Every campus should have its ghosts, or at least its ghost stories, and Emory does. Some students claim to have “felt” the spirit of President Atticus Haygood in Old Church at Oxford. One former staff member of the alumni association tells a hair-raising story of encountering a man in an old-fashioned suit and a bowler hat while working on the second floor of the Houston Mill House—a man there one moment and gone the next. And heaven (or hell!) only knows what goes on at the Briarcliff mansion, but check it out here.
The best Emory ghost story surely comes from Mike Wilhoit, who 45 years ago was working late at night in the Tufts House (formerly Uppergate House), when he encountered a woman who couldn’t have been there but was–and then wasn’t.
For those in search of more mundane encounters with “spirits” from the past, two cemeteries at Emory beckon. One is on the Oxford campus and harbors the graves of Confederate soldiers who died while being cared for in Oxford after the Battle of Atlanta.
A second cemetery lies tucked away, half-hidden, on the Clairmont Campus in Atlanta. Shuttle-bus riders and pedestrians, as well as parents picking up children at the Clifton Childcare Center, often pass by without realizing that some fifty bodies lie buried nearby.
Richard Houston Sams, Emory College Class of 1957, has written the fullest history of this hallowed ground, and he has good reason for his interest in it—some of his ancestors are buried there.
The earliest grave is that of Rody Harriet Hardman, just a year and a half old when she died in 1825. She was the daughter of John Hardman, who was laid to rest near her more than half a century later.
Not far from the Hardman plot lie Dr. Chapmon Powell and his wife, Elizabeth Hardman Powell, parents of Amanda Powell. In 1854 Amanda married Washington Jackson Houston–the builder of Houston Mill and great-grandfather of Richard Sams.
Somewhat farther away, near the edge of the cemetery, lie the foundation stones on which, sometime around 1830, Naman Hardman built a church known as the Primitive Baptist Church in Christ at Hardman’s. This building, according to Sams, was still standing when a wing of General Sherman’s army marched down the Shallowford Trail–now Clairmont Road–toward Decatur in July 1864. Sams says the structure was left in ashes by the time the army left.
Much more history haunts these two acres, which are owned not by Emory but by the DeKalb Historical Society. The spirits inhabiting the place include the land’s original inhabitants, the Creek Indians, who lived along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek, near where the VA Hospital stands on Clairmont Road. Meanwhile, this quiet corner tucked between a parking deck and apartment building D offers tranquility for visitors on a balmy autumn afternoon.