Society Adventures: Serving Spirits in the Green-Wood Cemetery Catacombs - Atlas Obscura
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Society Adventures: Serving Spirits in the Green-Wood Cemetery Catacombs


Inside the Green-Wood Cemetery catacombs this fall for a mysterious moonlit cocktail gathering (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

The New York Obscura Society recently celebrated the arrival of autumn with a late night venture into Green-Wood Cemetery, New York’s original garden cemetery with over 450 acres of beautifully manicured grounds and an incredible array of statues, memorials and mausoleums sculpted and designed by some of the greatest artists and leading architects of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Our destination was the catacombs - a long, tunneled burial space built into a hillside at the center of the cemetery at a time when above-ground interment was all the rage due to the widespread fear of being buried alive. Within a chamber towards the very back rests Samuel Ward McAllister, our esteemed host for the night’s revelries. McAllister was an advisor of etiquette and a notorious social climber during the Gilded Age of New York. He took the various dinner parties and elaborate galas of the era extremely seriously and became infamous for maintaining a strict list he referred to as “The Four Hundred” - those he considered to be the creme de la creme of New York’s high society, and by no coincidence the exact capacity of Lady Astor’s ballroom.

We created our own list of esteemed guests for the night’s gathering, and as the clock struck 10:00pm and the cemetery bells tolled, 300 excited New Yorkers made their way through Green-Wood’s gothic gates, following the winding, tree-lined paths with only votive lights to guide their way towards McAllister’s final resting place. Once inside the catacombs, specialty cocktails inspired by Gilded Age decadence and seasonal ingredients were carefully prepared to order, while the immaculate Dandy Wellington and His Band filled the dimly-lit burial chambers with soulful serenades and the sound of pure, intoxicating jazz. 

Peruse the photographs of our memorable moonlit affair below, and sign up for our events email list to be amongst the first to know as new events are added to our upcoming calendar. 

All photographs by Steve Acres unless otherwise noted, visit http://stevenacr.es/ to view more of his work.


Green-Wood Cemetery’s elaborate 19th century entrance, designed to signify a departure from the world of the living and entry to the land of the dead


A nervous crowd anxiously awaits the tolling of the bells


Ornate mausoleums line starlit paths as we make our way through the darkened grounds


A ghostly gathering outside of an Egyptian-inspired mausoleum


Inside, Saw Lady Natalia Paruz sets an eerie mood

Within a second mausoleum, accordionist Erica Mancini prepares to perform

 Inside the catacombs, the various burial chambers are aglow with candlelight

Well-coiffed guests find a cozy chamber to converse in

(Photograph by Mitch Waxman)

Contemplating the surroundings

The impeccable Dandy Wellington and HIs Band