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A Graveyard Beneath the Sanctuary
By Misty Thomas
Monumental Church on East Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia was once the old Richmond Theatre. But in 1811, one of the worst urban disasters in the history of the United States happened here—or at least one of the worst to happen in the middle of a stage play. On December 26, 1811, a fire broke out in the theatre and ended up killing a total of 76 people, 72 of those on the spot! The church was actually built over the massive grave site of those that were burned in the fire. Architect Robert Mills built and designed the church as a monument for their lost lives. This church now serves as a historical landmark, a church, and a crypt that many say is incredibly haunted.
The victims who lost their lives in the fire of 1811 are still buried in the church today. Their remains are now enclosed in beautiful mahogany boxes that were walled into the crypt of the church basement. You would think with so many remains of victims of the fire, there would be legends and ghost stories. And there are!
There have been quite a few ghost stories associated with the Richmond Theatre fire of 1811. Many church workers and paranormal experts have confessed to having eerie experiences at Monumental Church. There have been voices heard coming from the balcony of the church and unexplained noises as well. Many of the doors slam shut without anyone being around them and some of the doors will open and close freely.
Church workers have told stories of leaving their tools in one spot, only to have the tools disappear and reappear in a completely different place. Some workers have heard heavy footsteps in the church and it is said that some of them were so scared, that they never returned to Monumental Church ever again. Caretakers have mentioned that motion detectors have gone off at random times without a person in sight.
After searching all over the web, I found out that a paranormal team was sent in and featured on GoodReads.com. The team of experts explored Monumental Church and set up audio and video recorders. They came back with some audio of an unidentified woman saying “Come up here.”
Monumental Church is still open for tours and weddings have also been held there. It does have a very creepy feel to it. It is a crypt after all. I’d be surprised by anyone who didn't get chills down their spine just from stepping inside the doors of this hollowed ground.
Learn more about Monumental Church in Quail Bell's documentary, The Persistence of Poe.