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City Pulse: Dead Victorians rise at annual VPI Cemetery Tours

By Bianca Montes
Oct. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.

Matt Albrecht portrays Major George Washington Lafayette Fly during the 2013 Cemetery Tour presented by Victoria Preservation Inc. The tours are Friday and Saturday night.

The city I grew up in was haunted. No lies.

The Bloody Mary apparition appeared in the bathroom of my elementary school, deranged characters such as Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and the masked killer from the "Scream" series have all roamed the streets, and then there's the haunted Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery.

Beyond housing the remains of Civil War veterans such as John Richardson and doubling as the fictional Barlow Creek Cemetery from Alfred Hitchcock's 1976 thriller "Family Plot," it's obvious why Hollywood loved using this location to scare its audience. Raised high above the street, the cemetery sits on rolling hills, is decorated by trees made for horror films and is closed in by an Adam's Family-esque metal gate and rock-lined walls.

Spooky.

Needless to say, I never went there and sadly missed out on a whole lot of my town's history. Luckily, that does not have to be a case in my new stomping grounds.

Victoria Preservation Inc. is resurrecting 12 bodies this weekend in celebration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The 10th annual tour of the Evergreen Cemetery on Vine Street will highlight some familiar and some not-so-familiar faces, such as Confederate veteran George Overton Stoner and Mary Randall Heaton, whose home still stands on South Bridge Street.



Pre-Civil War Victoria was lined with dirt roads, horses roamed freely and every building was constructed of wood.

Victoria was a mecca of history around the Civil War.

"It's really an era that doesn't receive enough attention," said Jeff Wright, executive director of Victoria Preservation, Inc.

This is the first year Wright's been in charge of putting the cemetery tour together and said he's had quite an interesting time uncovering the city's past.

Wright, who received a bachelor's degree in history from McMurry University in Abilene and then went on to get a master's in library and information science, said he's always had an appreciation for research, and thanks to city archives, including those of the Victoria Advocate that date back to 1846, investigating the characters for this year's tour wasn't an impossible task.

The Advocate put a lot more dirt in people's obituaries back then, he said, so it really helped further develop some of the stories.



Wright found himself identifying with different aspects from each character's story and said each person became a part of him.

As in the past, tickets for the VPI Cemetery Tour are sold in advance only. With five locations selling tickets in Victoria, there's no excuse for you not to buy tickets to the tour. Bring a coat because it might be cold standing in the Evergreen Cemetery.

I don't know about you, but there is no way I'm missing out on a history lesson from a bunch of dead people, so while you read this article, I'll be skipping to the box office to purchase a spot on Saturday's tour.

See you at the gravestone.

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