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Letter to the Editor: A cemetery is not an attraction

A stone sign engraved with "The Princeton Cemetery of Nassau Presbyterian Church" in front of a background of green grass and leafy green trees. Two American flags stand before the sign.
"Princeton Cemetery" by David Keddie / [CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED]

The following is a letter to the editor and reflects the author’s views alone. For information on how to submit a piece to the Opinion section, click here.

To the Editor:


I have just read a recent article in the Daily Princetonian noting that the Undergraduate Student Government has approved and funded a plan to conduct a “Ghost Tour” around Princeton Cemetery. The article states the following: “U-Councilor Roberto Lachner ’26 and Genevieve Shutt ’26 presented planning for a USG-sponsored Princeton Ghost Tour around the Princeton Cemetery. The trip would cost $1047.50 and allow for 25 students to attend. The expense was approved in a unanimous vote.”

The approved funding suggests the possibility of a staged entertainment production. The article makes no mention of the tour’s organizers or details, but I note the Princeton Tour Company’s (PTC) own “ghost tour” description, which includes Princeton Cemetery, has the following description: “Our experienced Ghost Hunter Guides will train each guest to use dowsing rods, therma-meters while describing the controversial Psyleron Lamp to interact with the other side at an unmarked burial ground. More importantly, they’ll carry all that heavy stuff.” Fortunately for my anxious first impression, I was relieved that PTC does not conduct investigations within the cemetery run by Nassau Presbyterian Church, noting that its status as "a resting place" would render such acts inappropriate.

As the father of a tragically deceased son recently interred next to my own father and mother in the old part of the cemetery, I am a frequent pilgrim in mourning to my son’s grave. As a student of local history and funereal culture, I also often meander elsewhere about the cemetery to commune with several departed friends and notables who eternally rest as well in this precious local burial ground.

I don’t wish to be a curmudgeon or an old fogey. But Princeton Cemetery is like a church to me and others, a place where I often go to talk to and pray for my dearly departed son. No matter whom the USG will hire to stage the tour, there is something unseemly about a potential commercial tour for 25 University students amusing themselves in the dark by searching for “ghosts” with flashlights in a hallowed local place. Here’s hoping that the good folks of the USG will first check about their plan with the Nassau Presbyterian Church, the administrator of the cemetery, to ensure that the dignity, beauty, historicity, solemnity, and propriety of the cemetery will be upheld and respected in any “ghost tour.” Thanks for your consideration.

Thomas H. Pyle ’76 is a resident of Princeton and a senior executive in mental health services and advocacy, with an MBA from Harvard and a MS from Rutgers. He served as the first chairman of the USG in 1975.