Heading north or south along the Garden State Parkway exists a stretch between exits 144 and 145 that carries with it an ominous bit of urban folklore. You can’t help but notice as the Parkway appears to cut straight through the middle of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. As a kid, every class trip to Great Adventure down in Jackson involved the entire busload of us collectively holding our breath as the wheels passed over the blacktop cutting between the rows of headstones, the whole while praying there’d be no brake lights to slow us and then gasping for air once we were past.
Holy Sepulchre is a vast necropolis, covering over 20 square blocks. Half the cemetery, including the main office, is located in East Orange, but half of the cemetery lies in Newark. As with any cemetery dating back to the mid 1800s, it is brimming with fascinating history. But what it is most known for to most travelers passing along the Garden State Parkway is how this main artery splits the cemetery in two, with some graves (and their occupants) resting mere feet from the shoulder of the roadway. This had led to much speculation as to the fate of the departed who had been laid to rest beneath where tires now roll. Were there once graves there, and if so, were they moved, (a gruesome thought) or worse yet, were they merely paved over like some highway version of Poltergeist. Is that length of Parkway just waiting to be sucked under by vengeful souls fed up by the sounds of Honda Civics and SUVs ruining their eternal slumber?
Well, kind traveler, not to fear! The truth is no bodies lie beneath the asphalt, nor did they ever. In its early days the cemetery occupied only up to what had been Laurelton Road, where the Parkway was eventually built. It wasn’t until after the Parkway had been constructed that the land on the other side was purchased and the cemetery expanded, creating the appearance that the Garden State Parkway cuts straight through the center.
Now you know.