It's free, it's educational, it's a good walk -- and it's a little spooky. I'm talking about visiting celebrity-filled cemeteries. I do it. I take my kids. Beats plunking down $200 at Disneyland. Apparently I'm not alone. Americans are digging tombstone tourism more and more, according to our sister site, Gadling.com. Some historical graveyards even feature free maps, trolley tours and concerts. What better time to go celebrity soul-searching than Halloween?
I got to thinking about six-feet-under sites with the release of a new book,L.A.'s Graveside Companion: Where the V.I.P.s R.I.P. I could have written a chapter myself. When I visit Southern California I'm a regular at Marilyn Monroe's crypt at Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Park and Mortuary.
It's a peaceful patch tucked behind bustling Wilshire Boulevard, a few blocks down from my mother's apartment. My children and I sometimes pay our respects on the way to a playground. It was where my daughter Eugenie, then 5, peppered me with questions about death and show business, which in Hollywood can often be one and the same. So many permanent residents there are entertainment giants: Natalie Wood, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Farrah Fawcett, Donna Reed, Dean Martin, Roy Orbison, Carroll O'Connor, Eddie Albert, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, George C. Scott, Burt Lancaster, Eve Arden, Eva Gabor and Truman Capote.
Imagine the zombie blockbuster you could make if they all rose to walk the earth again ...
If you want to be there with Michael Jackson in his forever-land, he's on the other side of town at L.A.'s other Elysian Fields for the Eminent, Forest Lawn.
Back home in Brooklyn, N.Y., I live just a few blocks from another final resting place of the renowned, Green-wood Cemetery. It's a lush hilly place dotted with elaborate mausoleums and the graves of lots of folks who made history: Horace "Go West, Young Man" Greeley; Jean-Michel Basquiat, the artist; Louis Comfort Tiffany, the glass designer from the bling dynasty; political bad boy Boss Tweed; Bill the Butcher (played by Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York) and Samuel Morse, the code guy. I've walked the grounds, but a map and trolley tours are there for the asking, according to Gadling.
You can't beat the value of visiting the famous and deceased. A day of viewing wax representations of prominent figures at Madame Tussauds in New York City will run you $35.50.
There's still time before Halloween to arrange your own dawn with the dead. With the help of Gadling, here are a few other welcoming burial sites with legendary stiffs.
Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Ky.
Don't be chicken to approach Colonel Sanders. Heck, bring a bucket of drumsticks. There's often a red and white box or two at the foot of his bust as a tribute. The sculpture-rich grounds are a popular destination for strollers and joggers, too.
St. Lous #1 Cemetery, New Orleans
Hex marks the spot where the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau reportedly rests. Actually, it's marked by X's scratched into the surface from visitors hoping the magical spirit of the priestess will rub off on them.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
Andrew Carnegie and William Rockefeller take their eternal power naps here. As legend would have it, the Headless Horseman still goes for a gallop on the grounds as well. Take a Halloween Lantern Tour and see for yourself.
Tomb this may concern: Celebrity graves are free Halloween haunts