WASHINGTON - They weren't ghosts, but goats that spent about three weeks eating their way through a local cemetery.
Prosperity Acres Farm in Sunderland brought 34 goats to St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Port Tobacco, Md., in late August to chow down on huge tangles of weeds and vines that had taken over part of the graveyard.
Goats are becoming an increasingly popular option for people interested in clearing vegetation from their property because they eat almost anything and the waste they leave behind is a great fertilizer.
Since the goats finished their work and were removed from St. Ignatius, the church's pastor, Fr. Tom Clifford, S.J., has found about 15 grave markers.
They date from the early 1900s to the 1960s.
While giving WTOP a tour of the newly-cleared section of the cemetery, the pastor found a gravestone he hadn't seen before.
"I guess the graves could easily come another 50, 60 feet down the hill here, because there's certainly a marker here that has to get pulled out from under a couple fallen trees," Clifford said.
In one spot there are two mounds covered with twisted piles of vines.
Clifford thinks each mound may contain a tombstone, because they are right in line with a row of other stones.
When he hired the goats, Clifford expected they would find graves hidden under the weeds, but the hungry animals also uncovered something he didn't expect.
"I wondered why there was this weird ridge. It's a road covered with dirt, where they were dumping dirt from previous burials," said Clifford.
He thinks the gravel road has been covered with dirt and vegetation for 40 years.
From now on, Clifford plans to bring the goats back every summer to make sure nature doesn't reclaim the cemetery again.
To read about the cemetery before the goats got to work and see before pictures, click here.
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