed three tombs in this cemetery, is buried beneath a simple rough-hewed monument. John Root's tomb is marked with a Celtic cross in a design based on his drawings. The final resting place of Daniel Burnham, who was responsible for the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the preservation of the city's lakefront, is on an island in the cemetery's lake. A sleek black granite marker denotes the grave of "less is more" architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Other notables buried among the cemetery's 119 acres include "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks and Marshall Field, founder of Chicago's iconic retail store and Chicago's richest man in his day. His memorial features Mercury, the god of commerce, in a design by architect Henry Bacon and sculptor Daniel Chester French, who created the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Potter Palmer, Chicago entrepreneur and owner of the Palmer House Hotel, and his wife, Bertha, were known for their lavish lifestyle. Their tomb is a Greek temple with two sarcophagi.
Other notables buried at Graceland include Cyrus McCormick, George Pullman and Phillip Armour. Visitors can take a self-guided tour or join one of the tours of the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Beer barons and bikers in Milwaukee
The wooded, rolling Victorian landscape of Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, covers 198 acres with a waterfall, lake and more than 300 species of trees. The cemetery, which dates back to 1850, has a museum, a visitor center and a gothic Landmark Chapel with leaded glass conservatory. Construction of the chapel began in 1890 using Lake Superior sandstone, a deep red stone found near the Apostle Islands.
Seven governors of Wisconsin have their final resting place here, along with 28 Milwaukee mayors and many noteworthy industrialists. A popular stop is Beer Baron Corner where some of the city's famous brewers -- Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz and Uihlein -- are buried. The largest monument is the Blatz Mausoleum with more than 500 tons of granite.
Bikers are drawn to the grave of William A. Davidson, who with his two brothers and William Harley, worked on motorcycles at the family home and ended up founding Harley-Davidson Co.
Other notables buried here include theatrical stars Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine. The Milwaukee native and his British wife were royalty on the stage in New York.
U.S. aviation pioneer Billy Mitchell, a World War I hero, lies here and the city airport has taken his name. His court-martial for criticizing his military superiors led to much controversy, but his contribution to the founding of the U.S. Air Force eventually led to a Congressional Gold Medal.
New Orleans' Voodoo Queen
The oldest cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana, St. Louis No. 1, is just a short walk from the French Quarter. Its elaborate mausoleums, sculptures and inscriptions provided a setting for a scene in the 1969 film "Easy Rider."
Though it encompasses just one square block, thousands have been buried here since the cemetery opened in 1789. Because the city is below sea level, bodies are placed in aboveground tombs where they decay naturally in about a year. Prior to the next burial, the remains are pushed to the back of the tomb where they fall into a pit leaving space for the next internment.
Voodoo queen Marie Laveau, a 19th-century resident known for her uncanny powers of perception, shares her final resting place in the Glapion family tomb with at least 41 other people. Visitors often mark Xs or crosses on the tomb or leave candles at the base. Some have reported seeing her spirit in the form of a black crow or black dog.
Other notables buried in St. Louis No. 1 include Homer Plessy, plaintiff in the landmark 1896 civil rights case Plessy v. Ferguson; Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, the first black mayor of New Orleans; Paul Morphy, a world chess champion; and Barthelemy Lafon, said to be a pirate in Jean Lafitte's crew. Actor Nicolas Cage reportedly purchased a tomb here for his burial.
In 2015, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which owns and manages the cemetery, closed it to walk-in visitors to prevent vandalism, but the cemetery still can be seen on guided tours for a fee that supports cemetery preservation.
Notables RIP in Atlanta
In Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, oaks and magnolias shade the resting place of the city's settlers and notable citizens. Among them is Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone With the Wind," whose tombstone bears her married name, Marsh.
Visitors often leave golf balls, gloves or their PGA cards on the grave of legendary golfer Bobby Jones. Six Georgia governors and 27 mayors of Atlanta are buried here, including Atlanta's first black mayor, Maynard Jackson. Pharmacy owner Joseph Jacobs is notable because the first Coca-Cola ever formulated was served in his drugstore.
Founded in 1850 and covering 48 parklike acres, Oakland ranks among Atlanta's most valued green space and is prized for its art and architecture in a wide range of styles including Victorian, Greek Revival, gothic, neoclassical and even Egyptian. Elaborate mausoleums, some with flowery inscriptions that remind viewers of an earlier age, contain stained-glass windows made by Tiffany Studios and bronze urns from New York's Gorham Manufacturing Co., the first art foundry in the U.S.
From a hill in the cemetery, which is about a mile from downtown Atlanta, Gen. John B. Hood watched the Battle of Atlanta. Five Confederate generals have their final resting place at Oakland. The Lion of Atlanta memorial is a copy of a statue in Lucerne, Switzerland, and honors 3,000 Confederate soldiers buried here.
Martyrs and spies in Little Rock
Established in 1843, Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, Ark., is nicknamed the "Westminster Abbey of Arkansas" for the notables buried there. Walk along its leafy lanes and Victorian statuary and you'll find the graves of 11 governors, 22 Little Rock mayors, a movie star, two Pulitzer Prize recipients and four Confederate generals among 450 veterans from the Revolutionary War through Desert Storm.
Themed tours cherry-pick stories of the dead: the famous and not-so famous, including former slaves, ministers, suffragettes, an 8-year-old Confederate drummer boy and the wife of a Cherokee chief who died on the Trail of Tears. There's also Lou Odom described in her newspaper obituary as "the keeper of a house of ill fame" in the former red-light district where Little Rock's bustling River Market District now stands.
Dr. Matthew Cunningham is buried next to his wife, Eliza, the first white woman to live in what was Quapaw Indian territory. The doctor, a veteran of the War of 1812, bought 100 acres from a land speculator in what became the center of Little Rock. He was the first mayor.
The Southern Cross of Honor adorns the grave of Anna Sophia Crease, a Confederate spy who smuggled notes and goods under her saddle blanket. A Union general was sweet on her and refused to allow his men to question her.
Perhaps the most famous person buried at Mount Holly is boy martyr David O. Dodd, convicted and executed as a Confederate spy at age 17. Each January visitors gather at his grave to mark the anniversary of his death.
Other historic cemeteries
Historic cemeteries are found across the U.S. To find the graves of famous people, consult the Find a Grave website, findagrave.com/. Some cemeteries to consider:
Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, Calif.: Stan Laurel, Liberace, Bette Davis
Forest Lawn, Glendale, Calif.: Michael Jackson, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney, Humphrey Bogart
Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, N.Y.: Washington Irving, Andrew Carnegie, Elizabeth Arden, Leona Helmsley
Mount Moriah, Deadwood, S.D.: Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane
Ferncliff, Hartsdale, N.Y.: Judy Garland, Malcolm X, Joan Crawford, Aaliyah
Crown Hill, Indianapolis, Ind.: John Dillinger, Benjamin Harrison, James Whitcomb Riley
Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, Calif.: Frank Zappa, Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe
Woodlawn, Detroit, Mich.: Edsel Ford, Rosa Parks, John Dodge
Mount Auburn, Cambridge, Mass.: Mary Baker Eddy, Winslow Homer, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Cemeteries of note
Graceland Cemetery and Arboretum: Chicago. Free admission; maps for self-guided tours available in the cemetery office and online. gracelandcemetery.org/
Forest Home Cemetery: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Free admission; purchase a map at the office for a self-guided tour; themed guided tours offered periodically or by appointment. foresthomepreservation.org/
Oakland Cemetery: Atlanta, Georgia. Free admission; fee for a guided tour or purchase a map at the visitor center for a self-guided tour. oaklandcemetery.com/
St. Louis No. 1: New Orleans, Louisiana. Only accessible on guided tours, among them the nonprofit Save Our Cemeteries, saveourcemeteries.org/; Gray Line Tours, graylineneworleans.com/; and Free Tours By Foot, freetoursbyfoot.com/
Mount Holly Cemetery: Little Rock, Arkansas. Free admission; guided theme tours by appointment. mounthollycemetery.org/