“Who are we searching for?” Zech asked as I turned onto the gravel road leading to the Evans City Cemetery. The cemetery had been on my list of “Places to Visit” for some time and while we were exploring the area, I knew I had to make the detour to visit the sacred grounds. Unlike many of the cemeteries the two of us had visited that day, there were no reports of ghosts haunting it – well, none that I knew about. Nor were there any famous people buried there – at least I couldn’t find any. Yet this cemetery has one of the most famous headstones in history, especially in cinematic history.
“Nicholas Kramer,” I replied. Glancing over, I could see Zech was in the process of looking up 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 who served as a Private in Company K, of the 134th Pennsylvania. After the war, he settled in Butler County and was elected the constable of Evans City for the last twenty years of his life. Kramer passed on March 17, 1917 and was buried in the community cemetery on the southern edge of the borough.
“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,” I answered. “The stone is clearly shown at the beginning of Night of the Living Dead.” It was at this location, near Kramer’s grave, that one of the most famous lines in movie history was uttered: “They’re coming to get you Barbra.”
“Believe it or not, I never watched it,” Zech announced.
Evans City Cemetery was the filming location for the original Night of the Living Dead (1968). For a mere $114,000, George Romero filmed the movie that is considered the father of the zombie horror genre. Interestingly, Romero’s movie never refers to the living dead as zombies – the resurrected dead are referred to as ghouls throughout the movie.
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 to be in poor condition and we decided to pass it by and concentrate on the graves that could be spotted in the movie’s opening scene.
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 still standing 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 talk to us for a couple minutes. Before we could tell him why we were visiting the cemetery, he informed 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.
Kramer’s tombstone is located just off the roadway and it was this tombstone Barbra sought refuge behind as the animated corpse wrestled with her brother, Johnny. Watching the movie, I thought Kramer’s stone would have been close to six feet tall. Instead, his stone is roughly four feet tall. Due to the angle it is filmed, Kramer’s memorial appears much taller than it really is.
In addition to the scene where Barbra is hiding behind Kramer’s stone, it can be spotted earlier in the movie. In the scene when the ghoul approaches and grabs Barbra, his memorial is clearly spotted in the immediate background.
The next stone we visited was only a couple steps away from Kramer’s headstone. This is the stone of George and Grace Cole. Although the front of this headstone is never shown in the movie, this is the grave Barbra and Johnny were visiting in the movie – the grave of their father.
Decorating the Cole’s headstone was a flowery cross similar to the one Johnny placed on their grave. It is here that Johnny and Barbra have their spat about visiting their father’s grave which ends with Johnny uttering the line, “They’re coming to get you Barbra.”
Next to the headstone for George and Grace Cole is the Blair family stone. The family stone is void of any names, except for the last name of Blair. Next to the family stone is a smaller stone remembering Frances Blair who lived to be ninety-five years old. Grace Cole was the sister of Francis Blair.
The Blair stone is clearly seen in the movie. The first is when the flower cross is placed on their father’s grave – the “air” clearly visible in the shot. It is spotted again when Johnny announces he sees a ghoul. In that scene, the “B” is noticeable as he stands behind the monument.
The final grave we visited that day was the grave of Clyde Myers. His tombstone was 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 was 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; however, only a very small section of the cemetery was used in the filming. The roadway their car drove on was only a very small section of roadway next to the chapel.
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.
“So are you going to watch it when we get home?” I asked as I drove slowly out of the cemetery.
“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.”