Attending ghost tours and haunted houses as Halloween approaches is one thing, but the diehard scare-seekers among us may be left cold (and thoroughly unafraid) by simply seeing someone jump out in a mask. Those seeking to have a "spookier" time may think visiting a cemetery at night will deliver the thrills and chills they crave, but there remains the matter of trespassing to consider before sneaking in for a moonlit seance.
It goes without saying that private graveyards, ones that are only used by a single family or a small group, are off-limits unless you have the owners' permission. But, even cemeteries that are open to the public have their own set of guidelines any visitor ought to follow.
From listing their visiting hours online and in their offices, to physically closing their gates, most cemeteries make it pretty clear when visitors are welcome and when they aren't. In other words, it should be easy to tell when you're trespassing, even on so-called "public" burial sites. (And, it bears mentioning, if you find yourself hopping a fence or wondering whether what you're doing counts as trespassing, there's a good chance it does.)
That said, sneaking into a graveyard and getting caught doesn't necessarily mean you're headed to prison. For example, a recent case of trespassers cutting through a New Jersey graveyard ended in 32 citations but no arrests. Officially, James Cohen, adjunct professor at Fordham Law School tells Refinery29 that trespassing is a criminal offense for which you can be arrested and convicted. He adds that jail time is "unusual," but can happen, in which case you'd spend fewer than 30 days behind bars.
Any seasoned paranormal investigator will tell you the same: Either get in touch with the cemetery's owner or caretaker to discuss visiting at night or sneak in and risk being written up.
No matter how fascinated you are with the macabre and the otherworldly, respect for the deceased and their families must come first. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go near a graveyard unless you're attending a funeral, but you should keep in mind that cemeteries are founded first and foremost as a place of rest for the dead. If you think you might be a disruptive presence, maybe wait until the gates reopen to take your stroll through the tombstones.