I’m just going to come out and say it: a city can only coast so long on its Edgar Allan Poe associations. Lucky for us Baltimoreans, there are plenty more exciting dead people to visit around town. Here are a few of our favorite celebrity graves from around town:
Dorothy Parker: Before the New Yorker writer/celebrated wit died in 1967, she bequeathed her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. — whom she’d never met — because she felt so strongly about the civil rights movement. After King’s assassination a year later, Parker’s estate reverted to the NAACP, thanks to another provision in her will. So, oddly enough, Parker’s ashes are at the organization’s headquarters in Northwest Baltimore. A small memorial garden features a brick circle, a gravesite stand-in for the Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel, one of Parker’s favorite haunts. A nearby plaque includes the epitaph Parker once suggested for herself: Excuse my dust.
Johnny Eck: If you’ve ever seen the 1932 cult classic Freaks, you know Johnny Eck — he’s the strapping young man who was born without the lower half of his torso and body, and who’s known in that film as “King of the Freaks.” He became a sideshow star in the early part of the twentieth century, known for one-armed handstands and other feats. (In true Baltimore fashion, he also made money as a screen painter.) Eck and his close friend and brother Robert share a headstone in Green Mount Cemetery (1501 Greenmount Avenue).
Hattie Carroll: Carroll was made famous by Bob Dylan’s early song memorializing her death at the hands of William Zantzinger, a horrible man and incorrigible racist, while she was working at the Emerson Hotel. “She had a huge funeral, people filling the church to the doors and hundreds more standing on the street. A sad, sad day,” remembers Reverend Theodore Jackson Jr., the minister of Carroll’s church in Cherry Hill. She’s buried along with her husband in Baltimore National Cemetery (5501 Frederick Avenue).
Harris Glenn Milstead (aka Divine): John Waters’ muse and cult film mainstay Divine grew up in Towson, and is buried there — in Prospect Hill Cemetery (701 York Road) — as well. A pilgrim visiting the grave a number of years ago remarked that some intrepid vandal had painted the fingernails on the gravestone’s praying hands hot pink.
John Wilkes Booth: Officially unmarked so as to deter vandals, the infamous assassin’s grave is still findable in Green Mount Cemetery — if you know where to look, that is. (Get the precise GPS location here, courtesy Welcome to Baltimore Hon.) He’s reportedly in the Booth family plot, in an unmarked area behind the family’s obelisk.