Famous Graves

When we talk about famous graves it is most often the deceased person who is famous. There will always be exceptions to this, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. But usually we are referring to the burial place of the rich or famous – royalty, great leaders, actors, musicians or those who have become celebrities through their actions – fair or foul. What is it about these famous graves that attract our interest?

Though it does have to be said that we tend to have an interest in celebrities in general. There are countless programs on television and ‘gossip’ magazines which deal with every aspect of their lives. Many live their whole lives under a media spotlight with reports of the most intimate details.

And this fascination then continues after their death. We lap up every detail of the death itself – How? Why? When? – right up to the location of the burial ground itself.

But why?


Why the interest in famous graves?

Could this be down to the fact that it reminds us all of our own mortality? If great men and women – people who had the power and ability to change the world – are unable to defy death then what chance the rest of us?

Many poems and stories have been written over the years which portray Death as the great leveller. We all have to face him, whether kings, celebrities or paupers. Is this what makes the graves of the famous so interesting?

Of course there are also reasons so much more transparent than this. We love to visit the famous homes of celebrities – why not the famous graves too? The deceased may be in some way a hero or heroine (or anti-hero – the graves of criminals are just as much an attraction!). A visit to the grave of a great pop star is a form of pilgrimage in exactly the same way as it would be to the grave or tomb of a religious leader.


But what makes particular graves interesting?

Again there will be exceptions to this, but very often this is down to the manner in which the person died. Look at some of the most popular and searched for famous graves – Jimi Hendrix grave, Bruce Lee grave, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe. All celebrities who died well before their time in tragic circumstances.

And many will have humorous or interesting epitaph examples – famous because of the headstone upon which they are engraved.

famous graves

Is it possible to visit these graves?

This is going to depend very much upon the location of the burial. Forest Lawn Memorial Park at Glendale is famous in itself for the number of movie stars and other celebrities buried within their grounds. However, although the park is open to the public, they in no way encourage fans to go seeking celebrity graves. It is possible to obtain maps of the area but don’t expect to have particular graves pinpointed – they may take a great deal of finding. And while some headstones for graves are as flamboyant as that person was in life, the vast majority of grave markers are as unpretentious as you would find anywhere else. They may well be nothing more than ordinary bronze grave markers laying flat to the ground.

Many other cemeteries though are quite happy to help visitors who are looking for specific famous graves and may even supply maps.

That is not to say that all celebrity graves are accessible – many graves and tombs may either be within a building such as a mausoleum or in private gardens not open to the public. The Princess Diana grave is an example of this and is located on a small private island on her family estate in England.

And of course it’s quite possible that no actual burial site exists. For instance there’s no physical James Gandolfini grave to visit (at present) because his family have his cremated remains.


Important – please remember that you are visiting someone’s grave. They may be celebrities – for what ever reason – but they still have spouses, children or other family members alive and well. Consider how you would feel if people made visits to see the graves of your parents or grandparents. How would you like them to act? Wouldn’t you expect their headstones and gravesides to be treated with dignity and respect?

Please treat these famous graves in the same way.