Western Cemetery, located on Vaughan Street in Portland, Maine, is said to be the most neglected cemetery in and around the city. There is much history surrounding this old cemetery – some provided by those who believe the spirits are restless over the absolute desecration that has occurred here.
While the Western Cemetery is certainly in need of some TLC, I was glad to have explored it soon after moving to the West End. And can’t wait to go back. In the mean time, I wanted to learn more about this poor old cemetery and thought you might, too. What follows are 8 facts about Portland’s second oldest cemetery and it’s most neglected.
Western Cemetery – 8 Haunting Facts in Portland Maine
1 – Western Cemetery is said to be home to more than 6500 graves, though that number is by no means accurate, brought about by lost records (when much of Portland burned in 1866) and including the desecration of nearly 2000 graves by folks who just didn’t give a care about this old cemetery.
2 – Western Cemetery is the final resting place for several notable folks, including a couple of Longfellows (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s’ parents are among these), the first Chief Justice of our Maine Supreme Court – Prentiss Mellen, and Portland’s own mayor Albion Parris – who was also Maine’s 5th governor and a Maine State Senator, as well.
3 – There is a section of this old cemetery specifically for Irish Catholics, dating back to 1843. Between then and 1882, about 900 were said to be buried there. Unfortunately and due to heavy neglect throughout, a mere 50 some stones remain. In 1999 a special stone was placed in this part of Western Cemetery, to honor those buried here.
4 – At some point, several graves were opened for inspection and were found to be empty, including the tomb of the parents of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is thought that the Great Fire of 1866 may have had something to do with this, though no records are available. Even as much of the city of Portland was burned, where in the world did these bodies end up after being entombed in a heavy stone crypt?
5 – Western Cemetery was Portland’s main cemetery from 1829-1852. About that time, another cemetery was opened just outside the city, and our second oldest cemetery remained active until around 1910. Though you may be hard-pressed to find later grave markings, it is said to have buried it’s last “resident” in 1987.
6 – In 2000, the city of Portland decided to make Western Cemetery an off-leash dog park, wherein owners could bring their pets, allow them to run free, and by extension, mark this 12 acre area at their leisure. The pet poo and pee issue was out of control until 2003 when the city was forced to retract this abomination and begin clean up and better care of the cemetery.
7 – Western Cemetery is thought by many folks to be haunted. Perhaps partly due to the serious neglect over the years, some souls are restless and have been seen (not by this writer) wandering about. Hearing voices, seeing shadows, lost souls? Given this cemetery’s grave history, it just may be true.
8 – Of the many stones I was able to read as I explored this old cemetery, I was saddened to see so many children buried here. So many and at such young ages, with many families losing multiple children within just a few years of each other.
Records are hard to find about the Western Cemetery, but it most certainly has a haunted history that I am anxious to explore further. Though, finding out that some folks have seen and heard things – expected, perhaps, in an old cemetery – not of this world, leaves me curious but cautious to learn more.
Till my next city tour,
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