Westminster Burial Ground Ghosts

Posted by carrieh in Baltimore Ghosts
Westminster Burial Ground Ghosts - Photo

The Westminster Burial Grounds spirits spare no terror when they appear to the living.  It’s no wonder that the cemetery is considered one of the 10 top haunted places in Baltimore! From the creepy catacombs to moved or disturbed graves, the stories and hauntings are endless. It seems most of the dead are unwilling to accept that they have passed on or are just unaware of the fact. They stick around in their afterlife, showing themselves to the living, unable to rest in peace.

Old headstones of haunted Westminster Church Cemetery
Photo: Baltimore Sun

Visitors of the cemetery and burial grounds report bodiless voices, sounds of footsteps walking towards them, and horrific screams. Some claim the grip of icy hands on their shoulder, unexplainable foul stenches, and the encounter of cold spots throughout the grounds.

History of the Westminster Burial Ground

The burial ground was established in 1787 by the First Presbyterian Church. First Presbyterian was a congregation of social and economically elite local Presbyterians and Reformed Protestants. At the time the cemetery was established, the true church was located in downtown Baltimore.

Westminster Presbyterian Church atop the haunted burial ground
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 1852 the Westminster Presbyterian Church was built over the top of the burial ground, creating the creepy catacombs that are rich in haunted history.  For years it was thought that the church was built because of a law that stated a cemetery needs a church attached to it.  However, it was actually built to keep the cemetery sacred and protected.  Few saw the aging, old-fashioned, 18th Century-style burial ground as an appropriate resting place as the more modern 19th Century emerged.

Notables of the burial ground

Over the 60 years before the new church was built, those laid to rest in the cemetery included many influential and important figures. Merchants, statesmen, politicians, and dozens of officer and soldier veterans of the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812 were buried there. General Sam Smith, James McHenry, Jon Stricker, Paul Bentalou, Nathaniel Ramsay, Robert Gilmore, James Stirling, John Hollins, Robert Calhoun, James Buchanan, and John McDonogh are all buried there.

It’s not sure if any of these notable figures have stuck around in the afterlife. Still, some may be part of the paranormal activity that permeates the burial ground.

However, all others aside, the most popular of the cemetery’s residents is Edgar Allan Poe.

The Life of Edgar Allan Poe

Born in 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most influential American writers and poets of all time.

1849 photo of Edgar Allan Poe who haunts the Westminster Burial Grounds
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

He is most famous for his poetry and short stories, particularly those of mystery and the macabre. A central figure of Romanticism, Poe was one of the country’s earliest connoisseurs of the short story. He is also credited for creating the detective fiction genre and contributing to the science fiction genre.

Poe had a financially difficult life and career as the first American writer to earn a living by his writings alone.

Poe’s father abandoned him, his siblings, and his mother when he was a year old. Sadly his mother passed away the following year, leaving Poe an orphan. He was then fostered by the Allan family, though never legally adopted.

Poe struggled with alcohol and gambling at a young adult age and eventually ended up in Baltimore in 1835. At 26 years of age, Poe married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm and lived with his Aunt and Grandmother Poe.

His life took him through several positions as an editor, the military, and even a try for congress. His alcohol and gambling debt kept him from succeeding at all ventures he took on.


The only known photograph of Virginia Poe who is perhaps one of the ghosts of Wesminster Cemetery

Only known photo of Virginia Poe
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


When Poe’s wife Virginia died of consumption (now known as tuberculosis) in 1847, Poe’s life took a tailspin.  He never recovered from her death; however, and some of his best-known works were inspired by his love and loss of his beloved wife. Poe went back to Richmond, where he lived out his days until his mysterious death in 1849.

The death of Edgar Allan Poe

There is a great mystery surrounding the death of Edgar Allan Poe. Reportedly sober at the time, Poe was found back in Baltimore, where he lived with Virginia. It’s also where she is buried. It’s said he was found wandering the streets feverish and delirious after leaving The Horse You Came in on Saloon, a frequent watering hole for Poe.  Oddly, Poe was dressed in someone else’s clothing.  He was taken to a hospital and died a few days later.

Original headstone for Edgar Allan Poe at haunted Westminster Burial Ground
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The intimate details of Poe’s death and his death certificate are said to have been lost or destroyed, adding to the mystery. Some speculate he died from alcohol poisoning, some say from a drawn-out case of rabies. Other causes include delirium, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningitis, cholera, and even carbon monoxide poisoning. However, one of the oddest theories in 1872 was that Poe died by “cooping,” a form of electoral fraud.

Cooping was the kidnapping of citizens to force them to vote for specific candidates. The victim would be plied with alcohol, held in a room, and threatened with beatings and death until they would comply. To fool the voting officials, they would put another person’s clothing on the victim so they could vote numerous times. Often kidnappers would use disguises such as a wig, fake beards, or fake mustaches.

Perhaps this was the real cause of death for Poe.

The Ghost of Edgar Allan Poe

The sightings of Poe around the burial grounds are a common occurrence, and some claim he has even spoken to them. He has been spotted wearing a long black coat, wide-brimmed black fedora, and a scarf covering his face. He stands solemnly in front of his grave as if he longs for another shot at life.

Mysteriously, the same type of figure was seen yearly on the anniversary of his death from 1920-2009. Standing before Poe’s grave, leaving red roses and a bottle of Poe’s favorite drink- Cognac. No one has ever confirmed if it is an apparition of Poe or one of his living fans. Like most hauntings, there are many takes on the story, and maybe that’s how spirits do it. Everything in life is a matter of perception, they say.

Poe is also seen at the altar inside the church and underground in the catacombs. Sightings and stories abound, but it’s clear that no matter where or when Poe’s ghost has been sighted, the man’s spirit sticks around the cemetery. Perhaps in reminiscence of his unsatisfactory earthly life.

More Westminster Burial Ground Ghosts

The burial ground is full of creepy ghostly sightings and stories. Featured on “Sightings -The Ghost Report” and episodes of “Creepy Canada” and “Scariest Places on Earth,” you can believe there is some truth to the afterlife hauntings. Even paranormal investigators have picked up creditable EVP’s as well as photos with shadowy figures and orbs.

There are reports of a nameless white-haired, elderly man walking between the rows of graves as if he is looking for a particular headstone.

People claim to have seen a woman as crazy as a loon buried in her straight jacket to keep her bound after death. There are reports of her crazed laughter echoing through the catacombs. Her presence has also been reported to follow visitors around the graveyard.

Don’t even think about disrespecting the grounds or being too loud because the figure of a long-time passed grave keeper will swear at you and chase you with a shovel. Known for having “one too many” regularly in earthly life, he will shoot at you on a chase to rid you from the cemetery.

The ghost of 16-year-old Lucia Watson Taylor, who died in 1816, is seen kneeling and praying at her own grave. She is reported to have long dark hair and is wearing a loose white gown.

Westminster Burial Ground Ghosts – #1 scariest place

No matter what you believe about spirits and other paranormal entities, you will usually find that cemeteries hold the most hauntings. Westminster Burial Ground is among the scariest.

Read more about the 10 top haunted places in Baltimore, or take one of our ghost tours and experience these mysterious phenomenons yourself!



Edgar Allan Poe – Wikipedia


Edgar Allen Poe Lives @ The Horse You Came in On – Fells Point – Batitmore, MD – Ghosts and Hauntings on Waymarking.com

Pennsylvania Haunts & History: Westminster Burying Grounds

Westminster Hall and Burying Ground – Wikipedia