Richmond Virginia's Hollywood Cemetery
By Jackie Tomlin
Located in downtown Richmond’s Oregon Hill historical district, North of the Robert E. Lee Bridge, sets one of
Richmond’s biggest tourist attractions, Hollywood Cemetery. Hollywood takes its name from the grove of holly
trees on the grounds and sold its first gravesite in 1849. Among the gravesites you will find two of our countries
Presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler. As well as the President of the Confederate states, Jefferson Davis.
Hollywood is also the home of several of Virginia’s Governor’s, as well as Richmond’s elite. Some of the birth
dates date back to the 1700’s.
Originally beginning as only 14 acres, Hollywood now sprawls over 135 acres, the home of over 60,000 burials
and 18,000 soldiers. Some locals refer to it as the “Little Arlington Cemetery”. Hollywood is an active cemetery
today, with reasonable rates comparable to other cemeteries.
I was looking forward to what my senses might tell me about Hollywood. My team, CVAPI, and I took a tour of
Hollywood on what I would best describe as the perfect fall day. It was overcast, windy, and 62 degrees, the
perfect setting to roam among the holly trees at Hollywood. We have heard so many ghosts’ stories of Hollywood
Cemetery we decided it was time for us to take a closer look.
In September of 2003, Hurricane Isabelle came through Richmond with drenching rains and wind gusts of over
100 mph. Isabelle claimed over 200 trees in Hollywood and the cemetery was actually closed to the public for 3
weeks. Roaming through Hollywood today, you would never know there had been such destruction that occurred
there. The amount of varying trees is huge in size and varying in height. In one low laying area, where at one time
there was the reflection pond, cypress trees cover that area with their great height and width. This is a breath
taking view as the cypress rarely grows in Virginia.
As we head to the Confederate Pyramid, free standing at over 90 feet tall, built with granite from the James River,
and among 18,000 soldiers, I have the feeling that we are not alone. In consulting with my team, we could all
agree that we felt this would be an active part of the cemetery.
Proceeding through the center of the cemetery, I find it hard to put the view into words. The leaves were changing,
a slight wind blowing and a feeling of serenity. As well as the feeling that we were being watched by someone that
we could not see.
The cemetery itself tells its own story with each family plot. There are several infants and children buried in
Hollywood due to the lack of immunizations. There were varying heights of the tombstones, with some of them
seeming endless. The draping over the tall stones signifies the end of life. Swords on the tombstones facing right
side up meant they served in the war. Swords that were placed upside down meant that they had died combat. An
upside down torch represents a life that was extinguished too soon. The sign of the Mason’s marking some of
Richmond’s elite. Another thing that we noticed is that some family pets are buried in the family plot. This is still
allowed today. If you looked close enough you could read each family story.
Hollywood is privately owned and operated and the most unique cemetery I have ever visited. They do not allow
artificial flowers of any type. Therefore the gravesites are covered with varying trees and live plants and live
flowers and truly a beautiful site. One particular gravesite with a huge angel as the headstone caught my attention.
The grave had a live rose bush planted on it. It was in full bloom with white roses, even though it was the middle of
October and we had already been through a frost.
The presidential circle is located on top of a hill overlooking the James River and Belle Island. The crypts of
Hollywood are varying in shapes and sizes. I will have to say I have never seen that many crypts in one cemetery.
After our initial tour and familiarizing ourselves with the cemetery, we then decided it was now time to take a
closer look to see if we could prove anything paranormal there. There are several stories of particular gravesites at
Hollywood that people have reported as being haunted. We decided to take a closer look at these first. This
included a popular gravesite of a cast iron dog, that watches over a small girl’s grave. Our findings proved nothing.
We decided that we would take the time to run several EVP sessions throughout the cemetery. EVP stands for
Electronic Voice Phenomena. These are audio recordings taken with digital recorders and analog recorders.
Where most have found that digital cameras pick up more than a film camera, we have found the same to hold true
with the digital recorders.
Generally during an EVP session were we are either standing or sitting and asking questions, nothing is heard by
the human ear as far as answers. These recordings appear as we upload that information onto our computer
EVP’s generally fall into one of three classes. Class A, means that the recording is clear and audible. Class B,
means that the recording is audible when amplified. Class C, means that when the recording is amplified we can
hear something, however we cannot determine what it says. Noise or knocks of any kind are not considered to be
EVP’s. We always like to keep the original recording in tact if possible.
When listening to EVP’s I highly recommend headphones or ear buds. These can be picked up rather
inexpensively and truly make a difference in listening for the EVP’s. Sometimes they are clear, but are faint in
On this particular day, my team was able to capture five Class A EVP’s throughout Hollywood Cemetery. It was
kind of odd. Even though we felt the presence of being watched in different areas and not being alone, we heard
nothing as the recordings were taken.
The presence that I personally felt I would describe as being protective and watchful. I never felt threatened in any
way. It was a perfect fall day in a lovely cemetery. However in the review of our EVP’s I would describe them as
being eerie. This has put a new way of thinking what may roam Hollywood Cemetery.
At best, I can say this has just intensified our interest in Hollywood and what unknown residents may roam there. I
still have the impressions that the Spirits there are protective. Possibly of each other, their families or Hollywood
itself. Sometime in the near future, and between investigations, my team and myself plan to return there to finish our
exploration of the paranormal.
The photography taken there that day showed no abnormalities. However those photographs were breath taking
and I would describe them as resembling post cards.
To my readers, please be advised that we entered Hollywood Cemetery during operating hours during the day.
There are strict criminal penalties in place by the State of Virginia to those who enter a cemetery after dark. Please
never consider this as an option without written consent from the owner! Also while visiting a cemetery please be
mindful of the age of the tombstones, show respect for the gravesites, and make a donation in maintaining the
upkeep, this will always be greatly appreciated. As a psychic I can tell you that you can capture just as much in a
cemetery as you can at night.
I do recommend when visiting any cemetery that you take a closer look. Learn the history of the tombstones and
you will be able to reveal the family’s stories that are buried there.
© 2009-2019 Jackie Tomlin.. Examiner.com. November 2009