Lost Cemetery

2015 – Safety Harbor

(Brandy):  I am still reading the Kindle version of “A Brief History of Safety Harbor Florida” by Warren Firschein and Lara Kepner. There is a chapter on African American history, which includes a “Lost Cemetery” (their words). A summary is as such: In 1937 the Campbell family, who lived by the Sylvan Abbey cemetery, had a terrible tragedy. Three children were playing outside and had a small fire lit to keep warm and stoked it with a bit of kerosene. The result was a fire explosion that burned and killed two children (a 15 year old daughter and a 10 year old son), and wounded the youngest daughter; their father, who came out when he heard the explosion, was also badly burned as he tried to help his children. The children were buried in the Safety harbor African American Cemetery, located in a residential neighborhood now considered to be within Clearwater’s boundaries; the section is called the “lost Cemetery” because the Campbell graves were lost to time. Poor record keeping, multiple burials, and lack of headstones has created much confusion. 

*The earliest tombstone found belongs to Samuel E. Swann who died in 1896 when he was only a few months old. 

*The land was designated to the African American community by Solomon Smith Coachman, who bought the McMullen groves in 1902 (presumably in order to host the cemetery). The Coachman family lost the property during the Depression; The Ehle family bought the property next and used it to host the cemetery (keeping Lot 15 open as a grave yard) and to build a neighborhood. During this process some of the graves were relocated when the subdivision was built. Lot 15 was then deeded to “St. Vincent Helping Hand Society” in 1951, then sold to the “Safety Harbor Colored Community” in 1953 for $1.

The cemetery has some issues; again, the moving of graves, the lack of documentation, the reliance on families to remember where loved ones are buried, missing tombstones, unmarked graves and issues of disrepair make the area confusing. The cemetery is kept up by volunteers.

*The book says that one local resident believes that “there are so many graves on the property that people may be buried on top of one another.” 

*The cemetery was used as late as the 1970s.

SPIRITS Reports:

Brandy, “Lost Cemetery” of Safety Harbor/Clearwater

Q2: What equipment did you use on this investigation?

EMF meter, camera, recorder

Q3: Investigator Observations Part I: What outstanding phenomena did you experience on this investigation? Please list room and experience.

First, this is a most unique cemetery. It is in the middle of a residential neighborhood and the size of a house lot. During our walk through, I did observe that the EMF meter was at 0. It stayed at 0 for a while, though at one point I stopped with a group to ask questions. The meter actually responded with a bit of a conversation: 
Is anyone here? (Spike) 
Can you confirm that you are here? (Spike). 
Are you male? Are you female? (Spike) 
Did you die before 1950? 
Did you die after 1950? (Spike) 
Did you die in the 1960s? 
Did you die in the 1970s? (Spike) 
Are you buried in the graves that we first visited? (Spike) 
Are you buried there? (Pointed to the area) (Spike) 
Are you buried here?
 Are you buried there? (Pointed to the same area as the first question) (Spike) 
Are you okay that we are here? Weak (Spike) 
Do you have a message? Weak (Spike) 

There is one female who was buried in 1970 in the cemetery. There was also one male buried in 1970; his grave was in the area that we first visited and in the area where I pointed. He may have interacted with another SPIRITS member as well. Mary felt one area had some activity; when I was walking in that area I did have a brief sensation of dizziness.

Q4: Investigator Observation Part II: Upon review of your data after the investigation (EVPs, photos, videos), were there any anomalies? If so, please list location and result.

Photos revealed nothing unusual.

Q5: Investigator Observation Part III: What is your overall summation of this case? What information should be addressed with the home owner or rechecked for validity?

I do think that I had a conversation with one or more folks there via the EMF meter. We did not come to be disrespectful and left after about 1 hour there. We also came during the middle of the day. However, entities are not bound by any specific time. The cemetery is a bit of an enigma. It was “lost” from the final burial until 1996 when it was rediscovered by a lot clean up crew. The number of people buried there is unknown (one neighborhood resident told us that there were multiple bodies buried in the back area where the trees were that were unmarked). We were searching for the lost graves of the Campbell children, who died in a fire in 1937. It is possible that they are buried in that area. When doing the EMF session, the meter did go off when we asked if they were buried in that area. Donna and Bryan both pointed out that the area had little wildlife other than bugs (no squirrels or birds, etc) and no real aromas, despite the neighborhood around us (including a Bar-B-Que grill going across the street from us). It was an odd location and an odd sensation in there, the whole way around.

Q6: Rate the level of perceived haunted activity of this location, rank it 0 – 4. (Note the scale; 0 = least, 4 = most).

  2: Apparition (Mild) [Personality apparent, but little interaction]

Other Links and Research:

Apparently there are several Safety Harbor pioneers buried there.

The land was originally Coachman Family property; story has it that the lot was donated by Coachman’s as a resting place of African-Americans of the time. Coachman lost the land to the state during the depression and the property was purchased by Alfred and Louisa Ehle who created a subdivision with all but Lot 15.


“Who Will Save the Safety Harbor Black Cemetery”

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