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Halloween history: A look at the Triangle’s haunted locations and Duke’s historic graves

<p>An eerie fall day in Durham.</p>

An eerie fall day in Durham.

October brings plenty of reasons to be scared. Midterm season seems endless. Temperatures change randomly, so you never know what to wear. 

Yet at some sites around the Triangle, legend tells of terrors more supernatural in nature. And if history interests you more than horror, here at Duke you can even find memorials for those who once served as University presidents, deans and chairs.

Let’s take a look at a few of those sites.

A haunted capital

According to legend, some of North Carolina’s most important government buildings are haunted.

At the state Capitol building, people have reported hearing strange noises at night. A night guard said he saw what appeared to be a Civil War soldier pacing in a window, the building’s site administrator told ABC11.

The Capitol’s library is a hotbed of supposed paranormal activity. Visitors get strange feelings in the library, according to the site administrator, and ghost researchers have claimed to find increased activity there. 

The North Carolina Executive Mansion, the N.C. governor’s official residence, has its own ghost story. It is said that the spirit of Daniel Fowle, a governor who died in the mansion, lingers there.

The strange happenings began after former Gov. Bob Scott had the bed where Fowle died moved out, according to Spectrum News 1. Since then, tapping or knocking sounds have been heard in the walls.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory is an enthusiast for the tale of Fowle’s ghost.

“I’d say goodnight to him in the evening,” he told Spectrum. “We’d have good conversations about, you know, music, politics, the arts, philosophy.”

Fowle’s bed was recently returned to the mansion at the request of Kristin Cooper, wife of current Gov. Roy Cooper. The strange tapping, however, has continued.

The Mordecai House

A woman in a 19th-century dress has been seen wandering the halls or standing on the balcony of this ancient Raleigh home, according to WRAL. There are also reports of the house’s piano playing by itself. 

The home, which is older than Raleigh itself, is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of Margaret Mordecai and Mary Willis Mordecai Turk. 

As with the Capitol library, paranormal researchers have checked out the location. They’ve even presented their findings at a “Haunted Mordecai Festival” there. 

The Carolina Inn

The Carolina Inn is popular among visitors to University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. People who stay in Room 252 have reported odd occurrences, according to UNC Communications, including being mysteriously locked out, feeling strangely cold and smelling freshly cut flowers when there were none in the room.

The room was once the residence of a man named William Jacocks, who lived there after he retired from practicing medicine. Jacocks died in 1965, but according to legend, he lingers to this day in the room he once called home.

Duke’s own history & gravesites

At the heart of campus lay the final resting places of several important figures in the University’s history—including its namesake. 

Washington Duke and his sons, Benjamin Duke and James B. Duke, rest in marble sarcophagi in the Memorial Chapel, part of the Duke Chapel. Their bodies were moved there from Maplewood Cemetery in 1935.

The Chapel crypt houses the bodies of three University presidents: William Preston Few, J. Deryl Hart and Terry Sanford. Nanaline Holt Duke, James B. Duke’s wife; Mary Johnson Hart, J. Deryl Hart’s wife; and Margaret Rose Sanford, Terry Sanford’s wife, are also buried there.

The crypt is also the resting place for the ashes of James A. Thomas, former chair of the Duke Memorial Association; James T. Cleland, former dean of the Chapel; and Alice Mead Cleland, Cleland’s wife. 

Some say spirits linger in the crypt. A psychic medium once said that while sitting there, she had a vision of James B. Duke dressed as Jesus Christ. One visitor has claimed to capture a ghost on camera in the crypt. 

A less-conspicuous gravesite sits within the Blue Zone parking lot. It is the family cemetery of the Rigsbees, who owned a plot of land that Duke purchased in 1925 order to build what is now West Campus.

The deed for the sale specified that the cemetery would continue to belong to the family, who have continued to care for it. A low wall separates the graveyard’s grassy tranquility from the surrounding parking lots.

According to family legend, James B. Duke once sat on the cemetery wall and described his plans for a university to Thomas J. Rigsbee Jr., who in 1924 would become the last person laid to rest in the graveyard. 


Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin is a Trinity senior and was editor-in-chief for The Chronicle's 116th volume.

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