Church’s cemetery tours a spooky success

Published 8:59 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

Dead men don’t tell tales, but their tombstones do.

That was the idea behind Historic St. Luke’s Church’s recent Twilight Cemetery Tours. The tours were held Oct. 12-13, as well as an adults-only tour on Oct. 19 that featured a hard cider tasting and a commemorative tasting glass.

This is the third year for the tours, education coordinator Rachel Popp said, but it was the first year for the adults-only experience. Once again, all of the tours were well received, and Popp said the historic church definitely plans to continue having them. About 200 people in all attended the three tours.

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“The tours themselves are entertaining and kind of a spooky setting, but they’re meant to be educational,” Popp said.

She stressed that the tours eschewed “ghost stories” in favor of real local lore about the people buried in the cemetery.

“It really is presented as local lore and local stories and sometimes even people we’ve researched and found primary-source documents about them,” Popp said. “The stories we’re telling in the cemetery, they are about the people who are buried there.”

Popp said the historic church began the cemetery tours after noticing an increasing interest in their cemetery as well as cemeteries in general.

“We get a lot of questions about our cemetery, but it’s not necessarily easy to talk extensively about it on top of our normal 45-minute tour,” she said. “People are becoming cemetery tourists, where they tour cemeteries as part of their trips.”

Popp said the cemetery tours, as well as other lectures and events, are an effort to engage more people and educate them about the history of Historic St. Luke’s Church.

“We really try to engage people and bring them out, not only to learn more about our site but also to create events that bring people in and keep them coming back or even more engaged with us by becoming volunteers or donors.”

Popp said the adult-only evening featured a hard cider tasting by Sly Clyde Ciderworks, which just opened in Hampton.

“It was our first year doing an adults-only night,” Popp said. “I think the adults-only night went really well this year.”

Popp said 100 tickets were reserved for the adults-only night alone, and it sold out prior to the event.

She anticipates the adults-only night, as well as the tours open to all, to return next year.

Historic St. Luke’s Church, Virginia’s oldest surviving church building, was built in the 1600s — some suggest 1632, but many historians, archaeologists and other experts now suggest a completion date between 1685 and 1687, according to the church’s website.

Those who are interested in its cemetery would enjoy the upcoming lecture on cemetery iconography taking place at 1 p.m. Nov. 3. Tickets are available on the website.

For more information about Historic St. Luke’s Church, visit