A Haunted Graveyard In The Grand Canyon
Roughly one mile east of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Pioneer Cemetery serves as the final resting place for a number of early settlers and notables. However, the neatly tended graveyard has a curious history.
At the turn of the 20th century, John Hance opened the first tourist trail into the Grand Canyon. A former prospector, Hance was oft described as a “colorful character” and teller of yarns. His larger-than-life personality led him to become something of a legend. In 1901, one of Hance’s friends, a prospector named William Henry Ashurst, died in a landslide below Grand Canyon Village. Hance buried his friend where the slide occurred near the Colorado River.
In 1919, Hance died. He was buried on a remote parcel of hardscrabble overlooking the South Rim near Grand Canyon Village. Six weeks after his death, Congress created Grand Canyon National Park and the National Park Service began making improvements to the area. One of those improvements was to construct a graveyard. The Park Service decided to make Hance’s grave the center of the new Pioneer Cemetery.
Some years later, Ashurst was disinterred from where Hance had buried him and he was also laid to rest in Pioneer Cemetery – near his good friend Hance.
Not all of the headstones mark the graves of people who lived in the area.
On June 30, 1956, two commercial airplanes – a United Airlines DC-7 and a TWA Constellation carrying a total of 128 passengers – collided over the Grand Canyon. Both had originated in Los Angeles and both were traveling east. Inexplicably, the flight path of the aircrafts intersected resulting in the worst air disaster of the time. The remains of the 29 United Airlines passengers were buried in Pioneer Cemetery. (There are 31 names on the monument as two family members’ names were added.)
As breathtaking as the Grand Canyon is, it is also a place of danger. Many early prospectors and explorers met their demise in her depths.
One of those was Rees Griffiths. In 1922, Griffiths, a trail crew boss, was building the North Kaibab Trail near the Colorado River. A dynamite blast loosened a boulder crushing Griffiths to death. In honor of this love for the Grand Canyon, he was buried in a niche along the trail near Phantom Ranch.
Erie lights in the dark
Campers and residents of Phantom Ranch regularly report seeing a ghostly glow floating along North Kaibab Trail and hovering over Griffiths’ grave. Is it the spirit of Rees Griffiths? One this is for certain, this isn’t the only otherworldly appearance in the Grand Canyon. Many spirited sightings have been reported by visitors to this strange land.
(Photo Credit: Grand Canyon NPS/Flickr)