In its barren solitude, there’s a stark beauty to El Paso’s Concordia Cemetery. With more than 60,000 graves that go as far back as the 1850s, it is a throwback to Texas’ frontier history and rich cultural heritage. The final resting place for gunslingers and lawmen, soldiers and the pioneers who carved this state from empty prairie, Concordia Cemetery is truly a historical site that must be seen.
There are some, however, who say that Concordia Cemetery’s grounds hold more than just Texas history. As the final resting place for so many who’ve lost their lives over the years, some in truly terrible circumstances, it’s often said that it holds a population of restless spirits. These figures walk the grounds, sometimes letting their presence be known to the living as they relive their glory days.
Concordia Cemetery is often called one of the most haunted places in El Paso, a city known for its haunted history. Take a walk on these hallowed grounds, and you might understand why.
CONCORDIA CEMETERY HISTORY
Before there was a cemetery, these grounds were once a ranch by the name of Rancho Concordia. Built by Hugh and Juana Stephenson in the 1840s on land given to them by her family as a wedding present, Rancho Concordia was a large, sprawling ranch. Including a chapel, cemetery and eventually a Catholic Church, it was home to the Stephensons for many years.
Unfortunately, in 1856, tragedy struck when Juana was gored by a pet deer and later succumbed to a serious infection from her injury. It was a bitter irony that she was the first person buried in the onsite cemetery.
She would be far from the last.
In 1882, Rancho Concordia was purchased by the city of El Paso with the intention of building a cemetery for the city’s poor. Within a matter of years, though, the newly dubbed Concordia Cemetery had expanded to take on a number of groups of people who’d purchased sections. Concordia Cemetery soon had sections specially dedicated to African Americans, Chinese rail workers, Jewish people, Jesuits, Catholics, Mormons, Freemasons and the military.
One section of particular note is the so-called “infant nursery”, which contains hundreds of unmarked graves for babies who have died over the years. With many of the children buried in this section coming from the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak, it is a particularly full section of the cemetery. One grave in particular is marked with an iron crib frame, a particularly creepy relic.
With the cemetery’s grounds having grown and shrunk over the years, it’s entirely possible businesses and homes on the outskirts may have been constructed on top of unmarked graves.
DISARRAY AND REVIVAL
Due to the diverse nature of the cemetery’s tenants, there was a lack of organization about who should maintain Concordia Cemetery. Because of this, over the years it fell under a great state of disrepair. Many of the homemade wooden and sandstone grave markers had deteriorated, leaving thousands of graves completely unmarked.
By the 1960s, owned by a confused series of private and public interests, Concordia Cemetery was in terrible shape. Seeing this, locals eventually grouped together and decided to fix the problem.
In 1990, the Concordia Heritage Foundation was founded in an effort to restore Concordia Cemetery to a state of dignity. In the ensuing decades, they have done their best to restore the cemetery and its unique history, ensuring that generations to come would be able to visit this El Paso icon.
THE GHOSTS OF CONCORDIA
A cemetery that’s been around for this long, with this diverse a population, is bound to have its fair share of ghost stories, and Concordia is no exception. From old west gunslingers to the children of the “infant nursery” and everything in between, Concordia Cemetery has had a variety of sightings over the years.
Typical tales abound of mysterious figures showing up in pictures and of a ghostly white figure who sometimes appears to walk the grounds at night. Others say that you can hear the sound of trotting horses and soldiers in battle, no doubt belonging to the many Buffalo soldiers buried on the grounds.
The children’s section of the cemetery is said to be particularly haunted, with the sounds of children playing around and giggling not unheard of. Women who’ve had C-sections have claimed to feel pain coming from their scars whilst walking through this area, allowing for a particularly disturbing experience.
There is a location within the cemetery that caretakers have called “the Vortex” for the mysterious pull it tends to have on people. As well, it is apparently not uncommon to find evidence of “brujera” (Mexican witchcraft) having taken place on the grounds, at once a testament to the diverse population of the cemetery and the strange forces at work within it.
John Wesley Hardin
One of the most famous residents of Concordia Cemetery is the old west gunslinger John Wesley Hardin. An outlaw and murderer who claimed to have killed 42 people, he met a violent end in El Paso’s Acme Saloon when he was shot in the back of the head by constable John Selman Sr. Hardin was soon after interred at the Concordia Cemetery.
Due to a combination of tourists and grave robbers, a metal cage had to be constructed around his grave to prevent it being disturbed. Even with this confinement, some have said he can still be seen walking around Concordia Cemetery in none too great a mood.
Dia de los Muertos
Concordia Cemetery has embraced its particular heritage by offering special ghost tours and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tours and celebrations at select times of the year for the spiritually inclined. If you’re in El Paso and looking for a unique and truly historical supernatural sighting opportunity, then Concordia Cemetery is a location you cannot miss.
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