Laurel Grove Cemetery: Port Jervis’ Most Haunted

I’d read on the NY Haunted History Trail that the Laurel Grove Cemetery, in Port Jervis, was both beautiful and worth visiting. And haunted! 

Detail from the Cole family monument; the Cole monument is one of four rare metal (bronze, most likely)
monuments within the cemetery. These are always cool monuments because they hold their detail well —
and metal was much easier medium for incorporating exquisite detail, such as this mourning wreath.

The New York Haunted History Trail promises that it “is a ghost lover’s dream come true – or the most terrifying trip of your life.” So we figured that the places on the Haunted History Trail must be pretty good.

A cut log or tree trunk is a common motive, symbolizing a life cut short. 

After two hikes, we were tired. And it was raining, so we didn’t feel like another hike. And who wants to sit around for an afternoon? 

So off we went. 

I’m a taphophile, so no trip to a cemetery is a waste of time. Spooky cemeteries photograph very well on rainy days!

The views at Laurel Grove, of the confluence of the Neversink and Delaware Rivers at the point where Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey met (seriously, there’s even a monument) make it worth visiting the cemetery. You don’t need another reason.

Stand on top of this monument, and you’ll be in all three states at once, I think.
That’s Interstate 84 thundering above.

Laurel Grove Cemetery was created in 1856, when the Victorian Rural Garden Cemetery movement was at its height. These were cemeteries that were meant to be parks, where you could pack a picnic and stroll around, visiting your loved ones and a thousand others. 

Trees were planted artfully around the rolling hills (all these Victorian rural garden cemeteries have rolling hills that create a sense of coziness and neighborhood amid the vast expanse of monuments). Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia is a classic example, as are Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Albany Rural Cemetery in Albany, and Loudon and Green Mount cemeteries in Baltimore. Laurel Grove just isn’t in the same league.

Except for the views. 

For the record, Ira Decker has a magnificent view, for all eternity. I hope he appreciates it.

Sadly, Laurel Grove is also suffering from proper maintenance. I read in an article that the organization maintaining the cemetery has an annual deficit of $10k a year (its budget is $25k, so not having $10k/year for tree cutting and trimming, lawn care, rodent extermination, fixing monuments, etc., is pretty significant.) It shows.

I’m guessing that vandalism of the mausoleums was an issue, because almost all of them have been mason-blocked up, preventing anyone from entering … or leaving.

Many of the more fragile marble monuments are unreadable — the rain and wind and pollution having done their thing. We can only guess that someone must have loved them, but we know not their names. The chance to realistically preserve these delicate monuments may have already passed.

Even the granite monuments have taken hits, with portions tumbled about. 

And ground moves, even without earthquakes, and most of the headstones are uncomfortably ajar. 

In some places, it looks as if the ground is caving in and drawing the headstones down with it.

But that also makes this cemetery incredibly photogenic — and adds to the creepy, beautiful and spooky ambiance. And that and the views are worth the visit! 

As for the place being haunted, there’s a local but unverified legend about a woman in a white dress who periodically floats between the Delaware and Neversink rivers. 

And the guy who successfully lobbied to get the cemetery on New York’s most haunted list (i.e., the Haunted History Trail) is a former police detective turned ghost hunter who, one night while presumably patrolling the mausoleums (with their history of being vandalized or whatever) encountered mysterious cobwebs brushing against his face — only, there were no cobwebs to be seen. 

He returned with infrared cameras and audio recorders, although admittedly with Interstate 84 zooming at the tip of the cemetery, actually capturing and being able to verify you’ve captured paranormal electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) is difficult. So we’re not really sure this cemetery is haunted. 

But it could be. And I guess that’s as much as we can ever assume about any haunted location.

A mama fox and her two playing kits made our day!

Getting there: E. Main St., Port Jervis, NY

Hours: 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.


Even the Cole family monument needs repair —
it’s missing one of its round plaques — I believe it’s fallen inside.

Looking for more tombstone tourism? Check out our other cemetery visits:

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