Once a year we allow ourselves to be formally scared, safely afraid of all that normally frightens us throughout the rest of the year. We dress up as ghosts, goblins and witches to be aware of things that scare us the most, but also, more broadly, to be aware of the nonliving and the respect they demand from the grave. Halloween gives us the chance to live out our fears while honoring the ghosts that cause them.
Luckily in Rome, I had the chance to experience both sides of the haunted holiday—the paranormal and the historic. Myrtle Hill Cemetery, the resting place of over 20,000 people told stories of those Romans who built the city themselves, while Jackson Hill, the paranormal, explored the raw fear of contemporary Halloween tradition.
On Myrtle Hill I got to see “where Romans rest”. Sponsored by the Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau, the tour explored the cemetery through graves of distinguished businessmen, Civil War heroines, and other celebrated community leaders. These people are credited with the very foundation of Rome, and the community realizes their importance.
Over the past several years the Roman community has donated bricks for a veterans’ memorial, provided for the renovation of a sexton’s house, and helped update security measures to make sure that the history of their dead is kept well preserved. Apart from being home to ghosts and ghouls, Myrtle Hill Cemetery is a museum of the dead—a display of names who built Rome from the ground up, and who deserve our respect.
Also sponsored by the Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau, the “Haunted Off Broad” tours offered a chance to experience fear firsthand. Tour-goers were told about the ghosts of Jackson Hill, who can and have been seen in the offices and at various places on the hill. There was also Nancy, the daughter of Major Ridge who died in childbirth, whose ghost wanders the woods searching for her baby.
We were reminded of the pain of the Civil War with the story of a couple whose time together was cut short with the death of her beau. And finally, some on the tour had the chance to see the ghosts of Jackson Hill in person. Southern Paranormal Investigators (SPI) was on the hill and selected members from the tour for free ghost-hunt. So just as Myrtle Hill made us respect the dead, Jackson Hill made us fear it.
But fear is not always bad. While fearing the ghosts on Jackson Hill is appropriate (because after all, they are ghosts), it is important to make a distinction between what is fearful and what is scary. The ghosts on Myrtle and Jackson hills, although fearful, are not the least bit scary.
Myrtle Hill Cemetery and Jackson Hill are open every day from sunrise to sunset.
Myrtle Hill Cemetery
20 Myrtle Street SW
Rome, GA 30161
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Jackson Hill & Rome-Floyd Visitor Center
402 Civic Center Drive
Rome, GA 30161