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Parker Cemetery

Grapeland, Texas

By Dana Goolsby
Dana Goolsby

A good ghost story, whether read aloud or spun around a campfire, is always a little better at Halloween. In Texas, the ghost stories get better with age, through blending the diverse Texan cultures, tall tales, and timeless stories. Some of the haunted Texas legends are humorous, some are haunting, while others are terrifying.

Grapeland harbors several haunted places, of which only the bravest residents dare to investigate. Tales of ghostly apparitions, strange lights, and noises that send chills down one’s spine linger in the autumn air. In October, the legendary ghost stories begin to rear their heads, leaving residents spooked and leery of certain areas.

Grapeland TX - Parker Cemetery1
"An old church sits amid the 100-year-old tombstones."
Photo courtesy Dana Goolsby, October 2010

Parker Cemetery has long since been the most talked about haunted place in Grapeland. The historical cemetery is nestled beneath the pines and giant cedars, in the bend of a deep sandy road, where only a few rays of sunshine can peer through in the evenings. The sand is so deep that if one were to attempt a getaway the deep sand would certainly make it a slow escape.

Many 100-year-old tombstones are scattered about the property. Some of the tombstones are directly next to trees that have pushed through the gravesites over the years while others are broken and lying where they fell. Others are discolored by green fungus attempting to overtake the headstones, and plenty are eroding due to the sands of time that beat against them each time the east Texas wind blows. Many of the names on the tombstones can no longer clearly be read, and some only read, “Mother,” “Father,” or “Infant Son.”

Grapeland TX - Parker Cemetery Raven on Tombstone
Photo courtesy Dana Goolsby, October 2010

Grapeland TX - Parker Cemetery1 tombstone
"Some of the tombstones are directly next to trees that have pushed through the gravesites over the years while others are broken and lying where they fell."
Photo courtesy Dana Goolsby, October 2010

An old church sits amid the 100-year-old tombstones. The church, which is no longer in use, once held the services for the deceased. Mourners would sing old hymns accompanied by piano music as they bid their loved ones farewell.

Though the story has changed over the years, and adapted to a new generation’s fears, what witnesses encounter in the cemetery is much the same. Over the years, hundreds have fled the cemetery, full of fear, after experiencing unexplainable events

Locals claim to have witnessed strange lights floating about in the cemetery, to have heard piano music coming from the church house, and to have had brief encounters that ended with broken windshields. It is said that a presence can be felt in the cemetery, a presence that does not always welcome curious guests.

Recent cemetery visitors, though skeptic at first, reported strange lights lingering around the cemetery. The graveyard guests said at first they thought someone was nearby, maybe 50 yards, with a flashlight, which ultimately frightened them. They sat still and waited for the light to move again or approach the cemetery.

At a second glance, the curious visitors realized the light was too large to be coming from a flashlight.

“It was much too big to be made by a flashlight, but it appeared to be moving. I didn’t know what it could be,” said one of the graveyard investigators.

The two ghost hunters began to look for something, anything, that could be reflecting light in the distance, causing the appearance of the large light.

“We couldn’t find anything that would be reflecting light,” said one of the ghost hunters.

About the time, the two came to the conclusion there was nothing in the vicinity that could be casting a reflection, and shrugged the light off as a reflection from a nearby house or perhaps some old farm equipment, their hearts stopped as they saw an image pass in front of the light.

“Something or someone walked in front of the light. Something dark,” said the wide-eyed witness, as she told about their experience one night in the cemetery.

Others claim Hattie Parker, a woman supposedly buried in the cemetery, haunts the cemetery. Some say Hattie is prone to lose her patience with visitors, and not only sends out an unwelcoming vibe that can raise goose bumps, but has at times become enraged and made her presence known.

Grapeland TX - Parker Cemetery Old Tombstones
"Many 100-year-old tombstones are scattered about the property."
Photo courtesy Dana Goolsby, October 2010

In the early eighties, a group of teens went to the cemetery to collect some friends per their parent’s request. The teens arrived at the cemetery, but did not find their friends. The group joked around momentarily, poking fun at anyone who was afraid of the cemetery legend or Hattie for that matter.

The group piled back into the vehicle to head home shortly after they realized their friends were not at the cemetery. The driver shifted the truck into gear and began to pull away, when suddenly they heard a loud noise. The sound of cracking glass was loud, but there was no sound of impact on the glass. The back glass had shattered.

The group, nervous and in disbelief, exited the vehicle to search for the culprit that could have broken the glass. They began to scan the area for a prankster, and even looked up into the trees. No one was found in the area, and no evidence of what cracked the glass could be found at the scene.

The group again loaded back up quickly and rushed home to their parents, anxious and scared of what had happened, and afraid of what the driver’s parents would say in regard to the broken glass.

One of the group members was a mechanic, and upon reaching safety began to examine to truck to find an explanation for what had happened. He inspected the motor, looking for an element that could have slipped and perhaps caused a part to eject and crack the windshield. He looked high and low on the vehicle, but found nothing.

Some who have visited the cemetery and wandered into the church report the doors shutting and then locking behind them, leaving them trapped within the old church walls. Witnesses who were trapped in the church said the sounds of piano music could be heard distinctly, as they struggled to open the doors.

Others who have experienced the haunting of Parker Cemetery do not claim that Hattie is the culprit, but rather a woman dressed in white, who was a victim of a brutal murder. Ghost seekers in more recent years claim that a woman who was tortured and murdered is buried in the cemetery, and is the one haunting the grounds.

A former resident returned home in recent years, and went out to the cemetery with a camera. She is said to have photographs, “that will make you wonder,” according to some of her family.

Be it Hattie, or the woman in white who is haunting the cemetery, local residents assert with great fervor that the cemetery is in fact haunted by the spirits of the deceased. Skeptics leave this cemetery believers, and the faint of heart leave trembling, never to return.

The tales of Parker Cemetery live on through new experiences had by the curious, and through its deep history, and aging tombstones.

© Dana Goolsby
Reporter of The Grapeland Messenger
"In The Pines With Dana Goolsby"
October 22, 2010 Column

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