Maple Hill Cemetery, which is located in Huntsville, Alabama is home to a record 80,000 graves. Each of the graves is lined up in neat rows which span over a massive 100,000-acre space. The deterioration of the oldest graves makes it difficult to give an exact date of when the ground became used for laying the dead to rest. Mary Frances Atwood, who passed away as an infant, however, is the eldest legible stone dating back to September 17, 1820. It is estimated that there are many older plots that cannot be read.
Until 1901, when the site was given the official name, Maple Hill Cemetery, the area was known simply as ‘the burying ground’.
Along with an estimated 187 unnamed confederate soldiers and local families that were knowingly laid to rest, Huntsville was ravaged by the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Although there is no way of knowing exactly how many children died as a result of this plague estimates reach several hundred. All of which were reckoned to have been piled up on carts, transported to the cemetery, and then buried in mass graves within the vicinity.
Many important names are located on the tombstones such as activist and political society hostess Virginia Clay-Cropton and her husband Clement Claireborn-Clay, who was the Confederate State Senator.
Within these extensive grounds is a children’s playground which is used to entertain the children while parents visit the graves of loved ones; officially named Drost Park. With the space lacking for new burials, the council removed the playground to make more room but had to reinstall it in 2007 due to the outrage that was caused by the public. Now rebuilt, the playground is a protected area that will remain for many years to come.
Surrounded by a 30ft wall which was man-made from the rocks extracted from the limestone quarry, and a canopy of trees that prevent sunlight from scorching the ground, wild bushes, flowers, and trees fill the small space. Hidden in this deep hole of darkness is a set of swings for six children, a climbing frame, and a slide.
As children play on the swings and slide by day, in what appears to be a beautiful natural area for infants to play while their parents visit their beloved, Drost Park takes a different atmosphere by night.
As is not uncommon for areas where death has occurred in enormity, tales of hauntings seep through into the community.
The Ghosts of the Dead Children’s Playground
According to many eyewitnesses, between the hours of 10 pm and 3 am, the spirits of the children who lost their lives due to the pandemic are said to use the playground for their own fun. Images and videos have been captured of swings swaying by themselves and light orbs using the slide. Ghost hunters with varying credentials have returned on several occasions to measure the electromagnetic fields. On no occasion have they left disappointed.
What has been named by locals as the Dead Children’s Playground is a meet-up spot for young people and ghost hunters alike. There have been reports of hearing children play and talking to one another, swings moving on their own, and ghostly figures floating by. The sightings have spanned decades and the commonality between these findings is that they are all children.
Although many of the spectators believe that these are the spirits of the children affected by the pandemic in 1918, others discuss the possibility of child ghosts coming from something much darker.
According to another local tale, there were a series of disappearances in the 1960s. All of which were children and not many are said to have been found. With a suspected serial killer in the neighborhood, it did not come as a shock to a friendly walker who happened to stumble across a child’s skull at the park.
Allegedly, several small corpses and skeletons were found beneath Drost Park. Testing is whispered to have shown that the corpses were children who had been through extreme trauma, malnourished, have wounds that were only partially healed, and showing signs of prolonged detainment.
According to local sources, the person responsible for these murders was never found and the children continue to play out their childhood on the apparatus at the Dead Children’s Playground.
In 2008 the Alabama Paranormal Society investigated the park. They were stuck by the amount of activity that they found during the night. Again, likening the noises and movements to the play of children, some footage of this was released.
As images and videos continue to be made of the spirits, no one appears to be afraid of the children who are continuing to live their endless sleep innocently and pure. In fact, families still use the grounds during the day and teenagers still frequent it at night. All aware of the ghostly world that could lie beneath their feet.