Erie ‘Cemetery Lady’ continues tradition of walking tours at almost 200-year-old cemetery, running through October

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 at 5:01 PM
Erie ‘Cemetery Lady’ continues tradition of walking tours at almost 200-year-old cemetery, running through October by Anna Ashcraft

Caroline Reichel, also known as the “Cemetery Lady,” gives local tours at the nearly 200-year-old Erie Cemetery. For the past four years, she has given many tours on multiple different topics. For some it may seem like a hobby, but for Reichel it’s her life.

“When I talk about them (the dead) it’s as if they are still living,” she said.

Reichel gives guided tours of the Erie Cemetery, including mausoleums and family plots, while telling stories at the gravestones of people who died in unusual ways.

“I started looking up other people that were in here and everybody is important, everybody has a story. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, general, or farmer, you’re an important person,” Reichel said.

The Erie Cemetery opened around 1850, however some of the gravestones are older. Some of the gravestones were moved from other locations
in Erie to the cemetery, which is located off of 26 and Chestnut Street. Reichel mentioned that many of the gravestones are fragile from old
age and also weathering, with this contributing to why they don’t do tours in the cemetery at night.

“I have to have a large amount of insurance because of the stones and everything. So we don’t do anything at night. Some cemeteries do because they are just in rows and they are more current than 1850. Our stones, we don’t want anything to happen to them,” Reichel said.

Reichel holds guided walking tours on the second and fourth Sundays from June through October.

“The reason why we don’t do tours during the week is because of the burials. We have to be respectful to the dead,” Reichel said.

She held “Ghosts and Legends,” a guided walking tour in the Erie Cemetery, on Oct. 23 and will hold it again Sunday, Oct. 30.

During “Ghosts and Legends” one will tour the Erie Cemetery and learn the history and legends behind many of the people and things inside. The Vampire Crypt, Witches Circle and Scott Mausoleum are among some of the sites visited in her tour this year.

“There are three legends that I talk about, then I talk about people who have died in unusual ways and they are all true. Every year I find somebody new. This year I have seven new ones,” Reichel said.

The Witches Circle is an arrangement of gravestones in a circular pattern. It is so named because “two stones and a couple more that are not standing any longer turned black overnight,” Reichel said.

The Vampire Crypt, as the mausoleum is called, stands towards 26 Street in the cemetery. It is known locally under a few different legends.

“It doesn’t have a name. There is something over the door — it looks different to everyone. It’s been broken into many times. It’s the only one (mausoleum) that is built into the hillside.... It has three legends. We know very little about it,” Reichel said.

General McLane’s family plot is in the Erie Cemetery, and it’s another legend Reichel discusses during the walking tour.

“He wasn’t a general when he was killed in the war. He was a colonel. There’s a long story about how he should have been a general, and he is a general now. On either side of him are his two wives,” Reichel said.

Reichel also talked about how she got her name — the “Cemetery Lady.” “I didn’t have a name, just Caroline [who] does these tours, and people would say ‘aren’t you the cemetery lady,’ so that’s who I am — the name of my company,” Reichel explained.

Reichel has also collaborated on tours with Chris Sirianni, who owns The Brewerie at Union Station in Erie, which is locally said to be haunted. The Brewerie holds haunted history tours in October and November.

This past September, Reichel and Sirianni worked together for the first haunted brewery tour.

“I just had a brewery tour where I did some graves of people who started breweries in Erie. Then we did a combined tour with Chris Sirianni from the Union Station Brewery.... It was a very good tour and everyone wants to do it again next year,” Reichel said.

Tours are open to anyone who signs up by emailing Reichel at caroline. reichel19@gmail.com. Tours last 60 — 90 minutes, and costs $10 for adults and $8 for children under 12, however Reichel recommends that no children under eight attend. All tours begin at the cemetery gate off of Chesnutt Street in between 18 and 26 streets.

“I might do it for a couple more years at least, while my feet and body last — I’m only 19 though,” Reichel said jokingly. “Then I’m going to write a book.” 

Anna Ashcraft is a Managing Editor of Arts for The Spectator.

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