The hauntings of the Vaughn Home at Vanderbilt University

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — At the heart of Vanderbilt University’s campus, you’ll find the Vaughn Home.

The home was built in 1875, two years after Vanderbilt was founded. It was one of the seven original faculty houses on campus. It was also the home of William J. Vaughn who was the first university math teacher and librarian. Vaughn was a professor of mathematics for 30 years and a professor of mathematics and astronomy for 16. He was University librarian for 26 years.

He and his family lived in the home until 1912. The home has served as a residence for faculty, dorms for men and women, offices for the department of romance languages and teaching assistants, and now it serves as the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.

News 2 spoke with Holly Tucker, Director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, about the history of the home. She said it’s now the heartbeat of for the humanities on campus, and like many older homes, it has a few ghost stories.

“When I started as director last year, I was starting to hear various little stories about people who were in the house late at night. Dewayne Arbogast, Vanderbilt Custodian, told me a story. He was in there one day, in the janitors room and he was sitting there falling asleep, cleaning the house with his wife Kathy. He was sure that Kathy had touched him on the shoulder, then he heard a knocking at the door, saying come on Dwayne. It was Kathy telling him she was heading to the next room, and he is absolutely certain that he was touched on the shoulder by a member of the Vaughn family.”

William’s daughter, Stella, is the most well-known Vaughn besides William. Stella organized the first Vanderbilt women’s basketball team in the fall of 1896. Also, she was one of the first to graduate from the university.

“There’s an old fireplace in my office, and it’s so interesting, no matter how much we keep it clean, there’s always soot. I’ve heard people say they’ve noticed – or liked to think that they’ve seen- two little footprints in the soot. And we would like to think it was Stella Vaughn as a child.”

Tucker said it’s amazing to be a part of a campus with so much history. She also told News 2 she’s worked in the Vaughn home late at night and heard noises.

“It’s very hard to be there late at night and not think about all the people that have been there. It’s an old house and you hear sounds. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m driving myself nuts. I hear steps going down the winding stairs. I’m in Mrs. Vaughn’s sewing room. I have a picture of her sitting by the fireplace where the chair is in my office. You can’t just be in that house and not imagine you’re not living with past lives.”

Tucker also provided more background on Professor Vaughn.

“I’d love to sit in the study with Professor Vaughn. At one point there were over 6,000 books in the house. Many of the books that were in the Vaughn home are now in the Vanderbilt library collection. We have a whole set of students who are right now masked up and on teams understanding the long history of the house, down to the paint chips. It’s not only the history of the house, but also a university and society.”

Students have done archeological digs at the house in order to fully grasp the history locked into the property.

News 2 asked Tucker if she believes the professor’s spirit lingers in the home.

“Could it be haunted? I’m not sure. But we do have documentation that Professor Vaughn died in the house. We do not know which room it was in. But how can you think about that and be alone in the house at night?”

Tucker added, if there are ghosts, then they are friendly ones.

“This is a happy house, it’s been my second home. When you ask what is the home like, it’s a good place where students and graduates feel home. As cheesy as it is, pre-COVID days, we ran about 30 different events in that house a home. If there are ghosts in this house, they are mighty fine welcoming ghosts.”

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