There is a necropolis south of San Francisco. When space ran out to bury the dead in the big city, the dearly departed of the twentieth century were sent to spend their eternal rest in the little community of Colma, whose motto is, “It’s great to be alive in Colma.” There are more dead in Colma than live inhabitants. With only about 1500 living residents, the more “permanent” inhabitants number 1.5 million.

The notable members of the “city of the silent,” are buried in 18 different cemeteries, including one for pets. Cypress Lawn Memorial Park is the final resting place for William Randolph Hearst, the San Francisco Examiner newspaper magnate whose personal fortune built his famous castle in San Simeon. Hearst was buried in the family mausoleum in 1951 at the age of 88.

Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, the city’s first cemetery, holds the remains of many famous people. The great New York Yankee centerfielder Joe DiMaggio died in Hollywood, Florida in 1999 but his funeral was held in his hometown of San Francisco at St. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church and he was buried in Colma. A victim of the 1969 Charles Manson murders, Abigail Folger, is also buried in this cemetery, along with Joe Alioto, former San Francisco mayor.

But one of the most fascinating underground residents of Colma is the legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp. He died in Los Angeles in 1929, two months shy of his 81st birthday and was buried in Hills of Eternity Cemetery, in his wife’s family plot. His wife, Josephine Marcus, died in 1944 and was buried next to him. The headstone is a large, striking black stone with a white scroll with the name “Earp” in black letters.

Colma has grown other businesses, retail stores and car dealerships are now part of this unusual community’s history but the most fascinating stories are read in the names on the stones in the Northern California city of the dead.