My various adventures of a "Going Outside and Doing Things" nature, mostly in the great outdoors of Colorado. Hiking, playing with the dogs, rock hunting, abandoned houses, gardening... and probably more!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 10, 2012 - Golden Hill Cemetery

On June 10th, we went to Golden Hill cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Lakewood. I don’t know anyone buried there, but I’ve always found cemeteries (especially older ones) to be both beautiful and interesting. (As always, click the images if you want to see them bigger.)

Golden Hill’s first burial was in 1908, and in 1995 the “hill section” was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s #94001230. The “hill section” is the part we were most interested in; it’s the part toward the northwest, and was reserved for tuberculosis victims, suicides, and indigent burials. Other parts of the cemetery are still active, but with one exception, the hill section is full of older plots.

Alex holding the "Historic Denver" sign.

Looking from the northwestern area, near the gate.

From slightly farther south.
You can see the lower part of the cemetery, across a road.
That's the section that's still active.

 (You can see in a lot of the images that there have been stones left on the graves. As I understand it, this is a traditional way to show that one has come to visit and pay respects to someone. This link has some more on that.)

There were a lot of tuberculosis deaths in Colorado, though many of the people who died were not from here initially. Back in the 1910s even up through the 40s and 50s, it was thought that the dry air of Colorado would help cure or relieve tuberculosis, so people were sent here from all over the country. Many of the burials in the hill section were courtesy of the Jewish Consumptives Relief Society, or JCRS.

If you’d like to know more about the cemetery, this blog entry has some really great information.

Just to make it clear, this is in no way a comprehensive list of those buried here; these are just a few of many, many headstones and other markers.

Starting near the gate, there are several rather elaborate stones. One in particular was especially visible from the road.

Not many have fences outlining the plot. And you can't really tell
but the headstone is probably 6 or 7 feet tall.

Unfortunately, the angle of the sun was pretty bad, so the pictures aren't particularly
good. Her name was Anna Lebow. There's an inscription on the lower part, which reads
"Here rests the body of my Dearest and most Beloved wife of which her
Spirit and Sweet Memories will always be with me. - John"

Closeup of her portrait.

There were a few others we saw that included portraits. I’ve always thought those were especially beautiful.

I managed to cut off the lower plaque, but it actually mentions the JCRS.

According to one of the links I posted above, this was a memorial
probably added later, maybe by family. There's a partial translation at the link
I posted for more information on the cemetery.

Sadly, some stones obviously once had portraits, which have since been broken or stolen.

There’s a lot of variation when it comes to the style and quality of the headstones. I have to say that’s one thing that I like about older cemeteries; many newer ones have rules about all headstones having to be essentially identical.

This is the only stone I've seen made of this particular material.
It seemed to be granite, but was a very dark red, rather than the usual pink.

Another unique marker. Iron, painted a copper color.

The only recent headstone we saw. Burial in 1996.

As you go south from the gate, many of the graves become obviously poorer. There are many pauper’s graves, marked only by small metal markers that have long since lost whatever information they once had. A couple still had bits of glass in the metal frames, and one even had remains of paper, which maybe once had the information on the person buried there. It’s obviously completely unreadable now.

Farther south, there were also more obviously hand-carved stones. I’m used to seeing that in the historic cemeteries I’ve visited in Colorado and New Mexico. Many of these looked like they were carved by the same person.

This one was almost right up against the fence, making it hard to read.
It does say they were born in Russia, which is apparently where many
of those interred here were from.

And unfortunately, that portion of the cemetery is also less well maintained. The whole site has been cleaned up, but there are more fallen stones the farther south you go. I’m not sure if they’ve fallen naturally, or through vandalism. Vandalism in a cemetery seems very, very sad to me.

Now this bit is entirely subjective, but this is one of the few (honestly, the only that I can recall) cemeteries that’s given me a “feeling” or a “vibe” or whatever you’d like to call it. I have gotten feelings like that in other places, but generally cemeteries just feel “quiet” to me, which I figure is more just the nature of what they are rather than anything else. This particular one didn’t feel malevolent in any way, or threatening, or frightening. But it felt immensely sad the farther south we got.

Alex actually mentioned it first, saying he was getting a weird feeling. And at almost the same instant, we both said “it feels sad.” We agreed that we hadn’t felt much of anything out of the ordinary when we were up by the gate, but the farther south we got, the sadder it felt. I thought about it just being that it was an obviously poorer section, but that’s not uncommon in older cemeteries like this, and neither of us have reacted that way before to a cemetery.

And the feeling had a peculiarly external feel to it. I said before that vandalism seems sad… but that kind of sadness is internal. It makes me sad as a person to see someone has vandalized a grave, as it makes me sad to see older cemeteries that are entirely neglected or forgotten. But that’s a projection of my own feelings. Here it was a feeling that just happened, and didn't feel like it originated in me.

I knew this was largely a site for those who died of tuberculosis, and I speculated while we were there that if any place had some kind of residual sorrow, it’d be one that held so many people who died too young of epidemic disease. It wasn’t until looking up a little more information after getting home that I found out that it was also used for suicides. That could very well have added to a sense of despair.

I consider myself an open-minded skeptic when it comes to spiritual and paranormal matters. But having the both of us get the same feeling at the same time and place is one heck of a coincidence. I certainly don’t consider this “proof” of anything, but it was definitely strange.

The cemetery itself is very beautiful, and worth a visit if you enjoy places like this.


  1. I love cemeteries, especially old ones. Or ones with older sections like that. In Corpus, there was an old Jewish cemetery on one side of town that I saw once out of the bus window, but I never got to go back to it to take pictures or anything. There's a cemetery here that we went to once to take pictures, but I want to go back. We just haven't yet.

    That's an interesting feeling about the one section of the cemetery. I wouldn't doubt that you feel an underlying sense of sadness there. It's what people say when they visit Aushwitz -- even people who are more skeptical than you. They -feel- something there. So I have no doubt that you and Alex picked something up where you were at, particularly with the history you gave of the place.

    1. I love old ones, too. This is one that I've passed regularly since I was a kid (in elementary school, it was the one where I learned about the urban legend/kid game/superstition of holding your breath as you pass a cemetery.) I'd never stopped there, though it looked interesting, so we went once we finally had time.

      The sad feeling I got off the place was rather strange. I'm not a stranger to picking up feelings off of places, though if I'm alone I don't always know whether it's something I should put any stock in. But getting the same vibe off the same area of the same place? That's a little odd to me.

      I still wonder why it was -this- place that gave me a feeling like that... I've been to cemeteries many times, and never got a feeling quite like this. Even in other ones that had many tragic causes of death. Alex and I, however, have gotten the same feelings off of a few other places we've gone. We both got really freaked out by a mine we saw while we were in the mountains, and both just -needed- to leave right away.