Paranormal believer or not, Halloween inspires us to revisit the spooky stories of our past. Founded in 1828, the Augusta University Summerville campus has decades of history all around us. And, with a history like that, you’re bound to collect a few ghost stories along the way.
“History is always around us and shaping us, whether we know it or not,” says John Hayes, Associate Professor of History in the Department of History, Anthropology and Philosophy.
Dare to divulge in the rich history behind some of the buildings on campus? We’ve gathered our five most popular haunted places on campus:
Employees in Bellevue Hall, which is the Student Affairs Office, and housekeeping staff, have all claimed to hear eerie things on several occasions. Phones and TVs seem to have a mind of their own. Doors open and close by themselves.
A spirit is said to haunt the hallways of the oldest building on campus, nearly two centuries old, dating back to before the Civil War.
Emily Galt lived in Bellevue Hall back when it was a private residence. She was engaged to a soldier heading to the Civil War. After he was killed in battle, a distraught Emily walked up the stairs to the second floor and jumped out of the window.
Today, you might spot a lonesome figure standing in one of the second-floor windows.
Colonel J. Walker Benet’s son, Stephen Vincent Benet, was born in 1898 and lived in the house as a young man.
Legend says that there was an officer that lived in the house long before Stephen and his father. The officer was married to a pompous woman who spent obscene amounts of her husband’s money on fine clothes. Every morning the maid would bring the woman tea while her husband went hunting.
One day, the maid came in and found the woman dead on the floor, apparently from poison. She was still clutching the teacup in her cold hands. The Commander said that he had brought her some tea before he went for his morning hunt, but denied poisoning his wife.
Many people have claimed that the woman, nicknamed “First Lady,” still haunts the house, seeking revenge. Another person has said that if you look in the mirror that was once the woman’s room, a glimpse of a woman admiring herself in the mirror can be seen. Others claimed that the sound of hangers moving or clothes being tossed around can be heard coming from the closest, even if there is nothing in it.
Payne Hall’s history goes back to the Summerville campus’ time as the Augusta Arsenal. Stories have been told about Army prisoners who were housed in a basement room beneath the building. The Arsenal operated until 1955 when it was renovated it for the university’s use.
Employees and students who have ventured to the basement were often overwhelmed by extreme feelings of claustrophobia.
Rains hall was originally designated for the second-in-command of the Augusta Arsenal.
In 1861, Colonel George Washington Rains was put in charge. After the war, Rains became a chemistry professor and later became the Dean of the Medical College.
In 1955 when the Arsenal left, the ghost stories appeared. Voices can be heard coming from downstairs, but no one is there. Phantom footsteps can be heard going down the hall. Sometimes there’s a strange scent of cigar smoke. Doorknobs rattle and lights flicker.
Some believe the strange happenings are “George,” convinced that it is the long-dead general still roaming his home.
Tucked away on the corner of Arsenal Avenue and Walton Way, is the historic Walker Cemetery. Residents of the space are members of the Walker family. One in particular likes to leave his spot and walk around the university’s campus. He’s the ghost of a Confederate soldier, who is believed to be related to former Senator Freeman Walker, on whose land the cemetery was first established. If you care to venture in search of the soldier, remember to please be respectful.
If you’re interested, you can visit each of these spots along the History Trail that borders and entwines itself through the Summerville campus. You’ll find that Augusta University is brimming with history, just steps away from the classrooms where we learn about it.
As one of Faulkner’s characters said, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’