The Grand Cemetery in Port Au Prince, Haiti suffered like the rest of the city when the devastating earthquake hit in January of 2010. Tombs collapsed upon themselves; the pathways through the raised mausoleums were covered with rubble. Coffins were exposed and bones were jostled from within their formally secure confines.
After the tragedy, when so many Haitians were left homeless (and many remain so today), a large number of survivors turned to the Grand Cemetery for shelter. The mausoleums that were intact were converted to unofficial dwellings for the living…after all, the stone and concrete structures provided a more solid level of protection from the elements than did the tent cities that sprang up around the city. Long term (deceased) residents of the tombs were often evicted to make way for the living.
But while the structures may have been more sound than others offered in different parts of the city, the cemetery wasn’t exactly a refuge from the tragedy outside the gates. Hundreds, if not thousands of bodies were brought for burial, although a scant few of the victims’ families could actually afford the burial fees. Without the funds to provide the burial service, many bodies ended up being abandoned at the gates and along the walkways, left to slowly deteriorate in the hot tropical sun.
The once prestigious cemetery was now a place of horror. It’s no wonder that two years after the tragedy, locals still whisper about apparitions of decomposing corpses scattered among the tombs and grave markers. A nearby place of worship for practitioners of Voodoo doesn’t help to calm the rumors of other-worldly activity.
Whether or not the cemetery actually holds the earth bound spirits of its interred or un-interred residents, it remains a horrifying and scary place on its own and will probably remain so until Haiti is able to get back on its feet. To help, please visit the Red Cross website at www.redcross.org or any one of the many sites organized to help the victims of Haiti’s earthquake, who are still suffering two years later.