Is Clyde A. Erwin High School Haunted?

Clyde A. Erwin High School

If the classic 1980s horror film “Poltergeist” scared you, you may want to scroll past this blog post. According to multiple published reports and interviews, a high school in North Carolina is often visited by spirits, and they may be the spirits of people who were disturbed from their graves on the property the school was built on.

Clyde A. Erwin High is located in Asheville, N.C., which in my personal experience, seems to be a hotbed of supernatural activity. Here’s the backstory on this high school and why many think the school is home to multiple spirits. Back in 1973, the Buncombe County Board of Education decided they wanted to upgrade and build a new campus for the high school. The problem was, the board also requested that a centuries-old potters field, holding the graves of poor and homeless and elderly residents of the county, be moved in order to make room for the new building.

I found an article from 2002 that ran in the Mountain Xpress, the town’s alternative weekly newspaper. They did an extensive story on the supernatural occurrences that have taken place at the school. An unnamed retired assistant principal had this to say about the moving of the graves:

“My first thought was they didn’t need to move [the graveyard] in the first place. None of the school is [directly] built on it. The cemetery was between the fence of the football field and down onto the bank right above the third floor of the school. In my opinion, they could [have] built [the school] in there and never had to move any of [the graveyard].”

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The board hired an independent contractor who was in the business of traveling around the country removing cemeteries at the request of various development projects. The remains were re-interred on a hillside behind West Buncombe Elementary School, just across Lees Creek Road from the high school, under military-style rows of identical white crosses. The article said, “Most of the graves, however, were unmarked, including those containing victims of a tuberculosis epidemic who in a sanitorium; the brick building that housed the sanatorium still stands near the current middle school.

Some coffins were marked by tombstones because the cemetery had been used by local families before the county took it over. Records from the Pack Memorial Library indicate the cemetery was founded in the late 1800s by the Rhodes family. It is now known as the County Home Cemetery.

The contractors searched for the unmarked gravesites by plunging a T-handled rod into the ground and feeling for soft spots. As the number of graves they excavated rose from their initial estimate of only 200 to at least 1,000, the gruesome toil aroused morbid curiosity. While most of the human remains were moved — one count puts it at 613 people, another at 604 — hundreds were not moved and remain underground on the Erwin High School property, near the football field and stadium concession stand.

Over the years, there have been numerous reports of strange incidences around the school, and a lot of the reports come from members of the custodial staff who are there after hours. The elevator in the school goes up and down by itself all the time. Another former teacher had this to say:

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“There have been two occasions that I know of where there have been pictures hanging on the wall that, for no reason at all, just fell off — and fell off in such a way that they didn’t fall straight down, but they fell out and away from the wall,” the former employee explained. “There again you could always explain that maybe somebody was doing something on the other side of the wall that maybe forced them off.”

Another employee said, “I’ve seen the VCR eject a videotape that had been in all day long and not been played, and the VCR just without any warning automatically popped the tape out.”

From the reports I’ve read, the spirits seem to be more into playful pranks, like riding on elevators, knocking pictures off walls, moving trash cans and slamming doors when no one is supposed to be in the building. Maybe the spirits are well aware the students and administrators had nothing to do with disturbing the graves in the potter’s field and are content to make themselves known in harmless ways.

This story was featured in my podcast episode, “Ghostly Tales from the Carolinas.” You can listen to this and more spooky stories from both North and South Carolina here.

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