Forest Hill Cemetery

Receiving Vault

Receiving Vault, Forest Hill Cemetery

The Forest Hill cemetery is the final resting spot for many prominent Madisonians, early territorial settlers, and Civil War soldiers. Over the years, a number of strange-but-true stories (as well as some exaggerated by wild imagination) have bolstered the cemetery’s haunted reputation. Locals seem to be divided on the topic, though some insist that the cemetery is an active location for paranormal activity.

The city of Madison officially established the 140 acre cemetery in 1858, and, as you can imagine, it is rich in Wisconsin history. In addition to being the burial site for several Wisconsin governors and well-known University of Wisconsin folks, the cemetery also has two military burial plots for Union and Confederate soldiers.

The locals point to one event as a possible reason why the cemetery is haunted: unrest of the spirits attached to bodies moved to the cemetery from another burial site. As Madison outgrew its original village cemetery, which was located on four acres at the current Orton Park, city officials decided to disinter the bodies from the small cemetery and move them to Forest Hill.

Old and weathered grave marker

Old and weathered grave marker

Those bodies that could be identified were buried near family members at Forest Hill. Others were buried in unmarked graves. As a result, at Forest Hill there are a number of unmarked graves and strange interments for which very few facts other than the person’s name or age are known. Here are a few examples:

  • ?, Norwegian (-Mar 16, 1860), unmarked. A three-foot tall Norwegian dwarf, died “while in liquor.”
  • Colburn, Lydia (Feb 27, 1764-Mar 10, 1852), unmarked. Lydia was a native of Ingersol, Canada West, and attended the Congregational Church. Her date of birth is the oldest in Forest Hill.
  • Klines, Hans (1828-Feb 8, 1858), unmarked. Klines, a German, died in jail while confined for stealing timber.
Unknown Dead Marker

Unknown Dead Memorial at Confederate Soldier Rest

In 1891, the Woman’s Relief Corps installed a large boulder as a memorial to the unknown dead. Today, this area in particular is very dense in paranormal activity.

We recommend that you visit the cemetery in daylight hours. The Forest Hill Cemetery Committee of Historic Madison, Inc. has published a walking tour brochure (PDF), which gives an excellent self-guided tour of the cemetery’s rich history.

Forest Hill Cemetery

One Speedway Road

Madison, WI 53705

Photos: Copyright 2010, Haunted Madison



Forest Hill Cemetery. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from City of Madison Parks Web site:

Forest Hill Cemetery Lost to History. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from Historic Madison, Inc. Web site:

Cemeteries – Forest Hill Cemetery Soldiers’ Lot. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Burials and Memorials Web site:

Forest Hill Cemetery: A Walking Tour (1993). Pamphlet published by The Forest Hill Cemetery Committee of Historic Madison, Inc.

Strubb, Sherry (2008). Ghosts of Madison, Wisconsin. Arglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing.