Creepy Tales of the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery

If you’ve ever visited the old Sacramento City Cemetery at Broadway and 10th Street, you already know about the famous people buried there including E. B. Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Jr., John August Sutter, Jr. and many other notables. But did you know about the people who actually entered the cemetery still breathing and never made it out alive? You can learn all about those unfortunate souls and hear other unusual stories about early Sacramento during the “Bosses in the Boneyard” tour, one of many tours offered by the Old City Cemetery Committee.
The Bosses of the Boneyard tour promises to cover the stories and burial sites of several City Cemetery superintendents plus a sprinkling of other buried politicians or influential people. But the tour takes a twist when the guide shares stories of several people who actually entered the cemetery alive but for one tragic reason or another, never made it out alive. First there was the story of John Gray, a painter from San Francisco, whose business was failing. While visiting his wife’s brother’s grave in May 1870, Mr. Gray decided to commit suicide. After swallowing a fatal dose of strychnine, graveyard workers found him groaning nearby sometime between 9 and 10 at night. They carried him to the cemetery’s chapel, where Mr. Gray died a horrible death as toxic chemicals ate away his internal organs.
Then, in 1893, there was the case of “Poor Andrew” Larson, a hod carrier who was hauling bricks into the Mortuary Chapel, then under construction, when the roof collapsed on Andrew and killed him. Other workers on the roof fell through, but landed unhurt on top of the debris that crushed Andrew.
Or the poor unfortunate Joseph Griffith, a Southern Pacific railroad man. While visiting the grave of his wife, who died thirteen months earlier, with his mother-in-law and five year old daughter present, poor Mr. Griffith fell over on his wife’s grave site and died of a heart attack.
All told, over the past 150 years, seven people have died in the City Cemetery by accident, natural causes, murder and suicide. The tour also includes stories of local grave robbers and the grisly discoveries uncovered by the local police force.
Docent guided walking tours are offered on most Saturdays throughout the year. The Temperance and Prohibition tour provides a closer look at bar-owners, bootleggers, and members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The Lantern Tours offered in October and held after dark share spooky stories of murder, death by spirits, and death by duel. So popular are the Lantern Tours, they sell out quickly each year. The cemetery, designed in a Victoria Garden style, is awash in flowers and trees and bushes. A number of the tours offered focus on the gardens and especially the roses, lovingly attended to by a bevy of dedicated volunteers. There is even a self-guided tour of early Sacramento Brewers buried in the cemetery. Pick up a map near the front entrance at 1000 Broadway, Sacramento. All tours are free, but donations to preserve the cemetery are gladly accepted. Tour guides are knowledgeable and enthusiastic and often share colorful excerpts from carefully researched local newspaper archives. To learn more, visit

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