Story of Dead Children’s Playground at Huntsville, Alabama

The Dead Children’s Playground is a small playground located on Maple Hill Cemetery’s adjoining city park. Originally place for children to have fun, the playground earned its macabre name from the numerous reports of paranormal activities that have happened in the play area. It is believed that the ghostly happening were caused by spirits of children who passed away during the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918; many of them were buried in a section of Maple Hill Cemetery near the playground.

Some believe the origins of Dead’s Children Playground traces back to the series of child abductions that gripped the Huntsville community in the 1950s. The land where the playground stands today was once where dozens of child remains were unearthed. An autopsy of the bodies revealed signs of malnourishment and abuse, suggesting that the children were subjected to a prolonged period of cruelty before being murdered. To commemorate the death of their loved ones, the community donated funds to construct a playground at the same spot. That said, there have been no historical records to back this haunting claim.

Visitors of the park have reported seeing orbs darting around and hearing sounds of child laughter in the empty playground. The swing set is also known to swing by itself in the middle of the night. The ghostly activities are said to be the most frequent between 10pm and 3am.

Deads Children Playground maple hill cemetery
Dead’s Children Playground | Image credits: Andrea L Robinson

In spite of the haunting stories of Dead Children’s Playground, it continues to be a popular hangout for teenagers in the park.

In 2007, as the number of available burial plots dwindled, the city of Huntsville attempted to remove sections of the city park as part of the Maple Hill Cemetery expansion project. However, residents of the community were only made known of the expansion plans when the playground equipments and surroundingpicnic tables were removed. The lack of communication and disregard of the community led to a public outcry, bringing the expansion to an abrupt end. As demanded by the community, new playground equipments were set up on the very same spot where the original playground was. However, local ghost investigators believe that it was a move to appease the child spirits that lingers here long after their tragic passing.

History of Maple Hill Cemetery

Located in Huntsville, Alabama, Maple Hill Cemetery was once the land of LeRoy Pope, an American planter and early settler of Madison County. In 1822, two acres of the land was sold to the city of Huntsville to establish the city’s first public cemetery. However, archaeological evidence suggest that the land was a cemetery since 1820, long before its official use by the local authority.

Maple Hill Cemetery is also the burial grounds of 187 unknown Confederate soldiers and a number of Union soldiers who perished during the American Civil war from 1861 to 1865. Many of the graves remain unmarked and can be found in the oldest section of the cemetery.

maple hill cemetery tombs
Maple Hill Cemetery | Image credits: WAAY 31 ABC

Over the late 19th century and early 20th century, the cemetery underwent several round of expansions to accommodate the increasing number of burials in Huntsville. In 1924, the Cemetery Commission purchased 59 acres of land from Mr James B. Stevens for $12,000 (today’s equivalent of $192,000), tripling the cemetery size and giving it its present shape.

In 1987, a private cemetery named Maple Hill Cemetery Inc. opened its grounds alongside the historic public cemetery. The 7.7-acre large private cemetery holds approximately 10,000 interments, approximately one-eighth the number of burials in the public Maple Hill Cemetery.

In 2008 and 2012, Maple Hill Cemetery was added to Alabama Historical Commission’s Historic Cemetery Register and the National Register of Historic Places respectively, making it one of the most important landmarks in the city of Huntsville. Find out more about the cemetery’s visiting guidelines here.

Notable Burials at the Cemetery

Maple Hill Cemetery is home to over 80,000 grave sites, several were notable members of the United States. This include five governors of Alabama ( Thomas Bibb, Clement Comer Clay, Reuben Chapman, Robert M. Patton, and David P. Lewis) and five United States senators (John Williams Walker, Clement Comer Clay, Jeremiah Clemens, Clement Claiborne Clay, and John J. Sparkman).

maple hill cemetery albert russell erskine mausoleum
Masoleum of Albert Russel Erskine | Image credits: L’eau Noire

A number of luminaries were also interred at Maple Hill Cemetery, including Automobile magnate Albert Russel Erskine, former president of Studebaker. In 1918, Erskine purchased 12 acres of land from a nearby residential development and donated it to Maple Hill Cemetery. Faced with an insurmountable debt and having being ousted from Studebaker, Erskine committed suicide on June 30, 1933. Today, the grand mausoleum of the Erksine family (containing the remains of his parents, his wife, and Erksine himself) can be found in the cemetery.

Other notable burials on the site include Konrad Dannenberg, a German-American rocket pioneer; Don Mincher, a Major League Baseball player; and Priscilla Holmes Drake, woman suffragist.

Maple Hill Cemetery Annual Ghost Walks

The annual Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll is not exactly a ghost walk as there are no ghostly apparitions involved. However, it is where history comes to life as over 75 notable characters from Huntsville walk along the paths of the cemetery, retelling the past of Huntsville’s glitz and glamour. The event offers a glimpse into the history of Huntsville while giving visitors a look at some of the latest restoration project in the cemetery. The event is free for all ages, although donations are highly encouraged as they will be used to restore damaged sections of Maple Hill Cemetery.

maple hill cemetery stroll 2019 walk
Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll 2019 | Image credits:

The event, which has been running for over a decade, is one of the largest living history strolls in America. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and city budget cuts, the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll has been cancelled for 2020 and 2021.

If you are looking for a creepy ghost tour in Huntsville, opt for Huntsville Ghost Walk, a ghost tour company run by a team of highly knowledgable locals. Take on one of the three guided tours—Twickenham Ghost Walk, Old Town Ghost Walk, and Haunted Downtown Walk—and learn about the history behind some of Huntsville ‘s most haunted attractions. However, note that none of the tours visits Maple Hill Cemetery where the infamous Dead Children’s Playground is located.

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