Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Camping in a “ghostly” cemetery

Would you stay the night in a ghostly cemetery, especially around Halloween?

I have and will continue to do so when it meets my needs. Read on…

Camping in a “ghostly” cemetery

Those of you that follow our travels know that my wife and I like to explore abandoned ghost towns and mining camps across the West. Since there typically is not a campground or RV park anywhere close to these places, we most often boondock nearby.

You may also recall an article I wrote earlier this year regarding a spontaneous road trip we took detailing the places we camped. One of our campsites was adjacent to the ghostly cemetery in the 1860’s town of Candelaria, Nevada. As the article mentioned, the interred appreciated the visit and I promised a future article. This is the promised article. I waited until October, as it seemed like an appropriate time for a ghost story with Halloween just around the corner.

Camping in a Ghostly cemetery
Our campsite next to the Candelaria Cemetery. Note the rows of unmarked graves, souls lost to history

Many of you are probably asking, why would anyone choose to camp near an old ghostly cemetery in a ghost town?

Note: When I say “ghostly” I am not referring to spiritual ghosts lingering around their earthly remains*. I’m referring to a shadow of what once was in the form of tangible remains of the lives lived and lost, and their stories.

Following are several valid reasons to camp near a ghostly cemetery:

  • They are located on public land. Inside the perimeter of the cemetery may still be city or county controlled. But the land surrounding the cemetery is often federal land controlled by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or USFS (United States Forest Service). Both allow dispersed camping (aka boondocking). Even if you park on city- or county-controlled land, nobody is likely to disturb you.
  • They are near the place we want to explore. That’s typically the ghost town or mining camp from which the interred came.
  • They are quiet at night, as the interred residents rarely make any noise.
  • Typically, there is a good access road and a semi-level developed parking area to camp for the night.
  • They are signed and relatively easy to find.
Grave stones
Interred Candelaria residents

Two more reasons to visit a ghostly cemetery

Not only does a ghostly cemetery provide a convenient place to stay for the night, but there are two other compelling reasons to visit:

1) A ghostly cemetery helps you appreciate what you have and ponder the past.

As I walked the dusty rows of the well-over 100-year-old graves in the ghostly cemetery of Candelaria, many sadly unmarked, I wondered:

  • How many of the interred, if any, had ever ridden in or had even seen an internal combustion motor vehicle in their lifetime?
  • How many could grasp the concept of an RV if someone tried to explain it to them?
  • Did any of them know the luxury of a hot shower, let alone one that could be taken in a “house on wheels” (aka an RV)?
  • How many stars were on the United States flag when many of these residents were alive and striving to make a living in this remote place? While writing this article, I looked it up. It turns out Nevada was the 36th state admitted to the Union. Ironically it was admitted on October 31, 1864! Spooky!
  • How thankful I am that the mortality rate of infants and children is no longer as high as it was back then.
  • Having visited a week after Easter Sunday, I wondered if Candelaria ever had a church or if it was even visited by an itinerant preacher.

2) The former residents interred in a ghostly cemetery have a story to tell.

Reading the headstones of the interred residents tells the joys, sorrows, and tragedies of living in a remote mining town or camp. Several have stuck with me for years:

  • How Buffalo Bill Cody’s cousin Horace Austin Cody was shot and killed by his bunk mate on March 12, 1909. Seems Horace was cold and decided to start a fire in their cabin at 2 a.m., but his bunk mate thought it was warm enough!
  • Multiple headstones in one Utah cemetery tell the story of a heartbroken mother that lost 5 children during childbirth or shortly thereafter. Many of the children remained nameless when buried; they were just identified as son or daughter.
  • A town leader that lived to a ripe old age of 88 and was loved by all.
  • The young 24-year-old mother and her 2-year-old son who were killed on December 23, 1883. when an avalanche roared down the mountain in an Idaho mining camp. The date resonates with me as my father would be born on that date 43 years later.

    Died too young

Find an old ghostly cemetery to drop your jacks for the night

Next time you find yourself driving through a remote section of a Western state looking for a spot to pull off for the evening and there is no Walmart or casino anywhere close, find an old ghostly cemetery near an old mining town and drop your jacks for the night. After dinner, stroll the rows of graves, learn a thing or two about the residents, and you might find yourself appreciating what you have a bit more. The residents will appreciate the visit and you will likely sleep like the dead.

In closing: Please remember cemeteries are a solemn place and deserve respect. If you choose to camp next to one, please refrain from throwing a party, being boisterous or playing loud music. As the sign hanging on the entry gate to the Candelaria Cemetery reminds us,

“A plea from each of us the Silent Majority.
As you are, so once was I.
As I am, you will soon be.
When those words you see,
remember me, remember me.
Please do not desecrate or violate graves.”

Happy Halloween!

I don’t believe in ghosts, as the Bible clearly says you go to one of two places when you die and neither of those places is hanging around your earthly remains.


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.



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Uncle Swags (@guest_147413)
2 years ago

I recently camped at a state park that had a cemetery adjacent to a number of campsites including mine. The hosts mentioned it when I made the reservation as many people had changed sites once they arrived or just left. It was a pleasant stay and the other sites stayed empty. Guess you could say I slept like a dead man.

Gregg (@guest_146865)
2 years ago

Sounds like a good place for a peaceful nights rest and and educational stroll!

Bonnie Muller (@guest_146544)
2 years ago

I am always interested in old cemeteries and ghost towns. Are there any good websites that list locations for them?

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