Atlas Obscura is Hiring! Join us in pursuit of wonder.

Charleston, South Carolina

Unitarian Church Cemetery

Paths are maintained, but trees have taken over plots. 

In a city with many churches and graveyards, the cemetery at the Unitarian Church stands out. Pathways here are maintained for visitors, but the plots and the grave markers have been given over to nature. Vines, shrubs, and trees grow among, around, and through the cemetery. In the first picture displayed above, you can clearly see a tree taking over a gravestone.

And that’s how the dead would want it. That’s why they decided that they wanted to be buried here: they wanted to spend eternity giving back to nature.

The Unitarian Church is the second oldest in the city, built for the first time in 1772 and rebuilt in 1854. Its churchyard supposedly haunted and many believe that it is the subject of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poems. If the cemetery is haunted, it’s by Annabel Lee, a woman who lived in Charleston before the Civil War broke out. Annabel fell in love with a sailor who was stationed at the nearby naval base, but her father didn’t approve of the relationship and forbid her from seeing him. The two couldn’t stay apart, though, and they would often meet at the Unitarian Cemetery. One night, Annabel’s father saw the two, became furious, and decided to lock her in a room for several months as punishment.

During the time that Annabel was locked in her room, the sailor she loved was transferred back to Virginia and the two were never able to see each other again. Months later, Annabel died of Yellow Fever, though many claim it was a broken heart that killed her. After learning of her death, the sailor arranged to come back to Charleston to visit her grave. The father, though, suspected this might happen and had Annabel’s grave placed beneath others in the family and left the site unmarked. The sailor never found which plot belonged to his lover.

Another popular horror story revolves around Mary Bloomfield, a resident of Charleston more than one hundred years ago. Bloomfield believed that she was happily married, but her husband departed for Boston on business one night and was never to return. Mrs. Bloomfield was heartbroken and some say they have seen her ghost wandering the paths of the Unitarian Cemetery, where she is still looking for her husband.

Edit Place