Friday, April 22, 2016

Night of the Living Dead

At the entrance to Evans City Cemetery, Evans City
A recent adventure to the western part of the state took Zech and I to Evans City. With the summer slowly coming to an end and with Zech preparing for college, we decided to take one last grand adventure before he started school. While I had a number of places I wanted to visit and explore and this one was on that list, I had never managed to visit the area around Evans City. When I suggested going to Evans City to visit the cemetery, he was all for visiting the cemetery. The cemetery was added to the list of places to visit on our journey and on one very hot and humid day, we pulled into the cemetery.

There are no ghosts that haunt it – well, none that I am aware of. There are no famous people buried there – at least I couldn't find any. Yet this cemetery had one of the most famous graves in history, especially in cinematic history.

Evans City Cemetery is the filming location for the original Night of the Living Dead (1968). It was here that George Romero filmed the father of all zombie movies and created the horror genre that we know today. Strangely enough, though this is the father of the modern zombie movie, nowhere in the movie are the living dead referred to as zombies - they are called ghouls throughout the movie. It was here that one of the most famous lines in all movies was ever uttered: "They're coming to get you Barbara."

Driving up the dirt road into the cemetery, I instantly had a feeling that I had been here before. Having watched the movie so many times over the years, I knew most of it my heart. In the opening scenes, Johnny and Barbara drive up this road to visit their mother.

The old chapel
We soon were out of the wooded drive and into the cemetery. While the classic movie makes the cemetery appear very old, the Evans City Cemetery is a modern cemetery that has been kept in great condition. The chapel in the movie appears to be near the rear of the cemetery, but it is the first thing seen upon entering the cemetery. Sadly, the old chapel is in poor condition and I did not venture too close in my exploration of the cemetery to visit it.

I parked in the shadow of one of the few trees that still stand along the roadway. The massive pines in the movie are long gone - not even the stumps remain. These trees fell when the cemetery was hit by a tornado in 1985.

Zech and I were getting out of the truck as the caretaker rode past us on his lawnmower. He took one glance at us, saw the camera in hand, and gave a knowing smile and waved. We were not the first to visit the Evans City Cemetery to celebrate the Night of the Living Dead and I knew we would not be the last ones, but we were going to explore the filming location for ourselves.

Grave of Nicholas Kramer
The most famous grave from the movie, and possibly any movie, is the grave of Nicholas Kramer. Nicholas was born February 18, 1842 and died March 17, 1917. A flat marker next to the monument has his name spelled "Cramer" and notes his Civil War service - he was a private in Company K of the 134 Regiment.

It was his gravestone that Barbara sought refuge behind as the ghoul wrestled with her brother, Johnny. Watching the movie, I thought that the stone would have been slightly taller. It is less than six feet tall and the information about Nicholas Kramer is roughly four feet off of the ground. Due to the angle it is filmed, it appears much taller than it really is.

The next stone we visited was a couple steps away and is the grave of George and Grace Cole. Though the front of this stone is never seen in the movie, enough clues exist in the movie to reveal that this is the grace Barbara and Johnny were visiting in the movie - this is the grave of their dearly departed mother.

Grave of George and Grace Cole
Decorating their grave is a flowery cross that is similar to the one placed by Johnny on their grave. It is here that Johnny and Barbara have their spat that ends with Johnny uttering the line, "They're coming to get you Barbara."

Next to the headstone for George and Grace Cole is the Blair family stone. The stone itself is void of any names, except for the last name of Blair that is marked on both sides of the stone. Next to it, on the smaller stone, is Frances Blair who lived to be ninety-five years old. If any other Blairs are buried here, there are no stones or markings to indicate their burial.

The Blair stone is the memorial that Johnny is standing behind when he announces to Barbara that he sees a ghoul. In the movie, the "B" is noticeable as he stands there. The stone is also seen as they are placing the flowers on their mother's grave.

The Blair Stone in the foreground
The Kramer grave can be seen in the background
Of course, Zech and I each had to step up to the stone and use it as our shield to see if any ghouls were around. Looking back the grassy access road between the plots, little has changed since the filming of the movie. Most of the shrubs have survived the storms over the years and the path the ghoul took wandering about the cemetery was easily figured out.

We took turns pretending to be the ghoul lumbering about the cemetery before searching out one more stone. I'm sure the average person would have thought we were crazy, but I imagine we were one among thousands who have done the same thing over the years.

The final grave we visited that day was the grave of Clyde Myers. His tombstone is the stone that Johnny falls on while wrestling with the ghoul. Johnny hits his head on the stone, killing him instantly. Only a very brief glimpse of the stone appears in the movie and only after stopping and studying it a couple dozen times was I able to make out the last name: Myers.

The grave of Clyde Myers is directly in front of the grave of Nicholas Kramer. While Zech and I had a lot of fun being zombies roaming the cemetery, neither of us felt the need to reenact Johnny's death. Though we passed the idea between us, neither was brave enough to lie down on the grassy plot.

The grave of of Clyde Myers
After taking a lot of pictures that day and having a lot of fun roaming about the cemetery pretending to be ghouls, we knew we had to call it a day. We packed up the cameras and headed for the air conditioning of the truck in order to escape the hot, humid day.

"You want to know something?" Zech spoke in a serious tone.

"What's that?"

"I've never actually watched the whole movie."

I merely shook my head at his revelation. The movie had been a favorite of mine for many, many years. Though it had been colorized (kind of ruined it in my opinion) and remade (very poorly), I maintain that the black and white version is one that every horror buff should take the time to watch.

"You going to watch it when we get home?"


"They're coming to get you..." I said in the creepiest voice I could muster.

"Just remember, if zombies do exist, I don't have to run fast...I just need to out run you."

True. Very true.

To find the area used in the film, drive up the dirt road into the cemetery. Turn left onto the first gravel road. You'll only go a very short distance and you'll see the Blair stone along the edge of the roadway on the right. All of the stones are within a very short distance of each other and all of them can easily be seen from the Blair stone.

If you take the time to visit the cemetery, please do so respectfully and use caution - there are a number of smaller stones in the area of the main stones that may cause a trip hazard.

Just watch your back while visiting, because they're coming to get you...

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