A road trip is not a road trip without a visit to at least one or two historic cemeteries. East Haven, Connecticut offers a spooky setting along the old trolley line. The Old Cemetery is set off River Street by an iron fence and four large sycamores. The quaint, darkened entrance is accented by four rusticated rose granite pillars with dressed smooth margins. These pillars support iron gates for the old central carriage path with an ironwork sign above. There are also two pedestrian passageways on either side.
The graveyard consists of two sections: the older part at the rear laid out in 1707 and an area next to the road, which was added in 1797. In 1707, part of the Commons (or Green) was sequestered for a town burying ground. Located at the rear of the present Old Town Cemetery, it encompassed an area just south of the oldest grave there dates to 1712. Prior to that time, East Haven people were buried in New Haven in the old cemetery on the upper Green. The Bradley Farm along River Street was privately purchased to make way for the new in 1898.
A tree-ringed depression about 40 feet across known as “Indian Bowl” lies between the sections on the eastern side. Once a spring-fed vernal pool, now partially filled in with soil, it no longer holds water, but is still at least 20 feet deep. The “Indian Bowl” was once thought to be the site of a Native American fort. Some say it was a bathing pond for the Indians. It was also used as a watering spot for livestock grazing on the nearby Commons. “Indian Bowl was drained it in May of 1895 as they were decorating and cleaning the cemetery.
There is a large group of eighteenth-century headstones to the south, generally carved from brownstone with the typical winged-angel motif of the period. They are arranged in two closely set rows about three feet apart. It seems these markers were moved to this location from the now open grassed slope to the south. There is no further information available. Although a few early nineteenth-century headstones and obelisks in this area, most of the later graves are in the newer section. There many individual stones embellished with a willow tree or other period designs, and there are several family plots marked by a central obelisk. A number of materials were used constructing these monuments including granite, limestone, and marble.
East Lawn Cemetery is laid out in a more formal grid pattern defined by paved roadways. This cemetery, which is still in use, is more open and the gravestones are arranged in orderly rows. The cemetery office is designed as an English cottage with a slate roof and ashlar stone walls. It is located in a cul-de-sac on the eastern side, and there is a modern garage at the rear. The Old Cemetery is governed by a Board of Directors, and East Lawn is operated by a private association.
It is important to remember that visits to old cemeteries, haunted or otherwise, should be approached with extreme caution—sometimes bumping into the living in a graveyard is more frightening than the spirit world itself!
East Haven Cemetery
58 River Street
East Haven, CT 06512
Arizona Haunted Sites Examiner: Debe Branning Nazanaza@aol.com