Imagine you’re digging into your family’s history and you find out a). not only are there some indications that you and your spouse may possibly be related, and b). the guy you both are related to is a respected local historical figure who is buried in a place within driving distance to your home. So, you naturally go to visit his grave site and then find out c). his grave has been turned into a haunted attraction, complete with signs painted in dripping blood-red paint! AWKWARD.
The living never know to which cemetery a genealogical trail will lead, but a Cleveland man said he was shocked to find a prominent relative’s burial site turned into an amusement park attraction.
The small cemetery where the remains of Judge Charles Fleming Keith lie is part of the Judgment Day Haunted Trail in the Mayfield Farm and Nursery Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, north of Athens on Highway 307.
Dietrich said his wife accompanied him to the family cemetery that first time in January 2012.
“We tried to get permission to come on the property though we didn’t have to have it because it is a cemetery. We wanted them to know we were here. We went to the business office, but no one was there. There were a lot of vehicles, but no people. We started searching for it and drove all over the place until we finally found it there behind the goats.”
Dietrich said the overhead sign proclaiming “Judgement Day” in red, dripping paint shocked him. A line scrolled underneath described it as the gateway to a haunted attraction.“We were just shocked quite honestly to see the sign, the haunted trail and the way they were treating this as an amusement park attraction rather than a cemetery, because it has such historical significance to this area,” Dietrich said.
He was taking pictures when Michael Mayfield approached them. He was friendly and encouraged Dietrich to take all the pictures he wanted and visit at anytime.
“I went home and wrote a really nice letter to Michael asking him to please consider doing something else with the cemetery that would be more in keeping with the dead, particularly somebody as prominent in Tennessee history as Judge Keith was,” Dietrich said. “A year later, he hasn’t done anything.”