Southern Graveyard Charm: Bonaventure Cemetery

September 17, 2013 — Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, is a pretty fantastic southern cemetery. I mean, it’s a pretty fantastic cemetery in general, but I emphasize southern because it’s got a way different vibe than the cemeteries I’m used to up north.

In southern cemeteries, the tombstones seem to weather differently, and the prevailing muggy climate makes me think they’re more protected from the undead than are the rest of us. I mean, why leave cool earth for stifling air?

Mostly, though, the big difference is the massive live oaks that bleed limp trails of Spanish moss from their tarantula branches. You know, those types of trees that always look like they’re fed by the bodies of dead people even when they’re not growing n a cemetery. There were clouds of that moss above the cemetery, and it made the entire place seem almost colorless, like limbo. It was a great atmosphere, the kind that really sticks with you when your fears are looking for the perfect backdrop.

Besides the atmosphere, Bonaventure has its connections to popular culture (see below), its ghost stories (see below) and its famous interments (see below). Ha. It’s a cemetery. Everything about it is “see below.”

Bonaventure Cemetery got its start as a small, private dead drop on a 600-acre plantation. In 1907, it was bought and opened to the public. It kind of rose to prominence in the 1990s when the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil came out. The titular garden of the story is a reference to Bonaventure. In fact, the statue of a girl located in the cemetery that adorned the cover got so famous that they had to move it to Telfair Museum of Art, about four and a half miles away.

An only slightly less famous statue is the one that adorns the grave of Gracie Watson. She died at age six of pneumonia in 1889, and her parents had a sculptor carve the image of her from a picture. The statue is surrounded by a gate, and a stone tablet tells the story. Everybody else tells her ghost story, which is basically that she is one.

Oscar Wilde visited the cemetery in the 1870s and called it incomparable…although all I did while there was compare the graveyard to another. The day before we’d visited Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, and that cemetery stole a lot of Bonaventure’s thunder for us when it came to atmosphere and was a more interesting cemetery in a lot of other ways. It was the only thing that really took away from the experience, though.

Still, Bonaventure Cemetery is way cool, and experience is all relative. Feel free to use that line at your next job interview.

Why this guy's famous.

Why this guy's famous.