For nearly a century, historic Verdugo Hills Cemetery (formerly Hills of Peace) in Los Angeles served as the final resting place for westward pioneers, veterans of the Civil and World Wars, and several hundred Crescenta Valley residents and their families. That is until February 1978, when freakishly heavy rains unearthed dozens of bodies from their graves, sending them plummeting downhill and into people's backyards in a scene that might easily have inspired the climax of Poltergeist.
Photos: Sandi Hemmerlein
On her blog Avoiding Regret, writer Sandi Hemmerlein has documented the cemetery – which has been closed to further burials since 1979 and closed to all visitors in 2002 – in a detailed diary of photos and historical info about Verdugo Hills' dark and troubled history.
In addition to the horrific landslide of coffins, the grounds have been a favorite target for vandalism and related crimes since the early '70s; cases of stolen and defaced headstones and even grave-robbing continued until the site was finally fenced off by city police. Today only a select few are allowed permission to enter.
The article also mentions other disturbing events surrounding what has been called “California's worst cemetery,” including the discovery of remains from improperly-cremated bodies found out in the open, and a horrific stench leaking from unsealed crypts.
Now declared a historical landmark, Verdugo Hills is maintained by volunteers, but out of the 2000 bodies still buried there, less than two hundred headstones remain. A new marble monument was added to acknowledge those whose graves are still unmarked.