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Posted: October 10, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Phantom Folklore: The ghosts of Oxford College

Brittany Thomas/

The lush campus of Oxford College is steeped in history. Built in 1836 as a Methodist liberal arts college, it was the birthplace of Emory University. During the Civil War it served as a hospital where soldiers wounded in the Battle of Atlanta were treated. For many, it was also where they came to die.

"This is where Sherman's troops marched through," said Dr. Joe Moon, Dean of Campus Life at Oxford. "Many of these buildings were used as hospitals and solders were brought here from Atlanta for treatment. When they died, they were carried down this path and buried."

The path Moon was referring to is now a nature trail and connects to other trails throughout the city. It is commonly used by students for hiking and there’s a bench in front of the small, well-maintained cemetery that seems almost idyllic on an autumn afternoon.

It also may be haunted.

"There isn't a singular story," Moon said. "But you always hear about students seeing movement or feeling things or hearing screams down here... During the daytime it's kind of nice, but at night it's very spooky."

While there are several grave markers for soldiers in the small cemetery, Moon is unsure whether they necessarily correlate with actual burial sites and is unsure how many soldiers are buried there.

He believes that the entire area may have once been a cemetery.

According to Moon, there’s a story of paranormal activity associated with just about every building on campus, even if it is just professors or staff members who swear they hear movement or thumps when no one else is in the building.

Phi Gamma Hall, the oldest academic building that Emory owns, may have a ghost.

"It was here in the Civil War when all the death occurred and it does have a story," said Moon.

The building has several large windows that face the library entrance. Now a lovely 24-hour study room, for years it was closed at night and not utilized at all for a couple of years.

Students reported that when they left the library at night they saw a woman dressed in white, which they called a nurse, said Moon.

"They all described her as frantic, saying she seemed to be distraught and would pace back and forth in front of the windows," Moon said.

Reports of the wailing nurse have ceased since the building has been in use around-the-clock as a study area.

Several staff members have reported odd noises around Seney Hall, which dates from 1881.

One former professor swore that when he worked late at night he would become aware of a presence in his office.

"He described it as a young boy, about 17 or 18, and he said that it reminded him of a Confederate soldier," said Moon. "He said the boy was not malicious and that he was never scared, but that he would sit there quietly and watch until the boy faded away."

Since Seney Hall dates from 16 years after the war, Moon was dubious of the tale, until he learned that it had replaced a "monolithic building" called Main or Old Main. Like other buildings on campus, Old Main had been used as a hospital during the war. Seney Hall was built with materials from Old Main.

While there is not a formal tour of the school available, the nature trail is open during the day, and visitors can walk around the campus at their leisure.

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