There are spirits who died unexpectedly and/or in a dramatic way.
It was not a good idea to put a mass grave under the cemetery…
The pet of a past caretaker is still on the job, startling visitors!
The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, also known as Old City Cemetery, has around 44 acres of land, though other sources say that the real figure is between 28 and 36 acres. The Cemetery is designed like a Victorian garden and is a lovely final resting place for over 25,000 people, but another source says that it is more like 36,000 people. With lots of hard work from volunteers, plants, flowers and bushes have been added during its ongoing restoration process to bolster and enhance its beauty. There are three major dedicated garden areas. Historic Gold Rush Era Roses are found in the Historic Rose Gardens, Bruner and Cadwalder Areas. Perennial plants are found in the Hamilton Square area. Native plants are found near Veterans’ Sections E and F.
Notable people of Sacramento as well as early settlers from all over the world have been laid to rest here. Capt. John A. Sutter Jr., Sacramento city founder E.B. Crocker and family, railroad man Mark Hopkins, William Stephen Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton, three California governors, and many of the earliest elected Mayors of Sacramento are some of the well-known people of their time who are buried here.
Regular citizens are also buried here, some in family plots and others in mass graves, depending on how they passed, who they were socially, and what their financial conditions were.
There are also many group plots here that feature the individual graves of such organizations as the Pioneer Association Masons, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Volunteer Firemen, the Improved Order of Red Men, the state government, survivors of the Donner Party, as well as Civil War and other military veterans, whether they gave their all before their time, or others who lived to a ripe old age.
The Sacramento City Cemetery came into being after Captain John Sutter donated ten acres of land for this purpose, in 1849. This donation was known as the City Ordinance of December 1849. At that time the city was growing, and the old informal private cemetery that had been established near Sutter’s Fort had a tendency to flood, because it was too close to the American River.
The Cemetery was landscaped in the “Victorian Style,” which was very popular in the mid-1800s. It opened its doors J.I.T. (Just In Time) for an onslaught of over 600 bodies which urgently needed to be “put to rest” in a mass grave, because of the huge Asiatic Cholera epidemic in 1850. One source reported, “On October 8, a passenger on the ‘New World’, a ship docked in Sacramento, emerged and collapsed on the wharf, sparking an epidemic that killed 800-1000 people in less than three weeks.”
It was thought that the bodies of epidemic victims were still lethal sources of the disease, and they needed to be buried quickly.
This epidemic has the dubious distinction of killing the most attending physicians — seventeen in number out of forty-eighty total on the front lines fighting the disease. Except for a few, these doctors also wound up in a mass grave in the current cemetery.
While some were quickly buried in yet another mass grave at the old cemetery by Sutter’s Fort as well, they too were eventually moved to the Sacramento City Cemetery.
For some reason, no one marked exactly where all these victims were buried, though in 1852, a monument to them was placed in an area originally designated for the unknown “indigent”, but not in the correct spot which was even close to where all these folks in turn were buried, probably because more dirt had already been pushed over the mass graves to make new spots for still others yet to be buried. Some theorize the mass grave is perhaps under the section for the war dead, though no one knows for sure. Uh oh!
After its 1849 founding, more land was added to expand the areas for burial, ending with a generous donation by the benevolent Margaret Crocker, who made possible the final acreage on the hill. At this point, there were sixty acres of land in The Sacramento City Cemetery.
As the years went by, some cemetery land was sold. Bodies already laid to rest were moved before the pavement was rolled for a street, Broadway, which shrank the cemetery to its current size.
Unfortunately, as the years rolled by, the cemetery filled up. Many of its residents, who came from families that were long dead, became unfamiliar to Sacramento’s newer citizens. Long-term neglect by authorities became the unfortunate reality. This seems to be more likely to happen if a city is left in charge of a full cemetery. Probably city money was needed in other areas. This led to acts of disrespect, and “ravages of vandalism that toppled and maliciously marred many of the City Cemetery’s beautiful old stones and monuments.” Yikes!
However, a group of appalled citizens formed The Old City Cemetery Committee in 1986, supported by the Sacramento Historical Society, to stop the destruction, to get the city government to cooperate, and to enlist volunteers to replant, restore and give Sacramento City Cemetery a face-lift and a stable force to support it.
In 2003, The Old City Cemetery Committee went to a higher level of commitment by becoming a new independent nonprofit support group, The Old City Cemetery Committee, Inc. It continues to partner with city government and go forward in its quest to accomplish the “restoration, beautification and preservation of this historic burial ground.”
The cemetery is locked and secured at night, and the vandalism has stopped, thanks to the efforts of law enforcement. Nothing like a kick in the pants from a group with the power, enthusiasm and drive to help jump-start city government’s concern and cooperation! Private/public partnerships have long been a successful way to save places of historical value. Things just keep getting better and better for the future of The Sacramento City Cemetery.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
The Sacramento City Cemetery is “well known for its numerous hauntings.” With the exception of a few cases, the identities of most of the spirits found here are unknown, but below are possible reasons for their restlessness.
People who die suddenly, unexpectedly and/or in a dramatic way sometimes aren’t ready to leave this world just yet. Reasons can include pre-existing concerns, disappointment or blame of one’s self, and unhappiness over the timing of their death.
May Woolsey: She was a twelve year old girl who was close to her parents, who died in 1879 from encephalitis. She contacted her distraught parents through a medium to tell them that she had survived in spirit and was waiting for them on the other side in the spirit world.
This must have comforted her parents somewhat, but they couldn’t bear to give her things and toys away, yet they couldn’t bear to look at them either. So they put May’s trunk of things and toys in a wall, and just sealed it up. Imagine the surprise of the current owners of her family’s house when they discovered this trunk during a remodeling effort. It is now in a Sacramento museum.
Railroad engineer hero William Brown
He was able to save hundreds of lives by uncoupling a passenger train from its engine, but died himself, as it plunged into the water. Some dolt threw the wrong switch, sending the train onto a Ferry wharf. When rescuers pulled the train out, Brown was still clutching the controls, trying to stop the engine. He died trying.
The Entity of a Fireman: Killed on the job, fighting a fire.
People who are buried anonymously and forgotten by neglect, by omission or disrespected in some way, like having their headstone broken, are sometimes restless, looking for recognition or a remembrance to be put in place.
No one knows today exactly where all the mass graves are located, and the names of individuals buried there are lost forever. It is too bad that authorities didn’t make a marker listing all the names of those located in the mass grave, like the one found at Deerfield Burial Grounds in Deerfield, IL, or the much larger memorial found at the The World Museum of Mining: Orphan Girl Mine, in Butte, MT.
The city of Sacramento dropped the ball, but this was common in wherever epidemics killed many people.
When graves are built upon, or paved over, or something else is put on top of them, this adds insult to injury and causes spectral restlessness and annoyance. The unmarked, mass graves were not only not properly marked, but were completely buried and now are under the cemetery, and other graves.
Spirits whose earthly remains are moved, disturbed and/or desecrated are sometimes confused and wander. They look for their headstone, and sometimes move into the closest building.
The Entity of Railroad engineer hero William Brown
According to the blog report written by Nancy Bradley, for the Unexplained Mysteries website, William’s spirit was clearly seen, following his own funeral procession.
He has since been noticed, standing by his grave, in his civilian black suit. Hopefully he enjoys the beautiful place where his remains have been laid to rest, while he perhaps still frets about not being able to stop the engine. Perhaps he is kicking himself for not being faster in uncoupling the passenger train, or remains mad at the person who threw the wrong switch, ending his life so early.
The Entity of May Woolsey
She apparently still likes to visit her grave site and play in the cemetery as well as walk to her former home and play there, though she isn’t stuck in this world.
Her gravestone is said to “emanate a positive energy.”
The Entity of A Black Pitbull
This dog follows visitors around and then just disappears in front of their eyes.
Perhaps he was the guard dog of the caretaker at one point in the cemetery’s history, and he is just making his rounds, checking out the living.
A Couple – (Male and Female Entities)
Dressed in black, they wander together around the cemetery, perhaps looking for their grave stone, or perhaps they are just going on their customary walk after dinner time through the beautiful gardens.
A little girl Entity
She is under 8 years old.
She has been seen playing by her grave site, probably a victim of a deadly disease, such as measles, or perhaps she died from a tragic accident.
The Spirit of a Fireman
He stands by the main gate, and greets people who pass by and anxiously asks them about his family. He gets frustrated when people don’t hear him.
The Entity of African American Casey Jones
Said to stay near his grave as well.
Numerous Shadows and Apparitions
These entities have been reported wandering around the cemetery, perhaps admiring the beautiful gardens as they search in vain for their grave site or head stone, or perhaps they seek some recognition of their existence.
Most Probably so! Despite the lack of hard evidence on display, some claim that the cemetery is well-documented as having spirits there, perhaps in investigations done many years ago. The many reports of manifestations can’t be discounted, and are convincing. I pray that a psychic medium and/or a prayer group may be able to give the fireman some peace and help him find the light to join his family on the other side.
For many years, the apparitions and manifestations have been witnessed and reported by many people.
Sensitives have the feeling of being watched carefully.
A psychic tour that happens every Halloween, has discovered more spirits, and their stories. The spirit of a fireman who was beheaded by a falling train trellis, probably while fighting a fire, stands by the main gate, and greets people who pass by and anxiously asks them about his family. He gets frustrated when people don’t hear him. When the psychic tells him that he is dead, the spirit stomps off, not wanting to face reality.
Another psychic is reported to speak with three women under a tree during another ghost tour event sponsored by a paranormal group.
Hard evidence is fleeting or is not publicly published. The closest thing I found was on Elk Grove Paranormal’s web page. They have posted a picture that a client of theirs sent in. It could be a spirit peeking from behind a gravestone. But it could just be the shadow of flowers, etc.
Cemetery Visitors Center: (916) 448-0811
Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is located on Broadway, between Muir Way and Riverside Boulevard at 10th Street in Sacramento, California. The Sacramento City Cemetery isn’t far from Historic downtown Sacramento.
- Haunted Places: The National Directory
by Dennis William Hauck
Penguin Books – 2002
- Sacramento Cemetery History * 1850 Cholera Epidemic in Sacramento
- Sacramento News 10: Sacramento’s Haunted Hot Spots
- Thoughts of the Day From Sacramento Blog: Paranormal Daily Thoughts
- Historic City Cemetery of Sacramento Self-Guided Tour brochure
- UnexplainedMysteries.com – “Some Seriously Haunted Cemeteries,” by Nancy Bradley, July 18, 2009
- Sacramento Cemetery on Yelp
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr