Woodlawn Cemetery closes its gates for Halloween


Woodlawn Cemetery is home to more than 22,000 graves.  SAMANTHA STETZER
Woodlawn Cemetery is home to more than 22,000 graves.

Samantha Stetzer/Winonan

The Halloween season can sometimes drudge up curiosity for the creepy in even the most outspoken scaredy-cat.

And for some, that means a visit to the local cemetery late Halloween night to see what—or who—is out roaming that night.

Those planning on visiting the Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona on Halloween night may want to think again.

Every other night the cemetery leaves its gates open, but on Halloween the gates are shut.

Jim Leahy, an employee at Woodlawn Cemetery, explained why.

“People think they can congregate out there, and we really don’t want that,” Leahy said.

Leahy said he felt inclined to remind people that the cemetery is not simply a creepy backdrop for Halloween night, but the home of people who have passed.

The cemetery’s permanent residents, Leahy said, deserve the same amount of respect as those who walk above them.

As one of the many unique facets of Winona, Woodlawn Cemetery is also a unique tourist attraction.

With over 22,000 graves, some of their occupants dating back to the Revolutionary War, this cemetery leaves an impression on many who visit.

The cemetery is carved into the rolling bluff side, and is home to an abundance of stories in a public park-style setting.

Many varieties of trees cover the terraced grounds, growing amongst winding pathways and bridges over drainage ditches constructed to resemble brooks.

This time of year, the cemetery is especially beautiful, with the colorful palate of leaves and the crisp blowing of the wind.

Masterfully carved stone grave sites and huge pillars run the length of bluff just off of Huff Street facing the lake.

With enough stories to last multiple lifetimes, Woodlawn Cemetery for many represents a cornerstone in Winona history.

But for some people, cemeteries are more creepy than restful.

Freshman Sydney Holum is one of the many who associate cemeteries only with spooky Halloween nights.

“Cemeteries creep me out, and I am quite scared of them,” she said.

Freshman Hayley Newman agreed. “Cemeteries at nighttime make me feel very uneasy. I never know what is going to pop out when,” she said.

While they are the home of the dead, cemeteries, for some, are still a place of restfulness.

Freshman Sam Scholler said she could see the two sides of cemeteries: the spooky and the serene.

“I think cemeteries are pretty creepy,” she said. “But I also think they are peaceful because they are so quiet.”

On Halloween night, the cemetery will be at its most quiet, sectioned off from the rest of the town and left to rest in peace.

Contact Samantha at [email protected]