Auburn University has almost 30,000 students, but a couple souls walk the halls and are not counted, because they are unseen. The university was founded in 1856, less than a decade before the Civil War. These years between founding and the end of the Civil War are when the majority of the ghostly inhabitants at Auburn began calling the campus home. Over 150 years later, they have yet to leave.
One of the most famous ghosts lied in the oldest building on campus, Auburn University Chapel. Used as a hospital during the Civil War, many men died in the red brick chapel. One of those men was Sydney Grimlett. During an amputation of his leg, he bled to death. In the 1920’s the building was used by the theatre department. This is when Sydney began to make his presence known. Paranormal occurrences in the building include orbs of light being seen on stage, whistling and tapping being heard during rehearsal, and props randomly disappearing from the set or malfunctioning. Students have been said to make contact with Sydney using Ouija Boards.
Many Auburn players grew an affection for Sydney, and when the theatre department was moving from the Chapel to a new building, the Telfair Peet Theatre, students invited Sydney to make the new drama complex his home for haunting. Sydney gladly followed. His activities are similar to those at the Chapel: random noises, turning on and off lights, opening and closing drawers. Sydney is commonly seen on the catwalk above the stage. This is where students will leave candy for Sydney, his favorite being Peanut M&M’s.
During an investigation by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team, upon asking Sydney what his favorite color M&M’s were, he only responded to orange and blue. It seems not only the students have spirit at Auburn, but so do the spirits! Sadly this spirit is lonely. Sydney is the only commonly known ghost on campus, and the only ghost that is well-known enough to have a name.
Another ghost haunts arguably the most iconic building on Auburn’s campus: Samford Hall. This particular building does not hold a ghostly past, but the building before it. When Auburn was still East Alabama’s Male College in the 1800’s, there was a building in the center of campus called the Old Main. The lawn outside the building was used by soldiers for training. This building was also used as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War. The bodies of dead soldiers would be piled on the lawn during the fighting in Auburn. Old Main was burned down in 1887. Its replacement is the well-known Samford Hall. Ghostly figures have been known to linger around the building. One particular ghost wearing his military uniform haunts the bell tower, as he still keeps watch over the city.
Another occurrence around Samford Hall is phantom fires. This is when you can smell smoke or wood burning, but there is in fact no fire. This is the ghostly reminder of the fire of 1887 that destroyed the Old Main.
Not far from campus is Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge. This is not the bridge’s original location. While it used to reside over Wacoochee Creek, in 2005 a fallen oak tree caused the bridge to collapse. Volunteers salvaged parts of the bridge and the recovered shortened portion now stretches over a small creek near Auburn’s campus. The bridge’s infamous reputation began before the relocation.
While still spanning Wacoochee Creek, it was fabled that spirits of drowned Indians would grab anyone who dared to cross the bridge at night and pull them to a fate similar to their own.
Another story is of a girl asking her prom date to meet at the bridge. When he never showed, she could not handle the rejection. She hanged herself from the rafters, still in her prom dress.
The most recent and notorious story is that of a mother and her two children fatally crashing at the bridge. Some say it was originally just a woman that crashed, others say it was a woman and her son. Phantom fires at the bridge are connected to these occurrences. No matter the details, the spirit of a child or children haunted the bridge. If you put candy on the bridge’s edge you could see the ghostly children appear for the sweets.
All of these stories were before the relocation in 2005. The only ghost that remains with the bridge at the Opelika Municipal Park is that of a barefoot young boy who stays near the creek or the playground nearby. Only children can see him, but adults can hear his eerie giggle as he says “Come play with me!”
While, Auburn may not be riddled with ghosts, there are definitely more beings than the roster says!