Updated: Wednesday, 29 Jun 2011, 7:31 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 30 Jun 2011, 5:06 AM EDT
New Haven, Conn. (WTNH) - Hundreds walk by it, you may have even driven past, but not many know what's hiding under New Haven Center Church on the Green.
Preserved and standing the test of time since the 1600s, it's a basement burial ground and a huge surprise to those taking the New Haven Crypt Tour.
"I see it when they come down," says Laura Ellsworth of the New Haven Crypt Association. "They look around they're like a little kid with a new toy looking all around saying this is different."
Ellsworth is one of the tour guides showing off headstone art -- angels, hourglasses and more -- that have stood for centuries. They are the final resting place of some well-known figures like Margaret Arnold, Benedict Arnold's wife, and the family of President Rutherford Hayes.
"Over here we have Hester Caofter who originally owned that land where Yale University sits," Ellsworth explained during a tour of the crypt.
The remains of about 137 people are buried here. Another 1,000 are unidentified.
The church was relocated and built over this burial site during the early 1800s. It's the keeper of history, promoting teaching and learning today, even from outside sources.
"We also get information from some of the tourists because they have done some research ... and they come in with questions and answers and many times the guide can't answer it because they don't know," Ellsworth said.
And let's face it -- it is a little spooky, right?
"Naaaa, never get scared down here," Ellsworth said. "Of course some of the school kids get upset about coming to a cemetery."
For more information on the crypt and when you can visit, go to newhavencrypt.com