CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — In the heart of Charlotte, we can learn so much about the city’s history in a place some might find spooky.

It’s the landmark Elmwood/Pinewood cemetery, where folks from all walks of life are buried. If you combined Charlotte’s history with a stroll in the park, the experience might look like this.

“People come here every day to walk and jog,” said Lynn Weis.

Weis is the president of Historic Elmwood/Pinewood, the nonprofit devoted to restoring and preserving the site.

“It is a dog-walking paradise,” he added. “This is what you get in this cemetery that was designed to have a park-like atmosphere.”

The cemetery opened in 1853 and is made up of 72 acres in Uptown, where trains and birds are all part of the soundscape.

Thousands of grave markers help convey the stories of the dead to future generations.

For example, the Forbis triplets were less than a year old when they passed during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic; especially poignant since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

There’s fascinating history at every turn, including the grave of a man named Charlie Houck, who died in a wild way.

“And that’s the marker that has been broken into three pieces,” Weis said, pointing it out. “Killed by a lion January 9, 1930, with the Melville Show.”

The Charlotte Observer headline read “Lion Tears Into Friendly Trainer.”

Houck worked with the Melville-Reiss shows when Leo mauled him.

“He was feeding the lion and decided to reach in and pet the lion because he had become—he thought—quite friendly with the lion,” Weis explained. “The lion didn’t think so and ripped his arms to shreds.”

An article in The Robesonian of Lumberton reported that he suffered ‘a badly mangled arm… as he was feeding the jungle beast.’

Houck became one of the cemetery’s most intriguing cautionary tales. After over nine decades, the headstone decayed and fell off the mounting.

Jason Tapp, the creator of the Spooky CLT Instagram account, refuses to leave the stone for dead.

“So I just reached out to the cemetery and just said, ‘Hey, what would it look like to raise the money to fix this thing?'” Tapp said.

On Saturday, Voices of the Past will raise money to replace the slab. From 1 to 4 p.m., folks in costume will share tales of the dead at the Historic Elmwood/Pinewood Cemetery.

Tapp will play the role of Charlie Houck.

“I just enjoyed the fact that we have a man who was killed by a lion here in Charlotte, N.C., and we have a headstone that talks about it,” said Tapp.

“It’s a classic as far as who’s buried here,” Weis said. “There’s also someone buried in this cemetery who was killed by an elephant.”

Of course, there is.

In 1880, John King crossed the rainbow bridge after being crushed by an elephant named Chief while working for the circus.

“The elephant got irritated by John King’s lack of proper treatment and squished him up the side of a boxcar that they were riding in and took off down Graham Street,” said Weis.

While King’s tombstone is intact, the elephant in the room is that hundreds here are in disrepair. On the Historic Elmwood/Pinewood website, community members can scroll through and see what needs immediate attention.

“There’s an opportunity for folks to donate money to Charlie Houck’s memorial as well as hundreds of other memorials that they can either choose themselves to fix, or they can pick from a list,” said Weis.

Such repairs help ensure that dozens of acres of life stories aren’t overlooked.

“Cause I think Charlotte has a little bit of a visibility problem when it comes to sharing history and culture,” Tapp said.

History buffs say we can glean a lot about how Charlotteans lived by also learning how they died.