Cindy is a paranormal enthusiast and author of over twenty books on the subject of true supernatural phenomena.
1. Speak Ill of the Dead
There are few things that will draw the ire of earthbound spirits more quickly than hearing someone badmouth a departed soul. Regardless of your relationship—if any—to the party in question, gravesites are not the place to air grievances or poke fun at the deceased.
It is a widely held belief among spiritualists that some disembodied souls prefer to stay in close proximity to their physical forms rather than attaching to structures. For reasons that are unique to them, the body they left behind, while no longer useful, provides a sense of comfort as they transition to the afterlife. Those who fail to move on, permanently attach to the cemetery that holds their remains.
These self-appointed guardians are said to take umbrage when one of their wards is being spoken of disparagingly. While the insult may have nothing to do with them, they are quick to act on the behalf of others.
In one chilling example, a woman in High Point, North Carolina named Sheila McIntire* shared that she witnessed the results of just such a faux pau while visiting an old family graveyard.
She recalled that as she and her husband strolled around the grounds, they passed the time by reading some of the more legible inscriptions on the markers. After coming across the name "Horatio," her easily amused spouse had made a harmless, if somewhat crass, joke before proceeding to the next grave.
Sheila says that he had taken only a couple of steps when he suddenly fell forward, landing flat on his face. Thinking that he had probably tripped on a patch of unlevel ground, she helped him to his feet. As she did so, she gazed at the earth and saw no mounds or ruts to speak of.
When she asked what happened, he had waved her off. Several hours later, in the comfort of their home, he finally told her the reason for his fall. As crazy as it sounded, although they had been the only ones there, he swore that someone had grabbed him by the ankles and pulled his feet out from under him.
Even though he had hesitated to say it out loud, he couldn't shake the feeling that he had been attacked by a presence he couldn't see. According to Sheila, the next time she asked to be driven to the cemetery, her husband obliged, but stayed in the car while she laid flowers on the graves.
If there's a lesson to be learned here, it is simply this: keep a civil tongue in your mouth while on hallowed grounds. A good rule of thumb is that if you have the urge to blurt out something you wouldn't say to someone's face, or in a house of worship, keep it to yourself. After all, once words are unleashed, they are impossible to take back, and you never know who—or what—may be listening.
*Name has been altered to protect the privacy of the individual involved.
While this one should be obvious, it's surprising how many people don't give a second thought to spitting when and where they please. Although in most instances they mean no harm, launching a loogie near someone's eternal resting place is a shocking breach of cemetery etiquette. If you enjoy chewing tobacco, or the act of spitting in general, be considerate and save it until you exit the gates.
Along a similar vein, sneezing and coughing are not exactly welcome, but since they are involuntary actions, you should be fine. If you do happen to let loose with a sneeze, remember to say "bless me" if no one beats you to it. This will ensure that the soul you may have unintentionally expelled finds its way back where it belongs.
3. Lean Against the Headstones
While it is common knowledge that defacing grave markers is a no-no, treating them like a piece of furniture is nearly as bad. When visiting a cemetery, it is important to remember that the monuments aren't just engraved slabs of stone, but lasting memorials to the people upon whose graves they sit.
If you feel the need to lay hands on a headstone out of reverence, do so by all means. A loving gesture such as this is perfectly acceptable, and no doubt appreciated. To lean against a monument out of boredom or carelessness, however, is not. Likewise, resting your foot on a marker could be seen as an insult to the individual whose name it bears.
An acquaintance on social media related an incident that took place one day when she and her family were visiting the grave of her recently deceased sister. While they were congregated at the site, the woman's teenage son decided to make himself comfortable by sitting down on a neighboring grave and resting his back against the headstone.
After a few minutes, he started complaining of back pain. Within the hour, his back and shoulders were covered in an angry rash. Since he had been wearing a shirt and jacket, no one could figure out what caused the sudden eruption that went away as soon as they left the cemetery grounds.
Though it's entirely possible that his condition was the result of an allergic reaction that had nothing to do with his poor judgement, his mother seemed convinced that it had been someone's way of teaching him a lesson in manners.
4. Overdo the PDA
There is a time and place for everything, including getting physical with our significant other. Graveyards are not the right setting for such displays, for various reasons. Besides being in poor taste, they also act as a sad reminder to any wandering souls that may be in the vicinity that their days of indulging in mortal pleasures are over.
For those of you whose passion cannot be contained, try to get it out of your system before setting foot in a cemetery. While there is certainly nothing wrong with showing affection, taking it too far in a graveyard can awaken desires and jealousies in those who should have long ago put those feelings to rest.
5. Linger Near an Open Grave
Since cemeteries are businesses first and foremost, they are constantly making room for new arrivals. As a result, freshly dug graves can occasionally be seen by visitors who come to spend time with their interred loved ones.
If you ever happen to spy one of these somber reminders of the fragility of life, keep moving. Though you may be tempted to sneak a peek, squelch that curiosity and walk away.
It is no secret that an open grave is a space that will soon be filled. As such, superstition holds that to peer into these voids is to tempt fate. Though these areas are normally cordoned off for safety reasons, this doesn't stop some people from sidestepping the barriers to get a closer look.
There are those who believe that just as curiosity killed the cat, so too will it lead to the demise of anyone foolhardy enough to willingly stare into an empty burial plot.
6. Visit in the After-Hours
Most cemeteries close their gates around sundown. This is done primarily to prevent vandals from disturbing the graves of those who are interred on the property. Even so, this doesn't stop the scofflaws who have no qualms about invading the gardens of the dead in the twilight hours.
Though one is probably just as likely to encounter a spirit in the light as they are in the dark, a moonlit graveyard is irresistible to would-be ghost chasers like my cousin Larry and his small group of cohorts. A harrowing run-in he had back in the day perfectly illustrates why cemeteries are locked at night. As he would come to learn, it isn't only to keep visitors out, but also to keep the permanent residents in.
Since I've told this story before, I'll keep it short. In the late 1970s, Larry and a group of friends decided on a whim to visit a purportedly haunted cemetery in Virginia. Since they were coming from another state, by the time they reached their destination, the gates had been locked up for the night. After trying to gain access and failing, they realized that their trip had been for nothing.
As they sat in the car trying to figure out what to do next, they heard a loud pounding coming from the direction of the trunk. A split-second later, someone tried to open the rear passenger door from the outside.
In a panic, Larry put the car in gear and tried to pull away. When the vehicle stayed in place, the terrified occupants looked out the back window to see that the rear end was suspended in midair, as if being held up by some unseen force.
As chaos erupted inside, whatever was keeping them immobilized suddenly released its hold on the car, allowing them to speed off into the night. After making it home early the next morning, Larry noticed a set of handprints on the trunk that didn't belong to him or any of his passengers.
The moral of this story is simple: abide by the rules when it comes to cemeteries if you wish to leave unscathed. To do otherwise, as those who have experienced the consequences firsthand will tell you, seldom ends in your favor.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.