In the "Wrong Way Cemetery," the crypts face north-south instead of the traditional east-west.

By Meghan Overdeep
February 6, 2019
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In addition to being known as the "Frog Capital of the World," Rayne, Louisiana, has another peculiar claim to fame. The town of barely 8,000 residents located just west of Lafayette also happens to be home to the country’s only “backwards” Christian cemetery.  

In Christian cemeteries in America, the dead are almost always buried facing the rising sun. This is based on the biblical claim that the second coming of Christ would be from the east.

Instead of this traditional east-west orientation, the tombs at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Rayne are oriented north-south instead, earning it the nickname “Wrong Way Cemetery.” It’s not something you would ordinarily notice, but the cemetery’s above-ground crypts—a common practice in flood-prone Louisiana—make the mix-up pretty hard to miss.

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As Atlas Obscura reports, the reasons for the north-south orientation aren’t entirely clear. According to locals, the most common explanation is that the grave digger misunderstood the instructions when the cemetery was relocated in the late-19th century.

In 1880 the entire town (then Pouppeville) was moved five miles to the north to be closer to the main line of the Louisiana Western Railroad, and the cemetery moved with it. By the time it was realized that the graves were facing the wrong way in their new home, it was too late to fix it.

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