Historic U.S. cemetery now a hip social playground

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Washington, D.C.’s 200-year-old Congressional Cemetery is trying to lure the living with yoga classes, costumed tours, dog-walking clubs and more. Vanessa Johnston reports.

Historic U.S. cemetery now a hip social playground

These are not typical sights at a graveyard.

But they’re exactly what’s drawing crowds at Washington, D.C.’s historic Congressional Cemetery…

…and giving the once-abandoned site a financial boost, says cemetery president Paul Williams.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) PAUL WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT OF THE HISTORICAL CONGRESSIONAL CEMETERY, SAYING:

“You can’t do that just from site sales and some of our other major donors, so we had to get creative to come up with ways to make that money.”

It all started with dog walkers who raised funds to spruce up the place more than a decade ago.

Today, tour attendees say they came to support the cemetery — and hopefully to get a little spooked.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TOUR ATTENDEE, SUNNY MASSA, SAYING:

“I’m into ghosts and stuff, so this is fun.”

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TOUR ATTENDEE, LAURIE MASSA, SAYING:

“So you’re hoping some of the people here actually come and visit us?”

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TOUR ATTENDEE, SUNNY MASSA, SAYING:

“Hey, you never know, maybe.”

One of those “ghosts” lurking around is Dolley Madison, widow of former U.S. President James Madison.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CLAIRE PALACE, ACTOR PLAYING DOLLEY MADISON, SAYING:

“I died in Washington and I was penniless. Can you believe it? So, I was left here in the public vault for two whole years.”

While some critics charge the kitschy events disrespect the dead…

Yoga student Alex Ashton says he reckons the cemetery’s residents like having them there.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) YOGA STUDENT ALEX ASHTON SAYING:

“I think the dead would appreciate the living, living life around them.”

And with Halloween just around the corner…there’s no shortage of visitors.

Tags : Playground, social, Cemetery, us, historic

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