Sacramento Cemetery

More From Sacramento More From California

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…

A pet of a past caretaker is still on the job, startling visitors!



cemetery-paranormalThe Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, also known as Old City Cemetery has around 44 acres of land, though other sources say that the real estate is between 28 and 36 acres. The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is designed like a Victorian garden and is a lovely final resting place for over 25,000 people. Another source says that it was more like 36,000 people. With lots of hard work from volunteers, plants, flowers and bushes have been added during its on-going restoration process to bolster and enhance its beauty. There are three major dedicated garden areas. Historic Gold Rush Era Roses are found in 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 were laid to rest here. Capt. John A. Sutter Jr., Sacramento city founder E.B. Crocker and family, Mark Hopkins (railroad man), 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 in this beautiful cemetery.

Normal citizens were also buried here; some in family plots and others in mass graves, depending on how they passed, and/or in what financial condition their families were in at the time of their death.

Besides individual families and well-known people, there are many group plots that have the individual graves of the Pioneer Association Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Volunteer Firemen, the Improved Order of Red Men, the state government, survivors of the Donner Party, plus Civil War and other military veterans, some who gave their all, and others who lived to a ripe old age.



The Sacramento City Cemetery, popularly called the “Old City Cemetery,” came into being after Captain John Sutter donated ten acres of land for this purpose, in 1849. This donation to the city of Sacramento was called the City Ordinance of December 1849. 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 Sacramento City 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 the onslaught of over 600 bodies really needing to be “put to rest” quickly in a mass grave, when the huge Asiatic Cholera epidemic hit Sacramento 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 the 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 physicians 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 a mass grave at the old cemetery by Sutter’s Fort as well, they too were eventually moved at some point to Sacramento City Cemetery or East Lawn Memorial Park because of the problem with flooding from the American River.

For some reason, no one marked exactly where these victims were buried, though in 1852, a monument to them was placed on an area that was originally designated for the unknown “indigent”, but not in the correct spot even close to where all these folks were buried, probably because more dirt was already pushed over the mass graves to make new spots for others to be buried. Some theorize the mass grave is perhaps under the section for the war dead and other veterans from the Civil War and other wars, though no one knows for sure. Uh oh!

After its 1849 founding, more land was added to expand the areas for burial, and ended with the generous donation by the benevolent Margaret Crocker who donated 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 of the land being used already for grave sites was sold. Bodies already laid to rest were moved before the pavement was rolled for a street, Broadway, shrinking the cemetery to its current size, which is still a sizable plot of real estate.

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! This wasn’t good either!

However, a group of appalled citizens in 1986 formed The Old City Cemetery Committee, supported by the Sacramento Historical Society to stop the destruction, to get the city government to cooperate and enlist a boatload of volunteers to replant, restore and give Sacramento City Cemetery a face-lift and a stable force to support it and start the process of restoring and protecting this historic cemetery.

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. as an IRC 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. The Old City Cemetery Committee continues to partner with city government and go forward with its dedicated fervor to continue in their 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 power, enthusiasm and the drive to help to 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.



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 the restlessness of entities.

People who die suddenly, unexpectedly and/or in a dramatic way sometimes aren’t ready to leave this world just yet, for a variety of reasons such as: Concerns, blaming or disappointment in selves, not happy about their deaths being too soon.

May Woolsey: She was a twelve year old girl who was close to her parents, that died in 1879 from encephalitis. May contacted her very distraught parents through a medium to tell them that she wasn’t dead, but 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 couldn’t bear to look at them either. So her parents 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, while the wall it was hidden in was being removed in a remodeling effort. May’s trunk and things are now in a Sacramento museum.

Railroad engineer hero William Brown

He was able to save hundreds of lives by uncoupling the passenger train from the engine, but died himself, still trying to stop it, as it plunged into the water. Some dolt threw the wrong switch, sending his train onto the Ferry wharf. When they pulled the train out, he was still clutching the controls, trying to stop the engine. He died trying.

Entity of 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 their individual names are lost forever. It is too bad that they didn’t make a marker listing all the names of those located in the mass grave, like the one found at Deerfield Burial Grounds, or The much larger memorial found at the The World Museum of Mining: Orphan Girl Mine.

The city of Sacramento dropped the ball, but this was common in other places where large epidemics killed a lot of people.

When graves are built upon, or paved over, or something else is put on top of graves, this adds insult to injury and causes 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.

People whose earthly remains are moved and /or disturbed/or desecrated sometimes are confused and wander, looking for their headstone, sometimes moving into the closest building. Some remains from the other cemetery were dug up and moved to this one, and put in a mass grave. Other graves were moved off the Sacramento City Cemetery land that was sold for the making of the road, Broadway, and buried somewhere else in this cemetery.



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.

William has since been noticed, standing by his grave, in his civilian black suit. Hopefully William enjoys the beautiful place where his remains are 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 is mad at the person who made this deadly mistake, 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 to 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.”

A Black Pitbull

This dog follows visitors around and then just disappears in front of their sight.

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 Entity and a Female Entity)

Dressed in black, they wander together around the cemetery, perhaps looking for their grave stone, or 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 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 some recognition of their existence.


Most Probably so! Despite the lack of hard evidence on display, others claim that the cemetery is well documented as having spirits there; investigations perhaps done years ago. The many reports of manifestations for so many years 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 around Halloween, has discovered more spirits, and their stories. The spirit of a fireman who was beheaded by a falling train trellis while probably 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 3 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 of perhaps a spirit peeking from behind a gravestone, that either could be an actual spirit, or just 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
  • – “Some Seriously Haunted Cemeteries,” by Nancy Bradley, July 18, 2009
  • Sacramento Cemetery on Yelp

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Sacramento Haunts in California