This Halloween season the Maxdale Cemetery in south Killeen sat quiet and under close watch from the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.
The Maxdale Cemetery and Bridge has been a popular attraction for more than 40 years because of rumors claiming it is haunted. The president of the cemetery association has the truth behind the stories in the hopes that it will dispel any rumors that it is haunted, and instead a place for loved ones that should be respected.
Veterinarian John Kuczek, owner of Aztec Pet Hospital, grew up in the Maxdale area on his parents’ farm, located just behind the cemetery.
“Ever since I was a kid, it started off with the haunted cemetery, glowing tombstones, the bridge where the school bus fell through — which we found ironic because we all rode the school bus to school and it never fell through,” he said. Kuczek said a local man’s dump truck fell through one time and he busted some boards, but no one was injured.
Kuczek said he has an explanation for every rumor people have told over the years.
“Certain media outlets will put these stories up on their websites and that will get a whole new generation of people thinking there are ghosts. There’s not a ghost,” he said.
One of the legends: A glowing tombstone.
One of the tombstones is located under a tree, which created an environment for moss to grow on it.
“The moss absorbed the sunlight during the daytime and then it glowed at night,” said Kuczek.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, luminous moss is, “an acrocarpous moss occurring in caves and dark holes in the woods and glowing by reflected light.”
Kuczek said they have power washed the tombstone so it no longer glows.
Rumors & gossip
Kuczek said a woman on a website called the cemetery the “Pathway to Hell.”
“This lady posted a picture of a burning object in the middle and I think she called it ‘The Pathway to Hell,’ or something like that,” he said.
Some oak trees in the cemetery suffered from oak decline, a syndrome that results in a serious decline in tree condition, but because the roots of the trees go deep and even through some of the graves, the cemetery association couldn’t get rid of some of the stumps.
“What we did was pile wood on top of the stumps and burn it so that the stump would burn out below ground level, so we could fill it in. So, someone went out there after dark one night and took a picture.” Kuczek said it was just a tree stump they were trying to burn out.
The current caretaker of the cemetery is Mr. Wilson, Kuzcek said.
“He is perfectly mentally sound, and the one before him was Mr. Duncan, and he was the caretaker from the late ’70s to the 2000s,” he said.
Kuczek said they have not had a problem with their caretakers.
Knowing many stories and the history of the people buried in the cemetery, Kuczek said he has never known of anyone who hanged themselves from the bridge, as some stories state, and paranormal investigators “are absolutely not welcome,” as well as anyone else who wishes to go to the cemetery after sunset.
“However, if you are coming to pay respects during the day, then you are welcome,” Kuczek said.
Maj. T.J. Cruz of the Bell County Sheriff’s Department echoed that.
“I personally do not know of anybody that ever hung themselves at the bridge; just the ghost stories I’ve heard over the years,” Cruz said.
Unfortunately, what is true is the damaged inflicted on the cemetery by people.
That damage has included “several large cases of desecration of venerated objects where they went in and broke numerous headstones and knocked them over,” Cruz said. “Several of these were major in regard to the damage done and the age of the headstones that were damaged.”
Cruz said last Halloween was a quiet night and no arrests were made.
“It’s been a problem as far as I can remember, and I am 40 years old now. Every year, we would take turns going down there to run people off,” Kuczek said. “The old families do watch over the cemetery as well.
“A cemetery is where people lay their loved ones to rest,” he added. A cemetery is a place that’s supposed to be respected and not treated like an amusement park. We have had fabulous tombstones from the late 1800s destroyed to the point that they can never be replaced.”
Kuzcek said people bury their family hoping for eternity that there’s some kind of memorial there for them, and when someone does something out there, “you feel like you’ve been violated.”
Added Kuzcek: “In that cemetery, there are a bunch of great people buried there. People that have fought for our country, through many major wars. There are people that raised families, cured the sick. They are the type of people that built our nation. They pioneered this area, and for someone to go there and do something that you know would have been totally against their wishes, you feel bad.”
If anyone would like to donate to help repair damage from trespassers, they can contact Kuzcek at Aztec Pet Hospital in Harker Heights at 254-699-6725, and he will make sure it goes into the cemetery’s trust fund.