This space stands as a monument to both beauty and death: gravestones, mausoleums, and stone angels mark the resting places of hundreds of Oaklanders, laid to rest among spreading oak trees and picturesque winding paths. Many stories of hauntings exist in this 224-acre graveyard; the first body was placed in the ground there in 1857, and a hundred and fifty years and over 165,000 funerals make for many, many stories. Some of these graves are clearly marked and receive numerous visitors, especially the “famous Oaklander” graves listed on the cemetery’s website to help visitors pay their respects to the local artists, writers, and innovators that made this city what it is. Others, however, are unmarked and receive no flowers or visitors; 500 graves lie in the Stranger’s Plot, their inhabitants and the stories that went along with them long been forgotten. This unmarked field is populated by the poor, the migrant workers, the criminals, and the suicides; no lovely mausoleums or sculptures were raised in their honor, and many who pass through the field have no idea that they are walking on cemetery ground. The spirits of the marginalized, forgotten masses are said to linger in this place, crying out silently to be remembered, to be recognized; and Oakland listens, and more and more people have taken interest in these people and dedicate their free time to looking through cemetery records and death certificates for names and stories to attach to the bodies under the ground. Oakland does not forget its own without a fight.
And despite being a cemetery, a space meant for mourning and silence, this is not a dead place: Oaklanders come here to admire the view, to tour the graves of famous locals, and to walk their dogs, as well as to visit family members and loved ones. The cemetery is an Oakland landmark in its own right, strikingly beautiful and completely unique in its architecture and gardens, and new stories are being added to its store every day. Sad stories, yes, stories of nameless shades with unfinished business and freshly turned earth covering the face of a loved one; but happy stories as well, stories of a forgotten grave being rediscovered and its occupant’s history made known, and stories of simple, beautiful days among the trees and the memories. Mountain View Cemetery: where the living and the dead meet and mingle with curiosity and respect rather than terror.