Established in 1885, the sprawling 87-acre burial ground is a well-known site of paranormal activity and eerie encounters. While some may be only the stuff of legends and others are likely exaggerated, you will find Asheville natives who will swear on a Bible that their encounters were the gospel truth. Whether you’re a believer in the paranormal or not, when the sun sets and shadows grow long this ghostly burial ground is sure to leave a lasting impression.
One of Riverside’s ghostly tales is that of a mysterious woman, clad entirely in black and with a veil covering her face. She is said to appear on moonlit nights and mournfully wanders among the aged tombstones of the cemetery’s 13,000 graves and its towering trees. They say the lady-in-black is the spirit of a grieving widow, unable to find peace even in death.
Then there is the “Phantom Groundskeeper.” Visitors have reported seeing an old man dressed in outdated clothing, silently tending to the graves and pathways of the cemetery. However, when approached the figure vanishes into thin air, leaving behind only a faint whisper and the scent of freshly cut grass.
Disembodied voices and eerie whispers are also commonly reported at Riverside Cemetery. There are those who claim to have heard their names called out by an unseen presence. While others say they heard children’s laughter echoing through the trees. There are reports that paranormal investigators have captured Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) providing scientific evidence of supernatural activity.
Then there are the many reports of orbs and unexplained lights among the old tombstones. And Asheville’s many believers consider them to be ethereal manifestations of the spirits that inhabit the cemetery. These mysterious lights are often seen floating through the air, hovering near graves, or even darting quickly between the trees.
Riverside isn’t just about haunts. In the light of day, it is a place of beauty and solitude. Over 4000 people visit Riverside yearly. Walking tours are available at the cemetery office. The tour is a journey through Asheville’s history and past the graves of Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry as well as other notables. By night as a curtain of dark blankets its beauty, there are ghost tours for the visitor looking for an altogether different experience.
Personally, I would discount Riverside’s stories of ghost and the supernatural if it were not here—in Asheville. But Asheville is a different kind of place. It is set in some of the oldest mountains in the world–the Appalachians full of quartz and clear crystal rock said to create vortexes between this world and the unknown. When it comes to these mountains, I have learned to never discount, out of hand, its legends and stories of the supernatural. Strange things happen here!