Asheville’s Most Haunted: Riverside Cemetery

Riverside Cemetery, located near Asheville, is a very peaceful, quiet place–most of the time. It’s the resting place of some of the city’s notable individuals including war heroes, authors, artists, politicians and even presidential bodyguards.

Famous American authors William Sydney Porter and Thomas Wolfe rest in Riverside Cemetery.

Porter, better known as O.Henry, master of the surprise ending, the short story author’s most famous work is The Gift of the Magi. Visitors leave pennies on his grave in recognition of the opening line of the short story: “One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied.” Porter became a heavy drinker in his later years, soon after his high school sweetheart and wife left him. He died on June 5, 1910, of Cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, and an enlarged heart. He is buried by the side of his parents,  Dr. Algernon Sidney Porter and Mary Jane Virginia Swaim Porter (seen below).


(Photo Courtesy: archive.org)

(Photo Courtesy: romanticasheville.com)

Thomas Wolfe died in 1938 of Miliary Tuberculosis, about a month before his 38th birthday. Wolfe is buried beside his parents, W.O and Julia Wolfe, along with many other siblings. There are other notable graves in the cemetery as well, such as Captain James Posey, a one-time bodyguard of Abraham Lincoln, and Japanese photographer, George Masa, a contributor to establishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


(Photo Courtesy: Findagrave.com)

It’s also the resting place of North Carolina governors Locke Craig and Zebulon Vance. Congressmen James Britt, John Brown, George Shuford, Richmond Pearson, Thomas Johnston, and James Gudger Jr. are also buried here. Each grave at Riverside has a story and some are disturbing.

Some of the people buried here were viciously and brutally murdered and small kids who died of illnesses such as the flu or pneumonia.


(Photo Courtesy: romanticasheville.com)

Some died unintentionally. Witnesses have said that the cemetery is haunted by many spirits. The ghostly laughter of two children can be heard on misty mornings, and an apparition of an elderly man walks amongst the gravestones even during the day. The cemetery was created in 1885, and the oldest grave at Riverside is the grave of Charlie Hall, 25, who was buried at Riverside Cemetery on December 12, 1885.

Some gravestones there are so old the engraving is barely visible. Some graves have handmade tombstones — or no gravestones at all. One of the most unsettling tales involves thousands of men who aren’t even buried there. Witnesses have reported hearing gunfire and seeing the presence of Confederate soldiers marching through the cemetery. Probably because Riverside is located along the trail to the 1865 Battle of Asheville, which is located about a mile from Riverside.

During World War I, there was an internment camp for German officers at Hot Springs, North Carolina, north of Asheville. When typhoid fever tore through the camp, 18 of the interred officers died and they are buried here.

Riverside Cemetery is home to over 14,000 graves. In fact, other cemetery companies in the area were scared that they would go out of business due to the low rates provided by Riverside. Some plots could be purchased for less than 5 dollars.

Due to the Great Depression, the cemetery fell into disrepair in the 1940s after the cemetery company ran out of money and many of its then-current stockholders died. Many residents of Asheville began to wonder what the future of Riverside might be. In 1952, the city council made an offer to purchase the cemetery for $10. The cemetery is currently active with approximately 250 burials a year.

Riverside Cemetery is located at 53 Birch St, Asheville, NC. If you have been before, what was your experience and do you think it’s haunted?


By Sarah B


See Also Frankie Silver: Unjustly Hanged or Guilty of Murder, Pheobe Ward: The Mysterious Hag Witch of Northampton County, The Magic of Words: NC’s First Witch Trial

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