“Who are we searching for?” Zech asked as I drove up the gravel road to the Evans City Cemetery. The cemetery had been on my list of “Places to Visit” for a some time and while we were exploring the area, I knew I had to visit it. There are no ghosts that haunt it – well, none that I am aware of. There are no famous people buried there – at least I couldn’t find any. Yet this cemetery had one of the most famous graves in history, especially in cinematic history.
“Nicholas Kramer,” I replied. Glancing over, I could see he was searching the name.
“I give up,” Zech finally looked up. “Who is he and what did he do?” Kramer was born in Germany on February 18, 1842. He was a Civil War veteran having served with as a Private in Company K, of the 134th Pennsylvania and was the constable for Evans City for the last twenty years of his life, having died on March 17, 1917.
“It wasn’t his life that brought him recognition, but his stone is probably one of the best-known grave stones in horror movie history.
“Never watched it,” Zech admitted. Evans City Cemetery is the filming location for the original Night of the Living Dead (1968). It was here that George Romero filmed the father of all zombie movies and created the horror genre as it is known to this very day for a mere $114,000. Interestingly, Romero’s movie never refers to the living dead as zombies but are referred to as ghouls throughout the movie. It was Kramer’s tombstone that Barbara hid behind in Night of the Living Dead.” It was here that one of the most famous lines in all movies was ever uttered: “They’re coming to get you Barbara.”
As we entered the cemetery, the old chapel was immediately on the left. It is seen in the back ground of the opening scenes as Johnny drives past it. As we passed, there was a gentleman checking a riding mower outside the old building. The chapel appeared in be in poor condition and we decided to pass it by and concentrate on the graves we sought.
Turning left at the chapel, I had driven a short distance when Zech announced he could see Kramer’s tombstone. I parked in the shadow of one of the few trees that still stand along the roadway. The massive pines in the movie are long gone – not even the stumps remain. These trees fell when the cemetery was hit by a tornado in 1985 and were never replaced.
Zech and I were getting out of the vehicle when the caretaker rode over to why we were getting out of the vehicle. He stopped to talk to us and without asking why we were here, he told us all the graves shown in the movie were within thirty yards of Kramer’s headstone and if we needed anything, he’d be somewhere on the grounds. We thanked him and as he rode off, Zech and I walked over to Kramer’s headstone.
It was this tombstone that Barbara sought refuge behind as the ghoul wrestled with her brother, Johnny. Watching the movie, I thought that the stone would have been slightly taller. It is less than six feet tall and the information about Nicholas Kramer is roughly four feet tall, yet due to the angle it is filmed, it appears much taller than it really is.
The next stone we visited was a couple steps away and is the grave of George and Grace Cole. Though the front of this stone is never seen in the movie, enough clues exist to reveal that this is the grave Barbara and Johnny were visiting in the movie – this is the grave of their dearly departed father.
Decorating their grave is a flowery cross that is similar to the one Johnny placed on their grave. It is here that Johnny and Barbara have their spat that ends with Johnny uttering the line, “They’re coming to get you Barbara.”
Next to the headstone for George and Grace Cole is the Blair family stone. The memorial is void of any names, except for the last name of Blair which is marked on both sides of the stone. Next to it, on the smaller stone, is Frances Blair who lived to be ninety-five years old. Grace Cole was the sister of Francis Blair.
The Blair stone is seen when the flower cross is placed on their father’s grave with the “air” clearly visible in the shot. It appears a second time as the memorial Johnny stands behind when he announces to Barbara he sees a ghoul. In the movie, the “B” is noticeable as he stands there.
The final grave we visited that day was the grave of Clyde Myers. His tombstone is the stone that Johnny falls on while wrestling with the ghoul. Johnny hits his head on the stone, killing him instantly. Only a very brief glimpse of the stone appears in the movie and only after stopping and studying it a couple dozen times was I able to make out the last name: Myers. His grave is directly in front of the grave of Nicholas Kramer.
I was amazed that all of the graves and the old chapel were so close together. The way the movie was filmed makes it appear the locations are spread out over a large piece of land – only a very, very small portion of the cemetery was actually used in the filming.
After taking a lot of pictures, we knew it was time to continue our journey. We packed up the cameras and headed for the air conditioning of the vehicle to escape the afternoon heat.
“You going to watch it when we get home?” I asked as I drove slowly out of the cemetery. The movie had been a favorite of mine for many, many years. Though it had been colorized – which ruined it in my opinion – and poorly remade. the black and white version is the definite must-see.
“They’re coming to get you…,” I said in the creepiest voice I could muster.
“Just remember, if zombies do exist, I don’t have to run fast…I just need to out run you.”