The sign nailed to a tree just inside the closed gates of Zena Church in Salem, Oregon read "Absolutely no trespassing. Trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." From all that I'd read online before making the trek up here, I knew it to be true. Firsthand accounts of unauthorized cemetery explorations here all seemed to end in the backseat of a police car. The idea of having to call my mother-in-law and tell her she'd have to keep the kids another night because we'd been arrested didn't appeal to us.
I was disappointed. We'd come on a Sunday morning - although not a regular church goer, I'd hoped to at least poke my head into the service to see the inside of the old church, and walk around the cemetery grounds. Legend says there are pictures on most of the remaining 65 graves - odd in it's own right. Legend also says Zena "Witch" Cemetery is haunted.
But the gates were closed when we arrived, and the "No trespassing" signs scared me. Vandalism has run rampant at the old cemetery, and I'll admit to being absolutely furious that some stupid kids had ruined it for the rest of us. "Someone must have a key to this place," I snapped at my husband. "Can't you CALL someone?"
"Who?" he asked, taking a long sip on his coffee. "Ghostbusters?"
I rolled my eyes and began walking along the perimeter of the chain link fence, hoping to snap some good pictures with my not-so-good telephoto lense. A word of caution to those of you planning to walk along the fence - long pants and boots are a must. Poison oak runs unchecked out there, and it hides underneath the dry grass.
I snapped some pictures of the closer graves and a few of the road, where an old-time ghost is rumored to ride a bike up and down in front of the cemetery. The only bike rider I saw was of the normal spandex-and-bright-colored-helmet wearing variety, and although I did snap a picture of him (much to his amusement) my husband refuted my theory that he "may" have been the ghost. "Ghosts do not own $2000 racing bikes." Point taken.
I was just about to give up and go home, frustrated with the inability to get in, when I saw the tree, standing sentry on the hillside. It was the only place in the cemetery with any sun at all. It's leaves glowed bright yellow despite the cloudy day. A lone grave sat beneath it, and I will tell you right now, I would have given any amount of money to get closer, to read who's grave lay in such a beautiful place, to know the history of their life.
I have played at ghost hunting for a long time now. I've stood in countless cemeteries at midnight, waiting for orbs/fog/apparitions and, once, a hooded figure waving a lantern. I've been scared by my friends, scared by a bird, and scared by something that sounded like a bear but turned out to be a raccoon. I've never seen ANYTHING, despite my efforts. Never a shadow, a mist, or a ghost light. Never once. Until this day.
Because the branches on this tree were blowing, and everything around it was still. Leaves were falling off this tree, but the leaves on every other tree stayed where they were. It was as if the wind was blowing RIGHT THERE, and nowhere else. And I know it's supposed to get cold when a spirit is nearby, but it got warm where I was, directly in front of the tree on the other side of the fence.
I wish it was more dramatic than that - a disembodied voice would have been nice, or a fast moving white-clothed figure running out from behind the tree and toward the church - but the mysterious wind is all I have. It was enough for me. Something lives in Zena cemetery.
If anyone has any information on this place, I'd love to hear it. A phone number would be amazing - I'd certainly make a donation to the church for the priviledge of taking a tour. Any history, any personal encounters - anything at all - would be appreciated.
And if you know what make the tree blow like that, I'll take any theory you can give.
Zena Cemetery, Salem, Oregon
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