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Book your Oakland Cemetery Halloween Tour tickets early

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Gene Ramsay plays Edwin Marsh during the Oakland Cemetery tours. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

Rain is ultimate foe of fun outdoor activities –  unless it’s a graveyard tour.

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Crowds arrived for Oakland Cemetery tours, rain or not.

I arrived at Oakland Cemetery last night while the sky had that swirly gray look that Hollywood uses to add forboding to horror movies. Despite the forecast, there was an umbrella-ready crowd in line for the sold-out Halloween tours. Any other place without a roof, I would’ve predicted thin attendance. Not here.

We heard a basic cemetery history from our guide, Andrea Janssen: Oakland was founded in 1850 on six acres that had been a family farm. The orignal entrance was off what is now Memorial, near Six Feet Under.

For those that want to plan ahead:  Oakland Cemetery still has about 14 funerals there per year, but you’ve got to get on the list for a plot. And if you’re considering a marker, Janssen recommends granite. After more than 100 years, guides can tell it’s holding up better than most of the marble in the cemetery.

What’s different about the Halloween tours is the introduction to grave markers and the characters (usually) buried beneath them. It’s dark, but more friendly than spooky. The walkways are lit, crowds are friendly and there are corndogs for sale. (For authenticity’s sake, of course.)

So here are my recommendations for next year: book your tickets early, sign up for a tour after the sun goes down, wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget the umbrella.

Wondering which of the cemetery’s celebs are on the tour this year — Margaret Mitchell? Bobby Jones? Here’s the list:

  • Ellen O’Connor, a woman killed on a trip to Florida in 1904. She’s mostly famous for the way she died, perhaps by shark attack. Her body was never found.
  • Sallie Clayton, a socialite whose family name is pretty well known around here, and wrote her memoirs into a book that became, “Requiem for a Lost City.”
  • Joseph M. Brown, a former governor whose father was an even more famous Georgia governor.  Sounde dlike his area of the cemetery was hit particularly hard by the tornado.
  • Gussie Hill was a lady with a kind manner, a taste for fine things and an interesting marker. Like others on the tour, she died of consumption, which we now call tuberculosis.
  • Logan Bleckley, a state Supreme Court chief justice with a boulder marker. The man loved the outdoors!
  • Edwin Marsh, a well-to-do store owner whose family members died young.They have a sandstone mausoleum, which certainly shows its age.

Want to go? Oakland Cemetery, 248 Oakland Ave. S.E., Atlanta. 404-688-2107, www.oaklandcemetery.com.

  • Oakland Cemetery Halloween Tours are sold out for this year. Tickets go on sale for 2010 tours in mid-July.
  • Sights, Symbols & Stories overview tours usually run at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sundays. These tours are available from March 14 – November 29. $10 for adults, $5 for students with ID, people ages 65 and older and kids ages 6 to 17. $26 for families of two adults and two children. Free for foundation members.
  • Twilight Tours are done for the year, but usually run mid-March through mid-October.
  • Run Like Hell 5K and Run Like Heck Fun Run begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 31.

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3 comments Add your comment

Miss Smarty Pants

October 25th, 2009
7:28 pm

The Oakland tour has been sold out for a while. I tried to call early last week and it was sold out then.

Rosalind Hillhouse

October 25th, 2009
9:41 am

I am Ellen O’Connor and I do appreciate all of you who came out to hear me tell all about being eaten by sharks. You sure have improved things since I left Atlanta for my vacation in Florida in 1904. I do hope you will return to Oakland often to visit my dear Mama’s grave and to look at my Cenotaph. I am to the left of the belltower. And remember we all die three deaths. The first is when we die, the second when we are buried and the final time the last time someone speaks our name. Keep me alive by visiting my marker and saying my name.

GA Girl

October 24th, 2009
2:33 pm

Great tour! I’m scheduled for the 9:30 tour tonight!