Photo by Michael Banti
I first heard the stories of New Hope Cemetery, located in southern Madera County, while I was still in high school. I was with my best friend Tom when a friend of his, who knew of our love of all things paranormal, told us about this cemetery that was located out in the country. At one time it had a church on the grounds, but it had burned down to the ground (all that was left was the steps sometime in the mid 1980's. Rumor had it that a group of Satanist were responsible for the fire as well as performing dark rituals in the cemetery grounds itself. Ever since then the cemetery was reported to be haunted.
Needless to say we were interested. The three of us jumped in Tom's car and headed towards the cemetery. Unfortunately as we got there, we were to chicken to get out of the car (oh to be 17 again) and just drove away. But that wasn't the end of it. A week or so later, Tom and I headed to the cemetery this time armed with baseball bats, knives, sharpened screwdrivers, wooden stakes, and at least a gallon of holy water. We didn't know what to expect, but we were ready (or so we thought). We got there and as we parked next to the cemetery's fence we saw a red glow coming from the cemetery. Freaked out someone had left a candle burning as part of some dark ritual or something, Tom put the car into reverse and started to leave. As he did this I noticed the red glow disappear. I told him to stop and the glow came back. Turns out it was the reflection of his tail lights on a polished gravestone. That's how freaked out we were.
That night, nothing of much interest happened. But a few years later we drove there one night bored as we had nothing going on. We were walking around like we always do when we started to hear what sounded like drums in the distance. Listening to them, they reminded me of the Native American drums I heard when I attended a pow wow a few years previous. I knew the area very well as my family has vineyards a few miles away and couldn't think of where they were coming from. But what I heard next still is fresh in my mind well over a decade later. I heard what sounded like two little girls laughing, almost laughing like they knew something we didn't. I looked at Tom and could tell he heard the same thing. Needless to say we got the hell out of there.
We visited the cemetery over the years, something always strange happening. One night I was driving by it on my way home when I saw a pair of headlights driving literally in the almond orchard next to the cemetery. As I got closer it started to flash it's lights at me. First were high beams, then regular, then completely off, only to repeat the pattern again. As curious as I was, I didn't find out what the hell was going on and got out of there quickly.
Near the steps of the church. You can see the cemetery in the
background. Photo by Michael Banti
I hadn't been by the cemetery in several years when a friend of mine needed a creepy place to shoot some video in Madera. I suggested the cemetery and we headed out there. When we got there I saw the strangest thing. Some guy in a trailer had set up camp on the remains of the church's foundation. Obviously we didn't stop, but I did shoot some video. You can find it and more info on that day here.
I wish I knew if the stories on the cemetery were true or just more urban legends told by teenagers that are bored one night. The only thing I know for certain is the church did burn down as there are records of it. But I haven't been able to find out anything on to what or who caused it. As for the little girls, I went back at a later date and checked to see if there were any young girls buried there (the graves were as recent as the 1990's and went back nearly a century), but couldn't find anything. But I know what I heard and so did Tom. So that begs the question. What did we hear that night?