Calvary Cemetery: 3 Million (and 1) Souls

When I moved to Queens, I knew that I was entering a new realm, where the living are outnumbered by the dead by outrageous proportions. Perhaps one of the most well known cemeteries in this area is Calvary Cemetery. Calvary has the largest number of interments in the entire United States. (Over 3 million currently accounted for.)

Calvary Cemetery New York

The first burial recorded was that of Esther Ennis in 1848, who according to legend, was a 29 year old young woman who simply died of a “broken heart”. An eerie, yet beautiful sentiment that seems to almost set the tone and feel of the energy in Calvary. It’s a bittersweet embracing of loss and love that seems to flow more freely and predominantly here than in any other cemetery I’ve visited. (With over 3 million souls interred, it’s no surprise there is such a high energy level.)

Valvary Cemetery headstones

Similar to the story of the beginning of Mt.Zion’s cemetery history, Calvary shares a similar physical attribute. While the first burial took place officially in 1848, the grounds had a few small graves already present. The grave of Richard Alsop is dated 1718 and is the oldest in the area. (296 years old!!! Ah!!)

New York City

Among the permanent residents are some truly fascinating people:

Joe Howard was a songwriter in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He began performing in vaudeville when he was only 11 years old! (I want that life!) He contributed to several Broadway musical scores, and his most famous work was “Hello Ma’ Baby.” (As you may have heard sung by the adorable cartoon “Michigan J. Frog.”) In the true spirit of a Theatre performer, Howard died on stage while singing “Let me call you sweetheart” in 1961.

Una O’Connor was the actress who played the role of the publican’s wife in 1933’s “The Invisible Man,” and the Baron’s housekeeper in 1935’s “Bride of Frankenstein.”

Nita Naldi was a beautiful silent film star who usually got type-casted into the femme fatale and vamp type roles. (The sex symbol essentially.) He first major role was co-starring as Miss Gina in the original 1920 silent film “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

Joe Spinell was an actor that more of us may be familiar with. He had roles in such famous films as “The Godfather” (part one and two), “Rocky”, and his cult horror classic “Maniac”. Joe Spinell also had a role in Danny Elfman’s (pure chaotic cult masterpiece) “Forbidden Zone.” An interesting fact is that Calvary was actually used in a scene during the filming of “The Godfather,” foreshadowing Joe’s return.

Calvary Cemetery ghost

Now, I have to inform you that one of the main reasons I visited Calvary Cemetery the day I took these photos, was not just to conduct research. I was actually there to visit a dear friend, who recently passed away.

Anthony “AJ” Perrelli was an actor/singer/dancer/puppeteer/clown/performer/all-around-amazing-human-being originally from Astoria, NY. I met AJ when he was living in Orlando, FL. back in 2006. We were both cast as clowns in the Macy’s Holiday parade at Universal Studios. He helped me with my clown makeup, and we were friends from then on. His most recent and amazing gig was being cast as a swing in The Village People, playing The Cowboy. He tragically passed away in October (2013), from a head injury. He was only 24 years old.

(Hence my addition “3 Million (and 1) Souls”. He’s in Section 3 of Calvary and of course, it was lens flare city when I visited. The strongest energy of the entire place. Perhaps it was just my connection to AJ fueling that, but it certainly was a noticeable difference. He had such an intense positive energy in life, it’s no doubt that he’s keeping the party going in Calvary.) 🙂

Calvary Cemetery Queens NYC

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