Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Laurel Hill Cemetery

Historic boneyard with oddball and ostentatious monuments, and themed tongue-in-cheek tours. Gift shop with funky souvenirs.
Address:
3822 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia, PA
Directions:
From the South or East: I-76 West exit 340A to Lincoln Drive/Kelly Dr. When merging onto the bridge over the Schuykill River, get in left lane: Ridge Ave.-East/Kelly Dr./East River Dr. At bottom of exit ramp, go straight on Kelly Drive to third light, South Ferry Rd, turn left. Turn right at first light onto Ridge Ave. Continue to Cemetery entrance on right, through arch. Parking across street from entrance.
Hours:
M-F 8 am - 4:30 pm, Sa-Su 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Closed major holidays. (Call to verify)
Phone:
215-228-8200
Admission:
Free.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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Harry Kalas microphone grave. Laurel Hill Cemetery

This historical cemetery conducts business with tongue in cheek. They have themed specialized tours, such as "From Able-Bodied to Disembodied: The Athletes at Rest in Laurel Hill," or "Retracing the Streets of Philadelphia to their Majestic Dead End," and "From Classy Broads to Daring Dames: The Ladies of Laurel Hill. "

They call themselves the "Underground Museum" and they aren't far wrong. There are normal tombstones, and then there are the offbeat, strange, creepy. Millionaire's Row has a distinctive odor, and I don't think it's the smell of money. Along the path, huge mausoleums contain those who *did* take it with them. Some rather famous memorials are within, or famous to those who know their dead.

One tombstone has a woman opening a coffin and a spirit is wafting out -- yikes.

Along the side near the public restroom is their most famous crypt -- Mrs. Rocky Balboa. Okay, she didn't really exist, but don't tell the guy from Japan who just had to visit Adrian's final resting place before flying home. Or the hundreds who visit just for that.

Downstairs crypt.

Local broadcasting hero Harry Kalas was recently interred and his memorial couldn't be more fitting -- a giant microphone with surrounding stadium seats.

Of course there are plenty of historical mucky mucks, but I ignore them and go directly to my favorite creepy puzzling crypt. A greenhouse type glass top can apparently be lifted, but I didn't attempt it -- I peered into the depths and saw steps leading to an actual door below -- sort of a root cellar actually full of roots by now.

All in all, the 70 some acres are well worth a trip, to picnic or ride bicycles or ponder that inevitable day when we all end up like them. Well, those who reserved the limited spaces left there!

Make sure you pick up a free map. And don't forget to check out the gift shop -- I bought a twisted pencil in the shape of a tombstone.

[Diane Plumley, 08/11/2011]

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September 19, 2014

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