5 spooky tales from Birmingham’s cemeteries

Birmingham, Alabama, Oak Hill Cemetery, haunted
Oak Hill Cemetery. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

No matter how tough you are, cemeteries can be scary—especially at night. And especially when you’re alone. We took a look into five spooky stories from some of Birmingham’s local cemeteries, just in time for Halloween.

1. The Bickering Couple at Oak Hill

A volunteer actor playing Edward Erswell at Oak Hill Cemetery’s Fall Festival

In 1872, Edward Erswell arrived to the recently-established city of Birmingham, in hopes of setting up shop as a cabinet maker. However, during the Birmingham Cholera Epidemic of 1873, Erswell found a new form of employment—coffin-making.

After Erswell passed in 1910, he was buried in the Erswell Vault at Oak Hill Cemetery. However, according to Edward Wolfgang Poe of the Birmingham Historic Touring Company, Erswell’s wife Catherine always wanted to be buried in the “fashionable” cemetery at Elmwood. To this day, visitors have reported hearing whispers and mutterings coming from the Erswell Vault—possibly Catherine complaining to her husband about being buried in the wrong cemetery!

2. Bass Cemetery

Mysterious floating orbs in Bass Cemetery in Irondale. Photo via Springfield Ghost Society

Located right off Ruffner Road in Irondale, Bass Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in the Birmingham area. The cemetery itself is over 150 years old, and is likely named for Burrell Bass, a Revolutionary War veteran and settler of Roebuck Springs who is buried in the cemetery.

Due to its age and isolation, Bass Cemetery has a reputation for spookiness. Some visitors have reported a sense of unease while on the grounds of the cemetery—especially at night! Others have heard screams off in the distance. And in 2001, a user named Kim Malinovsky submitted several photos of mysterious floating orbs in the cemetery to the Springfield Ghost Society. You can view the photos here and decide for yourself!

3. An Underground Cemetery

The entrance to Memorial Mound in Bessemer. Photo via Abandoned Southeast

The underground catacombs of Paris, France is one of the most extensive underground burial sites in the world—but did you know that Bessemer once experimented with the concept? Inspired by the catacombs in Rome, a man named Clyde Booth set out to create an underground cemetery on a 16-acre lot in Bessemer in 1990.

At Memorial Mound, which opened in 1992, the deceased would be buried inside the underground facility for between $1,800 and $2,200. Inside, guests and family could visit and view photos of their deceased loved ones.

However, Memorial Mound did not last—with less than a dozen burials in its four year span, Memorial Mound closed in 1996. After Clyde Booth’s death in 2009, the site began to decay due to neglect and vandals. Finally, after photos leaked in 2015, city officials removed the remains of eight interred individuals and shut down Memorial Mound for good.

4. The Hawes Murders

Lakeview Park, now the site of Highland Park Golf Course. Photo via Birmingham Public Library Department of Archives and Manuscripts

On December 4, 1888, two teenagers were boating in East Lake when they came upon a grisly discovery—the body of a young white girl. After several days, the body was identified as May Hawes, the daughter of Richard and Emma Hawes. Soon, the bodies of Emma and her second daughter, Irene, were found at the lake at Lakeview Park.

Afterwards, Richard Hawes was caught at a Birmingham train station, along with his new wife from Mississippi, Mayes Story Hawes. Richard was charged with all three murders, with the prosecution alleging that he murdered his family in order to “start anew” with Mayes Story Hawes. The jury found Richard guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging.

After his death, Richard was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Emma, Irene and May were buried next to each in unmarked graves in Birmingham’s Oak Hill Cemetery.

5. Village Falls Cemetery

Village Falls Cemetery in Mulga/Bayview, outside of Birmingham. Photo via Village Falls Cemetery on Facebook

Okay, this might not be as spooky as the previous stories. However, I was actually there. While in college, a friend and I took a drive out to Mulga one Saturday night. After we passed over the new Bayview Bridge and began driving into town, we noticed something slightly unsettling by the Village Falls Cemetery.

Just to the right of the cemetery is a small playground, with a see-saw, merry-go-round, and a slide. The scary part? Late at night, with no one around and no wind…the merry-go-round was spinning. Sufficiently spooked, we high-tailed it out of town.

Apparently, we aren’t the only ones who’ve witnessed something unsettling at Village Falls Cemetery. According to HauntedPlaces.org, one user has heard unknown voices while visiting the cemetery.

Do you know any spooky stories from Birmingham’s cemeteries? Tag us @bhamnow to share!

  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.