3 of metro Atlanta’s most storied cemeteries

Overview of Oakland Cemetery.

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Overview of Oakland Cemetery.

Yeah, the dead tell no tales, but this secret is likely out by now (or shall we say unearthed?). Atlanta’s cemeteries are actually really interesting places to visit — in fact, many have their own TripAdvisor reviews. Of course, if you’re looking for the paranormal, these graveyards seem like ideal starts. But with many housing well-designed gardens, mausoleums and memorial structures, a cemetery visit could just be a normal picturesque stroll through Atlanta history. Whether you’re looking for spooky chills or just spectacular sights, these metro Atlanta graveyards encompass it all.

Founded in 1850, the graveyard is Atlanta’s most popular cemetery. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Oakland Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the city’s notable residents, such as “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor Maynard Jackson and golf great Bobby Jones.

The cemetery, maintained by the Historic Oakland Foundation, offers tours of its grounds and gardens throughout the year. And during the month of October, the cemetery offers its extremely popular Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween tour (so popular, in fact, the Halloween dates are already sold out). However, cemetery visitors are still welcome to sign up for their Sights, Symbols and Stories tours or take a self-guided tour of the cemetery. There’s even an app, which plays prerecorded stories about various highlights throughout the grounds.

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The 14.5-foot, 14-ton monument to Maynard Jackson in Oakland Cemetery. The obelisk is made of African-sourced honed black granite and sits on a platform of grey Georgia granite. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

The 14.5-foot, 14-ton monument to Maynard Jackson in Oakland Cemetery. The obelisk is made of African-sourced honed black granite and sits on a platform of grey Georgia granite. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

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The 14.5-foot, 14-ton monument to Maynard Jackson in Oakland Cemetery. The obelisk is made of African-sourced honed black granite and sits on a platform of grey Georgia granite. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Over the 48-acre lot, notable attractions include the arboretum of more than 1,400 trees; the 1899-built bell tower (where you’ll find several stunning mausoleums); the Jewish grounds and the African-American segment (which contains the graves of slaves since the cemetery was built prior to emancipation). The segregated section would remain a dedicated African-American burial location until legalized integration.

There are also the Confederate memorial grounds, which hold the graves of nearly 7,000 Confederate soldiers (and also where many of the cemetery’s folklore hauntings originate). And lastly, check out the gift shop for Halloween-inspired gifts, décor and books.

Open daily from sunrise to sunset. 248 Oakland Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-688-2107, oaklandcemetery.com.

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Oakland Cemetery opened in 1850, and it is estimated that 70,000 souls rest in the park. Jenni Girtman/Atlanta Event Photography

Oakland Cemetery opened in 1850, and it is estimated that 70,000 souls rest in the park. Jenni Girtman/Atlanta Event Photography

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Oakland Cemetery opened in 1850, and it is estimated that 70,000 souls rest in the park. Jenni Girtman/Atlanta Event Photography

Decatur Cemetery

This 58-acre cemetery is also included in National Register of Historic Places. With headstones dating back as early as 1827, the cemetery includes gravesites for three Revolutionary War patriots. The graveyard also features a Veterans Memorial dedicated to all the veterans of both historic wars and modern conflicts who died in service for the country.

Among the cemetery’s most notable residents is poet Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, who is best known for his association with fellow poet Edgar Allan Poe. A number of Georgia’s politicians, civil servants and philanthropists are also interred here. Additionally, the gravesites of Edward Cox and Robert Alston make an interesting story; formerly friends turned rival statesmen, Cox ended up killing Alston in their 1879 dual.

There is also the historic African-American section, which from 1886 until segregation was the allotted burial site for many among Decatur’s thriving black community.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the cemetery, and group tours can be arranged. Or visitors are just welcome to stroll the grounds and scenic pond for a tranquil escape. But if you're interested in something a bit more "spirited," try the Decatur Ghost Tour (decaturghosttour.com), which takes guests by the cemetery in a two-hour walking tour of Decatur.

Open daily from sunrise to sunset. 229 Bell St., Decatur. 404-378-4411, facebook.com/FriendsOfDecaturCemetery.

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The grave of Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, also known as the Lost Poet of Georgia. Chivers was a friend of Edgar Allan Poe through literary circles of the time, their works of the mid-1800s have distinctive similarities. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography)

The grave of Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, also known as the Lost Poet of Georgia. Chivers was a friend of Edgar Allan Poe through literary circles of the time, their works of the mid-1800s have distinctive similarities. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography)

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The grave of Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers, also known as the Lost Poet of Georgia. Chivers was a friend of Edgar Allan Poe through literary circles of the time, their works of the mid-1800s have distinctive similarities. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography)

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Marietta National Cemetery

Not far from Atlanta is another graveyard on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1866, the Marietta cemetery was created out of the desire to provide a memorial resting place for the casualties from the Civil War. The land was donated to the federal government by businessman and alleged Union sympathizer Henry Greene Cole with the intentions for Union and Confederate soldiers to be honored together. However, as tensions remained high after the war, Union soldiers (an estimated 10,000 fallen men from the Union’s Atlanta campaign) would be interred. Less than a mile away is the Marietta Confederate Cemetery, which, established in 1863, inters more than 3,000 Confederate soldiers.

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American flags are seen on front headstones at Marietta National Cemetery ahead Memorial Day, Saturday, May 26, 2018. Photo: BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

American flags are seen on front headstones at Marietta National Cemetery ahead Memorial Day, Saturday, May 26, 2018. Photo: BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

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American flags are seen on front headstones at Marietta National Cemetery ahead Memorial Day, Saturday, May 26, 2018. Photo: BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

The Marietta National Cemetery is the final resting place for many American veterans, including a few Medal of Honor recipients. And the Cole family burial plot can be viewed in the cemetery as well.

In addition to several decorative monuments and picturesque views of Kennesaw Mountain, the cemetery also features a dramatic 35-foot-high archway entrance — one of only five such archways in national cemeteries in the South.

Of course, the cemetery isn't without its own disturbing legends with stories of wandering, ghostly soldiers. The Ghosts of Marietta tour company (ghostsofmarietta.com) offers trolley tours, which visit the national cemetery and other famously spooky gravesites in the city.

Open daily from sunrise to sunset. 500 Washington Ave., Marietta. 866-236-8159, cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/marietta.