The U.S. town with 17 cemeteries and more dead than alive

The U.S. town with 17 cemeteries and more dead than alive

The city of San Franciscoin the state of California, is a dynamic, vibrant and lively place. The same cannot be said of one of its neighboring localities, the small town of Colma. This place hosts in its territory no more and no less than 17 cemeteries and, its small population does not exceed the number of deceased buried under its soil.

One thousand dead for every living

“It’s great to be alive in Colma!” goes the town motto. This curious place is located at the tip of the San Francisco peninsula, on the west coast of the United States. Its population is just shy of 1,600 inhabitantsbut in their cemeteries rest more than one and a half million bodies buried in its cemeteriesthat is, one thousand for each living neighbor.

Tombstones in Colma (USA).
Tombstones in Colma (USA).
Crotalidae75 / Wikimedia Commons

And precisely cemeteries are not lacking: there are a total of seventeen spread over 4.9 square kilometers. But why such a disproportionate number? To understand it, we go back to the period of the Gold Rushthat is, at the end of the 19th century.

Auschwitz concentration camp, in an image from the documentary 'Auschwitz in 33 objects'.

Many people were drawn to the western part of the country, bringing with them a considerable increase in the population, but also in the contagious diseases. In addition, many others died on their expedition in search of the precious metal, until the Californian city had no more space for burials. As a result, the neighboring town of Colma, only 15 kilometers away, was established as a preferred cemetery of San Francisco.

Tombs in Colma (USA).
Graves in Colma (USA).
Sharon Mollerus / WIkimedia Commons

From a pet cemetery to a clown cemetery.

In Colma the variety of cemeteries is impressive. We find from mixed cemeteries, to cemeteries separated by religions (Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and Greek Orthodox) or by nationalities (Chinese, Japanese, Italians and Serbs). There are also cemeteries of pets and even, in one of the largest cemeteries, there is a section dedicated exclusively to clowns.


In general, Colma is a really quiet village, although the curious also arrive attracted by such a spiritual atmosphere. Visitors walk along the rows of tombstones and mausoleums, discovering tombs of famous personalities Levi Strauss, the creator of the iconic Levi’s jeans; Sheriff Wyatt Earp; Governor Edmond Brown; and baseball player and husband of Marilyn Monroe, Joe di Maggio.

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Kayleigh Williams