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Halloween Haunts: Evans City Cemetery by Katherine Kerestman


Halloween Haunts: Evans City Cemetery

by Katherine Kerestman


For this cat, The Night of the Living Dead is an essential component of the Halloween season, having its place of honor alongside the stories of Poe, Lovecraft, and Stoker; thus, it was a matter of destiny that on a chill and overcast October day I made my way to the Evans City Cemetery, which is every bit as atmospheric in real life as it is in the movie. The Evans City Cemetery is a macabre destination covered in my first book, Creepy Cat’s Macabre Travels: Prowling around Haunted Towers, Crumbling Cathedral, and Ghoulish Graveyards (WordCrafts Press, 2020).  For photos of these travels, as well as my research into my upcoming second macabre travel book, please see www.creepycatlair.com. Creepy Cat loves to poke into the mouseholes of the Macabre.


A Halloween excerpt from Creepy Cat’s Macabre Travels: Prowling around Haunted Towers, Crumbling Castles, and Ghoulish Graveyards (WordCrafts Press, 2020):


“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” We listened to the refrain of Night of the Living Dead , playing the DVD on the drive to Evans City, Pennsylvania just to hear the soundtrack. Night of the Living Dead is one of those movies for which I could finish most of the lines spoken by the characters. I drove with my friend. He owns a radio just like the one in the movie, over which the people barricaded in the farmhouse heard the breaking news reports of zombie movements and government-issued directives. It is really cool that all the towns mentioned in the movie’s news broadcasts are near where we live.

Romero’s masterpiece redefined zombie cinema: the screenplay, which he co-authored with John Russo, is not only about people versus zombies, as had been customary, but people versus zombies and other people. Despite the fact that little background is provided for the characters, their personalities are clearly expressed by their words and actions. As the zombies close in, the people in the farmhouse exhibit terror, cowardice, bravery, grief, and heroism – a microcosm of the human experience. The resourceful hero Ben comes up with several sound plans, one after the other failing for reasons beyond his control. Each time the viewer’s hopes are raised they are dashed, and the zombie onslaught intensifies. People not only fail to cooperate, not only fail to come to each other’s aid, but even set each other up for annihilation.

To reach Evans City, we drove along Route PA-19, about two hours through sparsely populated farmland where small clusters of two or three buildings occasionally break up the flat fields landscape: every twenty or thirty minutes we would come to a restaurant or an antique store. Antique railroad passenger cars lounge in the grass at the Harlansburg, Station Museum of Transportation in Harlansburg, Pennsylvania on Route 19. A few more miles down the road, we came to a vast tractor graveyard that was featured in the movie Staunton Hill; here we rummaged through the mounds of tractor parts that reminded me of catacombs – tractor bones here are heaped up into piles like the caches of femurs and skulls in cathedrals.

At last we reached the Evans City Cemetery, where the opening scene of Night of the Living Dead was filmed. We stopped the car before entering the drive into the cemetery, pausing before the ground which is sacred to Night of the Living Dead fans. That driveway is the road Barbara’s car rolls down as the zombie attacks her in her car (she does not have the keys to start the engine – they are in her dead brother’s pocket).

We drove into the cemetery. It was a cold, blustery October day near Halloween. We sought the grave which belongs to Johnnie and Barbara’s father, where they came to lay flowers on that fateful day. All of the cemetery is zombie-like. Headstones are helter-skelter in some places, and earth mounded up as if zombies are emerging from their graves and knocking the headstones over.

We walked around the chapel, so familiar to Night of the Living Dead fans, which in 2011 was supposed to be torn down because it had fallen into disrepair. Gary Streiner, brother of Russ Streiner who played Johnnie, enlisted Night of the Living Dead fans to raise the money needed to restore the chapel and save it from destruction. And then we played the parts of Johnnie and Barbara. We recited the mantras: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” “You have to shoot them in the head,” and “Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up,” walking around the headstones, our arms stretched out before us, playing zombies, a couple of big children.

When we left, instead of putting the car in drive, we let it roll down the hill like Barbara did when she was fleeing the zombie who had killed her brother Johnnie. On the way home we stopped at a lonely cemetery, the only thing we could see in a sea of grass cloven by PA-19, and we walked around there for a while. We pretended that a lot of the people buried there had died in the same year, and we started making up stories about what had happened to them as the car took us home.


Katherine Kerestman is the author of Lethal (PsychoToxin Press, 2023) and Creepy Cat’s Macabre Travels: Prowling around Haunted Towers, Crumbling Castles, and Ghoulish Graveyards (WordCrafts Press, 2020), as well as the co-editor (with S. T. Joshi) of The Weird Cat, an anthology of weird cat stories by writers living and dead (forthcoming from WordCrafts Press). Her Lovecraftian and gothic works have been featured in Black Wings VIIPenumbraJourn-ESpectral Realms, IllumenRetro-Fan and The Little Book of Cursed Dolls (Media Macabre, 2023). Katherine is wild about Dark Shadows and Twin Peaks and has been seen cavorting in the graveyards of Salem on Halloween. You can keep up with her at www.creepycatlair.com.

One comment on “Halloween Haunts: Evans City Cemetery by Katherine Kerestman

  1. I do believe that ‘Night of the Living Dead (Basically any of George Romero’s works,) Poe, Stoker, and Lovecraft readings for Halloween are essential!

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