Now open the door and head down the dark steps to the bottom. Take another left and you have reached the burial place of William Preston Few, the last president of Trinity College and the first president of Duke, and Nanaline Holt Duke, wife of James B. Duke. Also buried in the Crypt is Terry Sanford, Duke's sixth president, former N.C. governor and former U.S. Senator. These are just three of the six people who are interred under the stone floor of the Crypt.
The ashes of three former University leaders are also hidden in the walls—those of James A. Thomas, former chairman of the Duke Memorial Association, former Dean of Duke Chapel James T. Cleland and Cleland’s wife, Alice.
“High school kids don’t like going to the Crypt because there’s actual people and they get freaked out and leave,” Visitor Relations Specialist Daniel Reeves said.
There are 27 other plaques scattered around the floor of the Crypt denoting places where people can still be buried. Pieces of the wall can also be removed to make space for more ashes.
“When I open up, it’s a bit… quiet. We like to make jokes that the Dukes play the organs at night,” Reeves said.