There’s hardly enough space for the living in San Francisco, so the dearly departed gather in Colma.
Just south of San Francisco, beneath dense fog, lie the graves of generations of San Franciscans.
The city of Colma, known as the City of Souls, is the final resting place of an estimated 1.5 million bodies.
The necropolis came to be in 1912, when San Francisco made the decision to ban cemeteries, and to move bodies to cheaper plots of land in the bay.
Over 150,000 bodies were transported to Colma in one of the only mass migrations to ever occur from San Francisco, rather than towards.
Much like San Francisco’s living, the dead in Colma are a diverse group. Inmates from Alcatraz are joined by innovators such as Levi Strauss, idols like Joe DiMaggio, and infinitely impactful residents like Mayor George Moscone.
You can easily find the graves of San Francisco’s famous– many graves are marked with larger than life tombstones, such as Emperor Norton’s, pictured above.
However, thousands are buried in mass graves because they did not pay a fee to have their tombstone transported with them.
Sustainably, those tombstones were repurposed in San Francisco for projects such as the Wave Organ, and to break waves along Ocean Beach.
Take a visit to Colma if you dare, many do to pay their respects. The BART rail that will take you there, is built right on top of the tracks trains used a century ago to transport the dead, so you’ll have something in common.
Let us know if you make any ghostly friends.