Cave Hill Cemetery has been a part of Louisville for more than 100 years. Cave Hill was established in 1848 and has around 138,000 individuals buried on its grounds – the stories of the dead are carved into marble, stone, and metal.
The cemetery is a massive area, with rows of graves and monuments stretching over hills and lakes for nearly 300 acres just east of Downtown Louisville. Cave Hill is home to several famous Kentuckians. Including “Colonel” Harlan Sanders, whose grave always seems to have a sauce packet or two resting nearby. The bust was sculpted by his daughter. Sanders is buried with his wife Claudia. To find his grave look for the yellow line on the road – when it ends, his grave will be on the right side.
Cave Hill is also the final resting place of the legendary heavyweight champion, humanitarian, and civil rights leader Muhamad Ali. Ali’s simple, black marble tombstone holds the simple epitaph, “Service To Others Is the Rent You Pay For Your Room In Heaven.”
I had been living in Louisville for less than a month when Ali passed away on June 3rd, 2016. It was an incredible moment that brought the city of Louisville together. Actors, sports legends, and even a former President of the United States all came to the River City to say goodbye. Thousands of people lining the streets as the hearse carrying Ali’s casket made its way through the streets to say goodbye to The Champ. When you visit Ali’s grave, the air around it is still and quiet. There are two benches nearby where you can sit quietly and reflect. I have visited his grave a few times and always left feeling calm.
In addition to The Colonel and The Champ, The Frito-Lay Magician is also buried in Cave Hill. Harry Leon Collins, born in Glasgow, Kentucky in 1920, was a big fan of magic. Before he got started on his magical journey – he joined the Marines and fought in World War II. Collins was wounded while fighting in the Pacific and then joined the Special Services and took his magic show on the road with the USO.
After his service ended, Collins moved to Louisville and got a job at Frito-Lay. He would sell snacks during the day and perform magic as “Mr. Magic” at night. Eventually, Frito-Lay made him the spokesperson for the brand and spent his later years spreading the good news of Cheetos and doing magic tricks.
There is a life-sized memorial to Collins at his grave, with his arm out looking like he is about to show you his next trick.
There are a couple of ghost stories attached to Cave Hill. Local legend says you can see green lights hovering around the headstones at night. There is also a story of a woman who can be seen just before the sun sets. She is said to walk around the graves of children. Cave Hill is the final resting place of Civil War soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies and there are reports of whispers of voices that can be heard in that section of the cemetery.
If you plan on visiting this hauntingly beautiful cemetery, make sure you bring your walking shoes and a camera. In addition to all of the celebrities that are buried here, there are dozens of amazing monuments to lost loved ones all over the grounds.
Cave Hill does offer “Golf Cart” tours and guided walking tours most weekends – you can find information about tickets HERE. The cemetery is open seven days a week from 8:00am until 4:45pm – sometimes it’s closed during bad weather.