Halloween in Fortuna CA: Grave Matters & Untimely Departures Returns

Black silhouette of bare tree with owl curved around text with gold background: Grave Matters & Untimely DeparturesListen to 9 eerie Halloween tales when Grave Matters & Untimely Departures returns to Northern California at Fortuna’s Sunrise Cemetery on Sunday, October 27, 2019. You’ll hear about the tragic deaths of long-departed residents who lived on the Redwood Coast half a century or more ago. Their lingering spirits depend on living soulmates who appear beside their tombstones (local actors in vintage clothing) to tell you these stories filled with adventure, tragedy, mystery, and mayhem among the redwoods.

Four characters who told their tales in past years will return to share their lives and untimely departures again. These four went to their graves from the late 19th to the mid-20th century:

  • woman with outstretched arms wearing vintage log gold skirt, white blouse, shawl, and straw hat standing by grave with basket of fruit on topAmerica Jane Moore Elliott Burge Cameron came to California by wagon train in 1846. This independent pioneer woman married and then divorced each of three husbands, driving her last husband out of the house at gunpoint!
  • Orra Doke Herriford came to Humboldt County hoping to make a fresh start and leave her family’s scandalous past behind. She died in 1912, courageously rescuing her daughter from drowning in a well.
  •  Leo Gallagher died young as the result of an accident during Fortuna’s final football game of the 1928 season. The high school banned football for the next two decades.
  • Sheila Davenport made a double-suicide pact with another student from Portland State, perhaps inspired by literature read in a course. They died together camping out among the redwoods at Bull Creek Flat.

Five new characters will emerge beside their final resting places to share their tragic stories as well:

  • Raymond Nelson, a dentist who worked in Fortuna, will be your host at the cemetery. Please don’t make him angry! He murdered another dentist and left a suicide note explaining, “He made a remark which infuriated me.  I told him if he ever repeated that remark, to me or anyone else, I would kill him.  He repeated it …”
  • Who could expect that when a driver’s hat blew off, he would make a U-turn on the Pacific Highway to retrieve it? The resulting accident killed the daughter of a pioneer Humboldt family in 1923.
  • A Police Officer who survived the Korean War, but died in the line of duty, killed by a hit-and-run driver in 1967.
  • The child bride who married a Civil War veteran when she was just 13.  They shared a half century of married life together before they died within months of each other.
  •  A “favorite daughter” of Fortuna, who fell in love with and married the Bank of Fortuna’s founder. Her wedded bliss was short-lived – she died while still a bride, and was buried in her wedding gown.

Halloween brings these 9 eerie tales to life in Grave Matters and Untimely Departures. After your experience with these haunting spirits, we know you’ll want to return quickly to the land or the living and your redwood experiences of today.

We invite you to continue that redwood experience by staying at The Redwood Riverwalk Hotel, less than three miles from this Halloween event. Our small-scale, independent hotel offers far more comforts than the Fortuna hotels of past centuries, but shares the same proud sense of place.   Your stay will be grounded (but not buried!) in our locale and we have lively staff (not the dead) waiting to speak with you. Just call us at 707-725-550, or contact us through the ether to make your reservation. Let us help you plan your Halloween season stay among the redwoods…

“Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!”
                                                        – Dexter Kozen

10th Annual Grave Matters & Untimely Departures

Date: Sunday, October 27, 2019 Time: 2:00 – 6:00 pm, rain, shine, or spooky thunderstorm. (The 6:00 pm is the “flashlight tour”.)
Length of tour: Approximately 50 minutes; tours depart every 10 minutes. Comfortable shoes are suggested for the tour.
Location: Sunrise Cemetery, Newburg Road, Fortuna, CA. Parking is available at Newburg Park where a shuttle will transport you to and from the cemetery.
Admission: $15 per person. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Green’s Pharmacy or the Grocery Outlet in Fortuna. On Sunday, you may purchase them at Newburg Park where you will park.
Phone: (707) 725-7645
Proceeds benefit the Fortuna Cemetery District
Header image by Scott Rodgerson on UnSplash
Images of actors by Mike Murray, courtesy of the Fortuna Depot Museum


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