Mausoleum of Egbert Ludovicus Viele – West Point, New York - Atlas Obscura

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Mausoleum of Egbert Ludovicus Viele

West Point Cemetery

The Brigadier General was so afraid of being buried alive that he had a buzzer installed in his mausoleum, just in case he woke up. 

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After his death in 1902, Brigadier General Egbert Ludovicus Viele was interred in this pyramid-shaped mausoleum in West Point Cemetery.

Viele was born in 1825 in Waterford, New York, and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1847. Following service in the Mexican-American War, Viele became a civilian engineer, eventually becoming the chief engineer for the construction of Central Park. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Viele was given a commission as a Brigadier General in the Union Army, where he went on to command troops at the Seige of Fort Pulaski.

While alive, Viele ordered the construction of a pyramid-shaped mausoleum, the largest at the West Point Cemetery to date. But the engineer was paranoid about being buried alive. Therefore, when he ordered his mausoleum, he had a buzzer installed at the back which connected to the cemetery office. This way, if Viele were to find himself interred in the mausoleum prematurely, he would have a means of being released.

According to some cemetery staff, when the cadets at West Point heard of this buzzer, they put long sticks through the door of the mausoleum to press the buzzer, doubtlessly to the shock of the cemetery staff. Unfortunately for the cadets and Viele, the wire was cut in 1922 (though the buzzer is still present to this day).

Know Before You Go

The West Point Cemetery is open to the public, but visitors without a military ID will need to stop by the Visitor Control Center to pick up a guest pass. The Visitor Control Center opens at 6 a.m. and is located just outside Thayer Gate, the main entrance to the U.S. Military Academy. The cemetery is open seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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