Sunday, June 16, 2013

Date Night: Oakwood Cemetery Ghostwalk

Hi all! Last night Jeff and I had a wonderful time out with friends. For the 2nd year in a row we went to the Onondaga Historical Association's "Oakwood Cemetery Ghostwalk".

Jeff and I as we waited for our group to start. It has rained for a few days straight so we really got lucky with the weather!


It is a tour through one of Syracuse's largest park like cemeteries. It was built in 1859 by Howard Daniels.
From Wikipedia
1909 postcard of the old original entrance facade built in 1902, which has been closed off since the building of Interstate 81, years ago. Last summer, Caiden and I had the chance to walk around up there on the elevated railroad track part. Very cool indeed. I will have to find those pictures.

From the website
"In the early 1850's a group of prominent men in Syracuse began looking for grounds for a new cemetery. In the forefront of this group were E.W. Leavenworth and John Wilkinson. Meetings were held on and off until the late 1850's when the group began to act. The men were interested in making the new burial ground a rural cemetery, which was a popular cemetery style during that time period. In contrast to burial grounds in the city which were overcrowded, odoriferous, and were prone to vandalism this cemetery was to be an attractive and civilized place to bury one's loved ones. The chosen site encompassed a glacial hill where springs carved valleys around steep slopes forested with massive oaks. The rural cemetery, designed as a series of landscape pictures, was to be a place of spiritual fulfillment for the living as well as a resting place for the dead. An overall picturesque effect was achieved through varied topography, irregular land division, winding roads and paths, and controlled internal views. The rural cemetery was designed to be a place of natural and man-made beauty, where individuals and families could escape their everyday lives and enjoy the surroundings."
It truly is a beautiful, peaceful place. While not a traditional "ghostwalk" this was a walking tour where we meet some of Syracuse's famous and infamous that now 'reside' in Oakwood. Portrayed by actors, each person shares their life here in Syracuse and what they did to make them famous. 
This years inhabitants are:
Comfort Tyler (1764-1827)
One of the earliest settlers in Onondaga County. He surveyed the land and roads and held a number of political offices. Comfort Tyler was also affiliated and arrested with Aaron Burr for treason, because of surveying land in Texas. The charges were dismissed. Comfort was buried elsewhere but was brought back to Syracuse to be reinterred with family in the Cornelius Tyler Longstreet mausoleum which looks like a pyramid.

Cornelius Tyler Longstreet mausoleum erected in 1875.


Inside the Longstreet mausoleaum. Family or friends could come and visit and lounge on the furniture in the monument. It is completely sealed off now. Source:

Milton Price (1825-1889)
The Merchant Prince of Syracuse owned a department store located across from his mansion on Salina Street near Jefferson Street. He was known for his wild promotional antics and charitable deeds.
Old advertisement for Milton S. Price store
Milton S. Price in front of his cash register, telling us about his life.
John Wilkinson (1868-1951)

 Inventor of the air cooled engine for the Franklin Automobile Company among other automotive inventions. He was also known as a champion cyclist and athlete.

 Wikipedia image
John Wilkinson source:Wikipedia
John Wilkinson telling us about his sporting achievements.
 Wilkinson monument
Dr. George Greeley (1844-1902)
Dr. Greeley was a local homeopathic doctor who suffered through a terrible loss of losing his sister, daughter and wife to illness and was unable to save them with his remedies. He was plagued by scandal after scandal for forgery and public intoxication. These events led to him committing suicide on the steps of the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel.

 Oakwood Cemetery Chapel
Dr. George Greeley in the chapel telling us about his terrible choices in life. It was creepy and dark in there.
 This was behind us as we were listening to the Doctor. The walls were lined with them. We weren't told what they were but if we had to guess, some sort of temporary vaults. Did I mention creepy??
Here are some other photo's from our walk through the cemetery.
Sabey monument built into the hill.
Erie picture of the same monument shown on in the hill.

Weiting monument all grown over.
How Weiting looked in the 1890's.

The Haggerty Lion.
"On November 11, 1982, the Haggerty lion was placed in Oakwood as a memorial to Michael Charles Haggerty who died at age 14 in an auto accident in 1974. His brother Thomas, who was two years younger than Michael, was an art student at Syracuse University when his parents asked him to create a special and original memorial. Michael had always liked lions and his mother thought a lion would be appropriate - a friendly protector, inviting but with claws. Thomas began work on the monument in the summer of 1981. He formed the clay image in his garage, spraying and wrapping his work each night. After this initial phase, the large figure was moved outside of his home and his work was supervised by an Syracuse University instructor. After a year's work, the 620 pound bronze statue was ready for placement. Michael had originally been buried at St. Mary's in DeWitt, but the authorities responsible for the diocese cemeteries objected to the monument. Michael was then reinterred in a special spot at Oakwood with the lion standing guard. Many people do not know about the Haggerty lion because it is situated in a wooded area and during seasons with leaves, it is well concealed. The lion can be found across the road from the Chapel. At the corner where the woods begin is a small trail which leads about 20 feet up a small incline to the monument."

The beautiful monument is completely hidden unless you know where you are looking, I had to be reminded that it was back there.

The old caretaker's office. A huge stone building that is now in shambles. It is kitty-corner from the chapel.

1920 postcard of the caretaker's building.
Source: Wikipedia

Being a genealogist I really love this cemetery. The history and information a cemetery can give a family historian is immeasurable.  We have done some letterboxing in Oakwood also. I loved the monuments so much that our wedding photo's were taken there in 2007!!
I apologize for the fuzzy scanned photo's, it's hard to scan a wedding album!

All photo's were taken at the Chapin monument. It is a huge structure of Greek style columns. Marie and Henry Chapin were wealthy socialites that lived in Syracuse in the early 20th century. It's hard to believe that there are only 2 people buried at such a large structure. It is so beautiful.


Google Earth
Well anyhoo, that's my love affair with Oakwood Cemetery. I look forward to next years tour!!









  1. I LOVE exploring historical places like this. Makes me feel homesick, nostalgic, and yet happy. Great post!

  2. Awesome post! I love historical places that are teeming with history - and mystery - like this so very much. Whenever I hear the words ghost walk, I'm reminded of the summer (back when I was a teenager that) I worked in the historical gold mining ghost town of Barkerville, B.C., which has absolutely no shortage of (alleged) ghosts - including at least two that I think I may have seen (I definitely had two spooky encounters that I can't quite explain, that much is sure!).

    ♥ Jessica