Dead Children’s Playground
- Ghosts and Hauntings
- In 2007 the city of Huntsville, Alabama, attempted to remove a playground in order to enlarge the neighbouring Maple Hill Cemetery. A public outcry at the removal of the park was heard and soon new play equipment was installed. Local children could continue to use the parks facilities… but many who know of the legends of the area will tell you that not all of those children are living.
Many locals know the playground, located in Maple Hill Park, as the ‘Dead Children’s Playground’ due to the reportedly high level of ghostly activity that has been experienced there. Children playing, children calling out to each other, mothers calling their children’s names, the playful footfalls of running children… all of these events have been experienced by many people who enter the playground after dark. It is believed that the most active time is between the hours of 10pm and 3am, as the children reclaim the park from the living, so they too can enjoy their play.
It is believed that the vast majority of these children come from the adjacent Maple Hill Cemetery – the largest and oldest in Huntsville, with well over 80,000 burials. The original land (much smaller than the size of the cemetery today) was sold to the city in 1822 by planter LeRoy Pope. Although this is the official date, it is known that the land was used for burials prior to this time, with the oldest intact grave marker being that of infant Mary Frances Atwood, who was buried there in 1820.
Later the cemetery was expanded to encompass the nearby private cemetery of the Pope family. Many of the new burials at this time were of Confederate and Union Soldiers who died during the Civil War. Over the years the cemetery grew and grew with new land purchases in order to keep up with the growing city.
It was not until 1901 that the cemetery was given its official name. Up until that time it was simply referred to as ‘the burying ground’.
The cemetery still needs new land and in 2007 it made the attempt at taking over the local park resulting in the public outcry.
The Dead Children’s Playground, aside from its reputation of a haunting ground for deceased children, also has another macabre tale attached to it, though this one probably falls more into the realm of urban legend.
Between 1945 and 1955 the area the playground now sits was the site of a limestone quarry. The high cliffs that surround the playground are not natural and were all formed as part of the quarrying process. When the quarry was closed and abandoned, plant life began to reclaim the land and wildlife along with it. Soon, within a matter of years, the area will have been a natural bushland, filled with weeds and trees of a more opportunistic nature.
Come the 1960’s a unknown person made use of the old quarries and the thick plant growth for their own dark opportunities.
A series of child disappearances began to be reported in Huntsville, and, with none of the children turning up, it was soon feared a child murderer was prowling the neighbourhoods. These fears were soon given substance when a small skull was found by someone walking through the abandoned quarries. On investigation several skeletons were recovered, along with the small corpses from fresher murders.
It was never determined who the murderer was but it was discovered that the children were not simply taken and killed, they rather they showed signs of a long detainment, with malnourishment and partly healed wounds found on the bodies of the more recent victims.
With the discovery of the bodies the disappearances stopped and the tragedies all but removed from the memories of those who lived in fear for their own children.
Many of the childrens remains, being local, were buried in the adjoining Maple Hills Cemetery. In 1985, twenty years after those terrible events, the quarries and surrounding land were turned into Maple Hill Park and the original play equipment was erected.
Today the equipment is quite modern and the park is well looked after. Even if you did not know of the stories and legends, visiting the park is said to be quite eerie. Although you are not too far removed from the suburbs, the natural rocky bowls, the well grown trees and other natural features leave you feeling like you are in the deep wilderness. It is eerily quiet and once night falls the area takes on a different feel.
Come 10pm you might be lucky enough to witness the vestiges of play, the swings move as if occupied and mothers calling out the names of their lost children.
Ashley Hall 2013
Main Picture: Dead Children’s Playground by Kyle Crider
Inset Left: The swings are said to move of their own accord.
Inset Right: Quarry walls surround the playground. By Kyle Crider.