For most, graveyards are unsettling under the best of circumstances, and it’s easy for anything unusual in a graveyard to attract a lot of attention. Unsurprisingly, as places of death and sorrow, legends often cluster thickly about a graveyard.
Use the table below, to determine what rumours might be told about a particular graveyard, or choose the result you like best.
- Recent heavy rain, or perhaps a minor tremor, recently unearthed a massive, unmarked grave in an unused corner of the graveyard. No one knows exactly who is buried there, or why, and officials are scrambling to get the bodies sorted and properly buried.
- One or more famous people are buried in the graveyard, and visitors come from miles around to view the grave; some even leave offerings on it.
- For the last few weeks, every few nights, a new tombstone is broken, split clean in two, as though it had been cut. So far, there are no leads on who the vandals are or how they’re accomplishing this feat.
- Rumor has it, a particularly notorious thief buried his last big score in the graveyard just a few nights before he was arrested and, eventually, hung for his crimes. Supposedly, he never revealed the treasure’s location, and it’s still buried, somewhere.
- An eccentric noble is hurriedly building a massive mausoleum on the grounds. It’s far larger and more ostentatious than anything else in the graveyard, and very much out of character for her. Even more puzzling, she is still in relatively good health, so why is she in such a rush for it to be completed?
- One particular local comes to the graveyard often, and spends hours there in the afternoon and evening, just sitting under a tree. He has no loved ones buried here, so why does he do this nearly every day?
- The graveyard used to be a popular spot for young lovers to have midnight rendezvous, until the terrible morning when just such a pair was found gruesomely murdered. More troubling, the killer was never caught.
- They say the groundskeeper’s been there as long as anyone can remember. In fact, some say she died years ago, but has kept doing the job all the same.
- Supposedly, a local coven of sorcerers, witches and other practitioners of black magic gather in the graveyard one night each month to perform strange and terrible rituals.
- They say an infamous ladies’ man is buried somewhere in the graveyard, and that if you visit his grave and ask just right, his blessing can make the object of your desires fall in love with you.
- A battle was fought not far from the graveyard a long time ago, and soldiers from both sides fought over the cemetery. According to local legend, on the battle’s anniversary, the soldiers’ spirits rise up and fight again.
- In the olden times, a secret tunnel was dug under the graveyard to allow supplies to be smuggled into town in the event of a siege. Supposedly, one of the graves is fake, and actually an entrance to this long abandoned tunnel.
- The graveyard was cursed by a necromancer who was executed here long ago. Anyone buried within who goes unmourned for a year and a day rises as an undead.
- All coffins and caskets made in town are lined with lead. The locals say it’s to keep wolves from getting inside, but there aren’t any wolves for miles around.
- They say the groundskeeper secretly steals all the bodies of those buried in the graveyard, and that the coffins buried in the graveyard contain nothing but cheap sackcloth dolls. What he does with the real bodies is anyone’s guess.
- For some reason, any flowers left on a certain grave wither and decay completely overnight, until they are nothing but blackened husks by the next morning.
- Strange lights can be seen in the graveyard at night, but only on foggy nights. Sometimes strange noises can be heard as well.
- Children tell tales of a murderer so terrible the local lord decreed that rather than execute her, she would be transformed into a ghoul and locked away in a grave, in this very graveyard, to be imprisoned for a thousand years in solitude.
- Stories are told of a local bandit who was buried in the graveyard, who only had one hand. They say his other hand still lives, and it stalks the night, strangling those foolish enough to enter the graveyard.
- The groundskeeper has a talent for séances, and can actually channel the spirit of anyone interred in the graveyard, for a small price.
This article will appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017.
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Alex Riggs has been writing and designing content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game since 2010, when he founded Necromancers of the Northwest and jumped head-first into the business. Since then, he’s been fortunate enough to be able to work with many other great designers, including contributing to several books on the core line of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game products with Paizo, numerous Legendary Games products, and, of course, his work for Raging Swan Press.
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