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Visit graves of the famous and infamous on cemetery tours this Halloween

Even if you don't believe in ghosts, walking through a graveyard can be a little spooky — especially in a Northern autumn as the trees lose their leaves, flowers wither away and light fades in the late afternoon.  But cemeteries can make fascinating destinations. Sometimes a few words on a tombstone can suggest a whole life story; sometimes you can find a famous name, a beautiful work of art, or landscaping worthy of a botanical garden.  "Many people find great peace and solace in visiting cemeteries even if their own relatives are not buried there," said Janet Heywood, trustee for the Association for Gravestone Studies. "Others come to cemeteries to enjoy the history and beauty of the monuments and gravestones and/or to experience the outdoors, the plantings, the landscapes of the garden cemeteries of the nation."  Here is some information about cemeteries in Boston, New York, Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Indianapolis, Cleveland, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Paris. Some host tours about their history or landscape, and some offer themed events around Halloween. Some are just plain haunted.

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BOSTON: The Old Granary Burying Ground was established in 1660, but it is most famous for its connections to the War of Independence over a century later. Here you'll find the graves of Paul Revere; victims of the 1770 Boston Massacre, including Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave believed to the be the first African-American killed in the war; and Declaration of Independence signers John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Located on Tremont Street near the Boston Common and Park Street subway station; cityofboston.gov/FreedomTrail/granary.asp.

NEW YORK: Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery dates to 1838 and was named a National Historic Landmark for its art, architecture, landscaping and history. Its winding paths are lined with trees and ponds, and its stone gates house a colony of green monk parakeets. The more than 560,000 permanent residents include Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The cemetery offers tours on a regular basis but also has Halloween events with tales of murder and mayhem at 1 p.m. on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Located at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street in Brooklyn; R subway train to 25th Street; green-wood.com.

KEY WEST: If you're heading to Key West for Fantasy Fest, which continues through Nov. 1 (Fantasyfest.net), make a detour to the 150-year-old Key West Cemetery. The weird and wonderful last resting place is located on the almost-imperceptible slope of Solares Hill, the island's highest point. Big-haired angels preside over family plots with above-ground tombs resembling miniature Gothic churches, Roman temples or art deco hotels. Conch aristocrats and cigarmaking families, such as the Curries and the Gatos, share real estate with "General" Abe Sawyer, a famous midget, Manuel Cabeza, victim of a Ku Klux Klan lynching in 1921, and Willard Antonio Gomez, bootlegger and friend of Hemingway. It's at Passover Lane and Angela Street, in the heart of the Old Town district.

FORt LAUDERDALE: Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery Central is a popular spot for ghost hunters who believe the spirits routinely make the rounds here. Some believers say they can hear voices saying "Leave me alone" or "Please, come back." The cemetery opened in 1953 and doesn't boast a lot of famous residents. The biggest name here is boxer Rocky Marciano, but ghost hunters report seeing a barefoot hippie dressed in bell-bottoms and tie-dyed shirt. He's often called "Grover," since he is "seen" all over the grounds, says its Web site, Hauntedamericatours.com. The cemetery is at 499 NW 27th Ave.

Indianapolis: Crown Hill Cemetery's notables range from Benjamin Harrison, U.S. president from 1889 to 1893, to bank robber John Dillinger. Others buried here include Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley, who created the Little Orphan Annie character, and Eli Lilly, founder of the pharmaceutical company. But many visitors enjoy the grounds as much as the history. At 555 acres, Crown Hill is the third-largest nongovernmental cemetery in the United States, with 25 miles of roads and an 842-foot hill that affords a 360-degree panoramic view of the Indianapolis skyline. Founded in 1863 on the site of a former tree farm and nursery, the cemetery also offers beautiful fall foliage with 4,000 trees from more than 100 species. Located at 700 W 38th St.; crownhillhf.org.

CLEVELAND: Perhaps the most impressive site at Lake View Cemetery on Cleveland's east side is the James A. Garfield Monument honoring the U.S. president who was assassinated in 1881. The upper balcony of the monument provides a view of the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie. The interior of the cemetery's Wade Chapel was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studio. Lake View opened in 1869, modeled after the so-called garden cemeteries of England and France. On Nov. 1, Lake View offers All Saints Day tours at 3 p.m. and includes information about some of the cemetery's famous residents. Located at 12316 Euclid Ave.; lakeview cemetery.com.

NEW ORLEANS: If you're visiting St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, bring an offering for the famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Visitors often leave cigarettes, Mardi Gras beads, candles and even money on her white Greek Revival tomb. St. Louis Cemetery is one of New Orleans' unique "Cities of the Dead," which boast remarkable architecture, history and traditions, including above-ground tombs to ensure that the graves are not be disturbed by floods. Other notable graveyards here include the spectacular Lake Lawn Cemetery and, in the Garden District, Lafayette Cemetery. Tour information at Tourneworleans.com.

LOS ANGELES: Star power is the ticket to immortality here. At Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery (1218 Glendon Ave.), you can pay your respects to Marilyn Monroe, Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Billy Wilder, Frank Zappa, Rodney Dangerfield and Truman Capote. Those spending eternity at the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills cemetery (6300 Forest Lawn Drive) include Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton, Liberace, Stan Laurel, Gene Autry and David Carradine.

Of course the most recent celebrity burial to grab headlines took place just outside Los Angeles, when Michael Jackson was buried in the Great Mausoleum at the Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale (1712 S Glendale Ave.). You can wander the grounds, but Forest Lawn doesn't disclose grave site locations, so do your homework first on Web sites such as Seeing-stars.com/buried.

PARIS: Phantoms of famed souls, some doomed to early death, fill Pere Lachaise cemetery, in a quiet, shady neighborhood on the eastern edge of Paris: Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein and Edith Piaf — and of course Jim Morrison. Mystery still shrouds the death of the lead singer of the Doors, who was just 27 when he died in Paris in 1971. Some speculate he overdosed in a nightclub, others say he was found dead in his apartment bathtub. Although teenage girls no longer sing and dance while downing bottles of wine by his grave, it still attracts numerous tourists. They have to visit by day, though; overnight surveillance officers have replaced unruly nighttime visitors. Pere Lachaise is in Paris' 20th arrondissement, near the Philippe Auguste Metro stop (line 2), with other entrances accessible from stops Pere Lachaise (lines 2 and 3) and Gambetta (line 3).

Associated Press writers Sue Manning in Los Angeles, Mary Foster in New Orleans and Rachel Kurowski in Paris contributed to this report, which includes information from Times files.

Visit graves of the famous and infamous on cemetery tours this Halloween 10/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009 5:46pm]

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