Monday, October 28, 2013

"Night of the Living Dead" Cemetery Tour

     To us zombie movie fans, "Night of the Living Dead" is "patient zero" in the zombie film outbreak that was to follow.  Any horror buff worth their salt knows this, but to any of those new to the subgenre, "Night of the Living Dead" changed everything.  Before this zombies in movies were usually slave labor, toiling away in fields on Caribbean Islands, or the product of mad scientists' experiments--few in number, somewhat dangerous, but in a limited way.  But George Romero's living dead were something far more sinister--uncontrolled, hungry for living human flesh, and in sufficient numbers to (eventually) destroy all civilization as we know it.  Zombie films, and the horror genre in general were never the same.
     And it all began here, in a cemetery located just outside a small (population of about 2,000) western Pennsylvania town, Evans City.  Evans City is located about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh.  Directions are easy--googlemaps, or the like, will give them to you if you type in "Evans City Cemetery."  So I'll assume potential visitors will do this, and will find the cemetery, off of Franklin Road.  I'll include both my photos (in color) and some from the movie itself (in black and white, clearly).

Sorry, the credits cover the movie still, but if you look closely you'll see the similarity.  Here's the entrance off of Franklin Road.
 After you go around a bend, you'll see this sign on your left.

Just as you enter the cemetery proper, you'll see a small shed on your right.  Then just ahead on your left you'll see an important landmark--the chapel.  I tried to park my car about where Johnny and Barbra did.  If you keep going straight as you enter the cemetery, you can make your way back to the chapel by turning left down any one of the perpendicular cross paths, following that to the end, turning left again, and following that as far as you can go, and turn left and follow this around until you see the chapel building by the entrance/exit.  Once at the chapel, face away from it (as Barbra is doing in the photo above) and walk down that path a couple of hundred feet.  Look to your right, and look for a stone in the first row marked "BLAIR."

Romero and his crew did a good job of not showing gravestone names, but you can pick out a few if you look closely.  Johnny and Barbra's father is buried under the stone just to the right of the Blair stone.  It's really Grace and George Cole.  Notice in the movie there's a tree to the right of their dad's/the Coles' stone, which isn't there anymore.  Either it died, or was damaged/removed during the tornado that tore through this cemetery in the 1980's (which also necessitated the reburial of 200 bodies).
Here's a reverse view, showing Johnny and Barbra's view.
And here's a close up of the Cole stone.

These two shots show where we see the first ever zombie, played by Bill Hinzman, walking around.  Eventually, of course, he walks toward Johnny and Barbra.  It's a little tough to tell which lane he goes down, but I think it's the top of the two photos, since it's closer to the Kramer and Myers stones.
Here's a shot showing the Cole/Blair stones in the foreground, on the left, and other relevant stones in the background, and showing how close they are to each other.  The tallest stone in the background, on the right, is the Nicholas Kramer stone, that Barbra actually grabs onto after grappling with Hinzman's zombie.
Here's both shots of the Kramer stone itself.
This shot shows the Kramer stone on the left, and the Clyde Meyers stone on the right (it's the smaller of the two stones nearest the Kramer one, further away from the camera).  You can also see the Blair/Cole stones in the background, and even the chapel in the distance, giving you another idea of how close everything is to each other.

Here's a close up of the Myers stone, which ends up killing Johnny.
        After that, the geography gets a little confusing.  Evidently the filmmakers used cuts to disguise the exact locations.  Barbra appears to steer the car out the cemetery exit, and down the hill toward the road before she crashes against the tree.  Then she of course flees on foot, and runs for awhile before she reaches the farmhouse, which is apparently located some distance away, to the northeast of Evans City (while the cemetery is actually south of Evans City).  The farmhouse was destroyed right after the film was shot, to make a sod farm.  I couldn't tell exactly where it was, and obviously I couldn't check it out even if I could, as it's private property.  (Also, presumably there's nothing of the house left to see, anyway.)  I did find it amusing to see that if she'd reached Franklin Road again, and turned right (north), she would have hit "downtown" Evans City in only  .2 or .3 miles, shown below.
If you have a magnifying glass (sorry) you might pick out Boylan's funeral home, right by where Pioneer/Franklin Road intersects with Main St ( white building on the right, behind the light poles).  In light of what was going on with dead bodies, maybe that would haven't worked out well for Barbra, either.
        As for the other locations, the basement of the farmhouse was too small and run down, so the basement in the building of the filmmakers' Latent Image office in Pittsburgh was used.  Karl Hardman's ("Harry Cooper")  Pittsburgh office was used as the "newsroom" seen on the television.  Both are private, so I couldn't see these, either.  The upstairs scenes in the farmhouse were actually shot in a house that still stands in Evans City, but this of course is private property once again.  Otherwise, the bridge where Bill "Chilly Bill" Cardille (a local Pittsburgh horror host) is talking to the Sheriff and the search and destroy team of armed men, is still there, as is, clearly, the Capitol building area in Washington, D.C.

      So I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.  This was obviously a low-rent version of "Horrors Hallowed Grounds" and I recommend you check out that website for more extensive/competently done revisits of horror movie locations.  Please excuse the technical crudity--I'm still quite the Luddite.  Thanks to Ricky for doing what he could with my outdated computer and lack of graphics knowledge.
     And it probably goes without saying, but bear in mind that Evans City Cemetery is a real cemetery, and those folks buried there, and their families, were not directly involved in the movie in any way.  Obviously I don't see a problem with touring a cemetery open to the public, and taking photos, but if you do visit, show the appropriate amount of respect.  I certainly don't approve of or condone any trespassing or vandalism.  On a similar note, I've included the still photos from the film as comparison shots, to help people see the still existing landmarks and to observe how these locations have changed over more than 40 years.  No copyright infringement of "Night of the Living Dead" is intended.
     And if you do see any weird, disheveled, shambling figures in the Evans City Cemetery...............probably don't shoot them in the head, since in all likelihood  they're just other overzealous fans of the movie, trying to scare people.


  1. Thanks A.F. Hopefully I'll be back in the Pittsburgh area again, and I can check out the locations for Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the Dead" next.

  2. Very interesting! I didn't know about the location. I remember the first zombie movie I ever saw...Plague of the Zombies.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, ringois. As for "Plague of the Zombies," haven't seen that one yet, but I hear good things--have to try to locate it.

  4. Loved reading this! Yes, "Night of the Living Dead" is my favorite zombie movie and it still scares the hell out of me.

  5. Thanks, Jolie! And I quite agree. "Night of the Living Dead" was so influential, and it still holds up, over 40 years later. I was geeking out quite a bit as I visited the cemetery.

  6. 3 of the actors from Night of the Living Dead were at a convention I go to every year. One of the actors (John Russo) also wrote the screenplay with George Romero. He had some dirt for sale as a collectible that he said he got from the set of Night of the Living Dead...yeah I bought it.

  7. Who were the other 2 actors? I was a little disappointed that I was in the Evans City area in July--evidently there's an annual convention/viewing of the movie actually in the cemetery in August, which would have been cool. As for the dirt purchase, I would mock you...except I almost certainly would have bought it too.