Town Of The Dead: Colma, California

Did you know there is a town in California full of dead people?

Colma, California Town of The Dead photo

Colma is a small incorporated town in San Mateo County, in the San Francisco Bay Area that was actually founded as a necropolis in 1924.

Colma, California Town of The Dead photo

The population of living folk was a mere 1,792 at the 2010 census.

But with most of the town’s land dedicated to cemeteries, the population of the dead—about 1.5 million—outnumbers that of the living by nearly a thousand to one!

Colma, California Town of The Dead

Accordingly, Colma is known as “the Town of The Dead”, “the City of the Silent”, or, “The City of Souls” and has the fun the town motto: “It’s great to be alive in Colma!”

House Crazy Sarah loves a dead town with a sense of humor.

Colma, CA welcome sign

(Note how the town welcome sign is made of gravestone granite.)

So how did Colma happen? Back in the 1849 gold rush, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to San Franciso and many of them came bearing diseases. This led to a high rate of death for the “49ers” and the 26 existing San Franciso cemetaries were just about full by the 1880s. Cemetery owners started scouting for new property to expand on and the area now known as Colma was chosen because of the ease of transportation from there to San Franciso.

Colma back then, was a small grouping of houses and mercantile stores.

Colma, California Town of The Dead historic photo of Colma

San Franciso passed a law declaring no more burials were permitted in city limits because the land was just too valuable to give up to the dead.

But the city went even further to protect its real estate.

In January of 1914, eviction notices were sent out to all cemeteries in San Franciso to remove all the bodies and monuments. Little Colma suddenly inherited hundreds of thousands of bodies.

It cost $10.00 for body removal and relocation to Colma, but if no family were available to pay the fee, the bodies were unceremoniously dumped in a mass grave.

On August 5, 1924, Colma was incorporated as “Lawndale” but the cemetery-esque name was later changed back to Colma when the US Post Office complained that there was already an established town named Lawndale in southern California.

Famous peeps buried at Colma:

William Randolph Hearst is buried here; baseball legend Joe DiMaggio is interred at the Holy Cross cemetery; Levi Strauss is buried at the Home of Peace Cemetery; and Wyatt Earp’s remains are at the Hills of Eternity Memorial Park.

Wyatt Earp gravestone

Colma, however, is not just a place for the mortal remains of humans; pets have their special place here as well:

Colma, California Pet Cemetery

Today, Colma is a sleepy little town that caters to cemetery tourism, not surprisingly.

Colma California town hall photo

Even the town hall resembles a mausoleum, but hey, nothing wrong with embracing your heritage!

Colma, California Town of The Dead cemetery

Long live Colma!  🙂




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