Asbury Cemetery in Calloway County, Kentucky is one of the most prominent “haunted” graveyards in the region. Ask any long-time resident of Murray or Calloway County and they will have a story about the cemetery, either personal experiences or one they heard.
Regardless if you believe in ghosts or haunts, Asbury Cemetery is worth a visit due to its unique location, interesting history, and yes, overt creepiness.
The cemetery is located on Asbury Cemetery Road in northwestern Calloway County, about 12 miles from Murray. I could not find how the cemetery got its name – there appears to be no one with the surname Asbury buried there. It could be named after Francis Asbury, a prominent Methodist Episcopal Church bishop who passed away in 1816. But that is just speculation.
Around 400 people are buried here (or perhaps more, considering the number of unmarked graves) with the oldest grave I found belonging to a toddler named Gideon Brown Radford. He passed away in 1824, not quite two years old.
Finding a tombstone in Calloway County from the early 1800s is fairly rare. The county didn’t exist until about that time, so this cemetery features some of the very first settlers of Calloway County. Numerous people buried here were born in the 1700s. One we found was born before the United States existed as a free and sovereign nation.
That grave belongs to a Revolutionary War veteran – Kimbrough T. Ogilvie. Born in 1763, he fought in the NC Revolution Militia, which was part of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, according to online records at Find A Grave. Ogilvie and his family moved to Calloway County around 1830. He passed away in 1842 at the age of 79. His grave, which is marked by a newer stone, can be easily found in Asbury Cemetery.
We also found the grave of Burd Ezell, born in 1770 and passing in 1861. He fought in the War of 1812. There are many other veterans of other wars in Asbury Cemetery. One could assume every American conflict from the Revolutionary War through World War II was fought by someone who is buried here.
The Odd Tombstones
Asbury Cemetery is vast and spread out. Among the towering oaks and evergreens, we found many odd and unusual stones and random objects marking the graves. The usual markers and the bizarre, twisting cedars create a creepy overtone.
We found a row of what appeared to be gears set on top of foundation blocks marking graves. Random large rocks marked graves of those who couldn’t afford a marker with inscription. Some tombstones were hand-written with the details of the dead. One was marked with a metal Confederate flag and cross. Two large concrete tombs were above ground, side-by-side.
Perhaps most unusual were random metal pipes sticking out of the ground. I’ll give you a minute to figure out why they are there. Go ahead, think about it. Wait for it… wait… yes! Are you totally freaked out now? The pipes were there so if people were buried alive, they could get air and perhaps their screams could be heard.
You’re kidding, right?
According to folklore, outbreaks of diseases took the lives of many back in the day. Fearing some of these victims weren’t actually dead (perhaps in a coma state), they would go ahead and bury them. They would place a metal pipe down to their grave so if they came back to life, they could get air and scream for help. I’ve got photographic proof that these pipes exist, and you can see them for yourself.
Were people buried alive in Asbury Cemetery? Perhaps it is possible, considering the lack of health knowledge and medical technology of the 1800s. The pipes sticking out of the ground and tales of those being buried alive have led to numerous accounts of ghost sightings, strange and unexplained noises, lights, and shadows being seen in Asbury Cemetery.
The Ghost Stories
Being a life-long resident of Calloway County, I have heard my share of tales from Asbury Cemetery. While I personally don’t believe there are spirits patrolling and spooking people there (I’ve got family buried at Asbury), the stories are intriguing. Some come across as “you can’t make this stuff up.”
For whatever reason, perhaps its isolation, Asbury Cemetery was once a place for couples to go parking. I’ve heard stories of such episodes that didn’t quite have the happy ending parkers were hoping for.
One tale involved a couple in the 1960s who were parking at the cemetery at night. As things were heating up in the car, they began to hear scratching sounds outside on the metal fender. They discounted it at first, thinking it was the wind or something. Maybe a curious coon or possum. But then the scratching got louder, and they quickly realized no branches were nearby and the noise couldn’t be from an animal.
About the same time the noise increased in intensity, they felt an impending sense of doom and were scared for their lives. They bolted from Asbury.
Another similar tale involves two couples who were hanging out in their car at the cemetery one night. They knew the graveyard had a reputation of being haunted. Regardless, they went anyway. Dark and cold, they kept the windows up on their car.
Soon after arriving, all four of them heard what sounded like a horse galloping toward the car. The horse stopped next to the car and snorted loudly. After high-tailing it out of there, they stopped about a half mile down the road. A few seconds later, they heard the horse galloping next to them and, once again, heard the loud snort. They never saw anything, and never went back.
Other stories that I have heard and read online echo a sense of dread people sometimes experience at Asbury. People have reported seeing shadows or apparitions of figures wandering amongst the graves. Others say they feel like they are being watched from the woods, even during the daylight, especially in the back of the cemetery.
Sudden temperature changes and cold spots have been reported. The temperature changes could be attributed to the vast canopy of trees in the cemetery which naturally gives it a cooler feel. I experienced this myself and to me, it is natural. Others insist it’s paranormal.
Getting To Asbury
Searching and exploring graveyards at dark isn’t a good idea. I want to make sure that I’m putting that disclaimer out there. I have never been to Asbury at night, only a few times during the day. My personal experience is this place is not unusual in the paranormal sense (again, I don’t take much stock in the ghost stories). However, Asbury is awesome considering the history and unique features.
The GPS coordinates of the entrance is located at 36.681323, -88.448307. From Murray, take KY 80 west to Cook Store Trail. Turn right and go about two miles to Asbury Cemetery Road. Go a couple hundred yards and you’ll see the entrance on the left. Park at the gate and walk right. You’ll need to walk a bit to reach the first part of the cemetery.
I abhor vandalism, especially to cemeteries. Don’t go if you have ill-advised plans. Do go if you want to discover the history and unique stones and markers of the cemetery. Leave no trace (don’t touch or take anything, don’t leave trash).
I can’t help but notice Asbury Cemetery is located on the banks of West Fork Clarks River. Just 1.5 miles down the river lies the little-known Backusburg Mounds. This was the site of a Native American settlement or camp from around 1,000 to 1,200 A.D.
Reportedly farmers over the decades have found skulls and bones in the fields near the Backusburg Mounds. If there is any credence to the ghost stories of Asbury Cemetery, could these spirits be connected to tribes who roamed this area hundreds of years ago? I’ll leave you with that to chew on!