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Dark Destinations > Locations - E > Evans City Cemetery, Evans City, PA


 
Evans City Cemetery, Evans City, PA Other destinations within a
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Availability: Open to the Public
Filed Under: Cemeteries/Graveyards
Movie Locations > Romero's Zombie Films
Added By: Tom G
Added On: April 26, 2007 - 12:50 AM UTC
Last Modified: March 11, 2012 - 06:19 PM UTC
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Evans City Cemetery, Evans City, PA 16033, USA (Evans City, Pennsylvania)
 
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Evans City Cemetery
This cemetery on Franklin Road in Evans City, Pennsylvania is known to horror movie fans for its use in the opening scene of the horror film Night of the Living Dead (1968). Parts of the the cemetery are still recognizable from the film more than 40 years later despite a natural disaster that destroyed sections of it back in 1985.

The cemetery was created out of need when the four existing burial grounds in Evans City had to be closed to further interments in February, 1890. The water drainage from the existing cemeteries was threatening the health of the townsfolk. The Evans City Cemetery was incorporated nearly a year later on January 7, 1891 by the 49-member Evans City Cemetery Association. A memorial to the unidentified casualties of war was erected on the property in 1894.

Night of the Living Dead
In 1967, Evan's City became the shooting location for a horror film being produced by a group of aspiring filmmakers from Pittsburgh that called themselves Image Ten. The newly formed production company was an amalgamation of The Latent Image and Hardman Associates (two local companies that produced industrial films and commercials for television and radio) with the addition of a few other investors. The filmmakers chose to make a horror movie because they thought it would be easy to sell. The film they created, Night of the Living Dead, is often cited as being the dividing line between the classical age of horror films and modern horror cinema. It also formed a new sub-genre of horror, that of the flesh-eating zombies (despite the creatures in the film being referred to as "ghouls" and there being no mention of voodoo in the dialogue).

While most of the low-budget production was shot at an old farmhouse nearby, a cemetery was needed for the film's beginning. The opening cemetery scene was the last footage to be shot for the film. The scene has a pair of siblings, Barbara (actress Judith O'Dea) and Johnny (producer/actor Russel "Russ" Streiner), visiting the cemetery to place a memorial wreath on their father's grave. Johnny teases his sister over an incident from their childhood that left her still scared of the place, meanwhile unaware that there is an actual monster about to attack them.

Barbara (mistakenly listed in the credits as Barbra) and Johnny haven't heard the news that the dead are re-animating and attacking the living. What they think is just another person visiting the graveyard is actually one of the recently risen dead, with a hunger for human flesh. In moment that evokes the classic Gothic age of horror Johnny mimics the voice of Boris Karloff, teasing his sister that "They're coming to get you, Barbara." Johnny finds himself to be an unlikely and unfortunate prophet as his sister is attacked by the stranger (cameraman/actor S. William "Bill" Hinzman as the cemetery ghoul) only a moment later. Johnny comes to his sister's rescue only to die when his head strikes a gravestone while wrestling with her attacker.

Barbara is left to fend for herself, fleeing to her brother's car only to find it to be useless as both a means to escape (due to her dead brother having the keys) and a defense from attack (as the ghoul smashes in a car window to get at her). She escapes the car and still pursued by the cemetery ghoul, seeks shelter at a nearby farmhouse where the remainder of the story takes place.

The cemetery scene was shot over the course of two days in November of 1967. The actors had to breathe shallowly to keep their breath vapor from being visible in the chilly air due to the scene in the film taking place in spring (Barbara mentions that it is daylight savings time to Johnny). The large number of conifer trees in the cemetery helped mask the time of year it was filmed, though some bare-branched deciduous trees can be seen at times, especially during the car's drive up Franklin Road to the cemetery.

The 1967 Pontiac LeMans driven by the character of Johnny belonged to Russ Streiner's mother Josephine. In between the days of shooting, the car was struck and damaged on the driver's side near the front by another vehicle during Jospehine's commute to work. The filmmakers used the accident to their advantage, making the damage appear to happen when the car rolls downhill and into a tree after Barbara pulls the emergency brake during her escape from the cemetery ghoul. Josephine Streiner also was supportive of the production enough that she allowed them smash in the front passenger window of her LeMans during the ghoul's attack. Bill Hinzman used a rock to smash in the window. The rock flew out of his hand when the window broke, striking both the camera and the director who was inside the car filming the assault. Luckily, neither was damaged badly.

The Tornado Outbreak of 1985
On May 31, 1985 forty-one tornadoes struck the U.S. states of Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. To date, it is the U.S.A.'s third deadliest tornado outbreak, taking the lives of 76 Americans (a dozen Canadians lost their lives in areas where tornadoes touched down in Ontario). Pennsylvania bore the worst of the damage, accounting for 65 of the 88 tornado-related deaths that day. Twenty tornadoes ripped through Pennsylvania, destroying more than a thousand homes and businesses and partially damaging more than a thousand more.

An F3 tornado tore its way through Beaver County and into Butler County (where the cemetery is located) killing 3 people in Beaver and another 6 in Butler. F3 is a category on the Fujita-Pearson scale for measuring severity of tornadoes. On this scale, the tornado's winds would have been blowing between 254 to332 kilometers per hour (158 to 206 miles per hour). During its 39-mile journey the tornado passed over the Evans City Cemetery, uprooting trees and shrubs, and tossing headstones. In all, 361 headstones had to be reset in place. The soldiers memorial was damaged and had to be repaired. One mausoleum was destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Part of the original mausoleum was used to construct a new sign at the entrance to the cemetery.

Evans City Cemetery Chapel
In 2008, Rick Reifenstein Sr. and Gary Streiner held the first annual Living Dead Festival at EDCO Park in Evans City. Gary Streiner (brother of Russ Streiner) was a sound engineer on Night of the Living Dead and also played one of the posse members at the end of the film. He was also one of the original ten investors that formed Image Ten. Rick Reifenstein worked at WRS Motion Picture Lab back in 1967. The lab, in Crafton, Pennsylvania, was used by Image Ten to process and edit the film. These days Reifenstein is a member of the Evans City Historical society. During the course of planning the festival, it came to the attention of Reifenstein and Streiner that the chapel in Evans City Cemetery was in danger of being torn down.

The chapel is the most recognizable landmark in the cemetery for fans of Night of the Living Dead. In the film, the characters of Johnny and Barbara park their car in front of the chapel before getting out to visit their father's grave. It is also clearly seen in the background when the cemetery ghoul assaults the car, trying to get at Barbara within. He grabs a rock from near the chapel to smash the car's window.

The chapel was constructed in the 1920s, but was barely used for its intended purpose. Records show that the chapel was only used for a single memorial service on November 27, 1928. At some point in the 1930s, the pews in the chapel were sold off and the structure became storage for the cemetery caretaker's use. It served in that capacity for decades until a new storage facility was constructed nearby. Without a function, the chapel became an unnecessary liability for the cemetery association and it was decided that the building needed to be demolished.

Gary Streiner took up the cause of preserving and restoring the chapel. The roof is in poor shape and a hole where a stove pipe once protruded is problematic. Also, a lack of gutters for a few decades has caused some damage to the foundation. An estimated $50,000 in repairs are needed to make the building usable again. In an odd coincidence, this is the same amount of money promised by gimmick insurance certificates should audiance members die of a heart attack while viewing Night of the Living Dead. The certificates were offered in lobbies of theaters showing the film.

In October of 2011, the chapel was given a stay of execution when Streiner was granted a year to raise the funds needed to save the chapel. If he can't raise enough money by October of 2012, the chapel will be torn down. Streiner, other cast members, and a legion of zombie film fans have held special showings of Night of the Living Dead, auctioned off memorabilia and created items to sell in an effort to raise the funds needed to save the landmark from destruction. Crumbling parts of the chapel itself have been sold inside little plastic coffins to raise money needed. At the time of this article update, nearly half of the funds needed have been raised with about 6 months left to save the structure.

Visit the Fix the Chapel Web site (see Related Sites below) to make a donation, make a purchase from the foundation's store or follow the progress of their efforts to save the historic building.

Visiting the Cemetery
For fans of Night of the Living Dead, the sightseeing begins before the Evans City Cemetery is even reached. As mentioned earlier, Franklin Road was also used in the opening scene of the movie. Despite changes in the landscape, sections of the road leading to the cemetery can be identified from the footage of Johnny and Barbara's car driving along in the first five shots used in the film.

The bullet hole-ridden road sign that simply read "Cemetery" that Johnny and Barbara drive past shortly after pulling into the graveyard is no longer there. Two shots of the car driving through sections of the cemetery make it falsely appear that the chapel is father from the entrance when it is actually encountered as soon as you enter the cemetery proper.

The first shot of the car in the cemetery was actually taken near the back of the cemetery. A visitor can locate this spot by heading down the dirt road that runs along the front of the chapel and taking the third dirt road on the right and following that with another right on the next dirt road. A tall gravestone with an orb on top will be on the East side of the road and is identifiable from the shot in the movie.

The second shot, which features a small American flag flapping in the foreground, was shot near the gravestone bearing the last name "Stokey." The flag obscures the name on the stone as the car drives past and the camera pans to follow it.

The graves seen after Johnny and Barbara leave their car can all be found across the road from the chapel and down a short ways to the North. A family grave marker bearing the name "Blair" is seen in the film. It is the stone that Barbara stands next to when she tells Johnny to "stop it" after he teases her with the famous line "They're coming to get you, Barbara." Johnny continues teasing his sister "They're coming for you, Barbara" as he clutches the top of the gravestone in a mock-menacing manner. The name Blair is visible from the dirt road, making the marker a good landmark for fans trying to locate the spot.

The Blair family marker sits next to the gravestone used as the fictional grave marker of Johnny and Barbara's deceased father in the movie. The gravestone used for the father is actually a shared gravestone, belonging to George H. Cole (1882 - 1943) and Grace Cole (1872 - 1949). Another larger grave marker bearing the Cole family name can be seen when the cemetery ghoul chases Barbara. The cemetery ghoul (Hinzman) is first seen in the film, approaching from among the graves to the East of this spot.

Nearby to the slight Northeast is the tall coped gravestone of Civil War veteran Nicholas Kramer (February 18, 1842 - March 17, 1917). This is the grave marker Barbara clutches in panic as her brother wrestles with the cemetery ghoul. The gravestone of Clyde Lewis Myers (1903-1966) is the one that Johnny's head strikes when his fight comes to a fatal end.

A gravestone bearing the name Lucas sits across from the chapel. It is next to this marker that Barbara falls to the ground and loses her shoes. The name was mostly obscured by shrubs in the movie. The spot where she fell is now occupied by another grave.

Many of the trees seen during these shots and the trees along the road when Barbara crashes the car were wiped out by the tornado in 1985. If any fans of the 30th Anniversary Edition edit of Night of the Living Dead exist, they will need to visit the Highland Cemetery in Midland, Pennsylvania (where the new cemetery footage was shot in the 1990s) instead. They are not permitted to visit the Evans City Cemetery (just kidding).

Visitors to the cemetery are encouraged to be respectful and to observe any hours of operation. The cemetery's caretaker was interviewed for the 10th episode of the Corpse o' Clock News Web series on YouTube. In the interview he stated that he'd had no trouble with fans visiting the cemetery and that he enjoyed their visits.

If Gary Streiner and his "Ghouls with Tools" are able to save the chapel, fans visiting the cemetery may be in for a further treat. Proposed plans for a restored chapel include a possible Night of the Living Dead museum and the potential for the chapel to be rented for small events such as wedding vow renewal ceremonies.
 
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User Trips
O.T.I.S.(Odd Things I've Seen): Evans City Cemete - From: O.T.I.S. (03/15/09, 05:46 PM UTC)
Article excerpt from O.T.I.S. (Odd Things I've Seen): "Iíve seen Night of The Living Dead enough that making the sharp right turn into the cemetery...More
Rating: 5/1 (0 Comments)
Summer in the Cemetary - From: bloodyfreak (10/01/08, 11:19 PM UTC)
On one of my trips to Pittsburgh, we decided to take a little side trip and visit the famous Cemetary where it all started. Evans City Cemetary, the m...More
Rating: 0/0 (0 Comments)
 
Related Sites
Fix the Chapel
Official Web site for the restoration of the chapel at Evans City Cemetery.
Evans City Cemetery - Then & Now
Comparisons between stills from Night of the Living Dead and modern day photos of Evans City Cemetery. Thanks to "Night of the Living Dead: A Tribute to George Romero's Original Classic".
Virtual Tour of Evans City Cemetery
An on-line virtual 360 tour of the cemetery used in Night of the Living Dead (1968) at Kyra Schon's GhoulNextDoor.com.
 
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See Also on TheCabinet.com
Blog: They're Coming to Get You, Barbra...Tonight! (10/01/08)
Blog: Tornadoes and Zombies in Pennsylvania (05/31/09)
 
Available from Amazon.com
Night of the Living Dead (BFI Film Classics)
The Complete Night of the Living Dead Filmbook
Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth
Creepy Crawls: A Horror Fiend's Travel Guide
Night of the Living Dead (Millennium Edition)
Night Of The Living Dead - Movie Poster (Size: 27'' x 40'')
Night of the Living Dead 40th Anniversary Zombies T-Shirt Large
Night of the Living Dead Bill Heinzman as Cemetery Zombie 12in Deluxe Collectors Edition Figure
Night of the Living Dead Horror Movie T-shirt
 
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Evans City Cemetery
Entrance sign
From: April A. Taylor
 
Evans City Cemetery
The cemetery sign created from a piece of a mausoleum destroyed by a tornado in 1985.
From: bloodyfreak
 
Evans City Cemetery
Entrance to the cemetery
From: bloodyfreak
 
Evans City Cemetery Chapel
You can see the chapel in the movie as Barbara walks away from the car towards her father's grave.
From: bloodyfreak
 
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The above content is for informational purposes only. Before making any travel arrangements, it is highly recommended that you contact those in charge of the property to check for updated availability and hours of operation. While we do our best to keep this information updated, we cannot guarantee that it is completely valid and up to date. Any destination marked "Closed to the Public" is marked that for a reason and we discourage any visits or attempts to gain access to that facility. Similarly, take note of any "Travel Advisory" that may be associated with a destination. Finally, treat any location and its local residents with respect. Any vandalism and/or unruly behavior is completely despicable and only ruins the experience for future visitors.

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trehtor1318 Sep 24 2010, 04:32 PM UTC
Evans City Cemetary is not dark or spooky in anyway, shape or form on the contrary it is very peaceful and beautiful...I acxtually live close to it.
 
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