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Chapel Hill's Most Mysterious Deaths

by Charly Mann


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lazykats      1:42 PM Wed 9/21/2011

I have read and re-read this story and the only conclusion that I can come to (in my opinion) is that these two were lovers and that one had decided to either end the romance or come out and make it public. Which at that time would have been disastrous for possible both of them. Sad to think that two young lives were ended because of what others would think.

vwlinney      3:58 AM Mon 1/18/2010

I remember my BF telling me that cyanide compound had been a standard part of the Qualitative Analysis scheme. His prof made an aside in lecture that if God and President Aycock allowed, a student would achieve certain results of the ID of an unknown cation using cyanide. The chem department had been ordered to find an alternate QA scheme to eliminate access to cyanide by freshmen.<br \><br \>I remember this incident and either reading or hearing that one of the pair took notes on their reactions to the poison.<br \><br \>There was also a rumor that a young man self castrated and died when he could not perform sexually with his female date. I was so naive then that it was some years later that I realised that the point was that the young man was distraught over being homosexua. l have since read that in NC gays weren&#39;t just in the closet, they were in concrete bunkers.

Larry007      3:57 PM Mon 10/26/2009

This story reminds me of an incident that happened my freshman year in 1966-67. A student had hung himself in an apparent suicide that year; I&#39;m not sure if it was fall or spring or if it was at one of the high rise dorms on south campus. Anyhow, I was residing in Ehringhaus Dorm, when one of my suite mates decides to play a prack on our janitor. He hung a dummy up in the bathroom. In the early morning when he came in, the light as such that you would only see a shadow of the body hanging when you entered the bathroom until you cut on the lights. I will never forget hearing his bucket hit the bathroom floor that awakened me at 5:00 AM. I thought then and still do that this was a cruel joke but college kids are what they are and fortunately no one was hurt in this unfortunate skewed sense of humor.

Charly Mann      10:53 AM Sun 9/13/2009

You are right about her husband not getting tenure. I was fairly well acquainted with Mrs Emory and her son Steve when I was growing up.<br \>She was, even by today&#39;s standards, very odd. She was also fairly intelligent. I think today we would call her a &quot;conspiracy nut &quot;. Certainly that is what BLOOD ON THE OLD WELL is, and it is very far out in its theories.<br \>There has always been a lot of gay men in Chapel Hill, and I know many suffered greatly by having to hide it.<br \>I will do a piece in the future on BLOOD ON THE OLD WELL. <br \>Some of Chapel Hill&#39;s most successful and respected men have been gay.

Ex-Chapel Hillian      8:48 PM Sat 9/12/2009

I have a copy of Blood on the Old Well, and she tries to link all the unexplained deaths of that time into some sort of sinster conspiracy involving communists, homsexuals, secularists, and maybe Jews. I haven&#39;t read it in years.<br \><br \>A friend of mine from my time in Chapel Hill, who was homosexual, told me that he and other gays who lived in Chapel Hill during the 60s believed that they were lovers. However, it was not clear to me whether they were known to have been in the Chapel Hill gay scene at the time. (It did exist, though discreetly). He also told me, and perhaps you can confirm this, is that Mrs. Emory was the wife of a UNC professor who had been denied tenure. She apparently was quite embittered by this, and blamed an unholy conspiracy of fellow-travellers and leftists for her husband&#39;s fate. I also heard that she once attended a public lecture of a young professor (political science?). During the Q&amp;A, she got up and said, to the effect, &quot;Well, this is all very interesting, but why should we believe a word you say when you are actually a sodomite?&quot; After being outed by her, the young professor left Chapel Hill. At least that this is how I heard the story.

Nora Gaskin Esthimer      8:01 PM Wed 9/2/2009

Really, really interesting and sad. These deaths didn&#39;t register with me. Was I sheltered? Probably. Also too young to pay attention, I&#39;m sure. I was 10 in 1961. The Rinaldi case hit home because my father knew Frank Rinaldi and stood by him. I was aware of the way that case dovetailed with race, and I think that&#39;s when the existence of something called homosexuality entered my peripheral vision.

Charly Mann      9:09 PM Sun 8/23/2009

I actually knew the author of Blood on the Old Well when I was little boy. Her name was Sarah Emory, and she was a nut. I am going to do a piece on it, and have a copy of the book somewhere in my basement. By the way I think she lived next door to Charlie &quot;Cho Cho&quot; Justice. The Emory house was behind the Church of the Holy Family in Glen Lennox.

Democritus Junior      8:29 PM Sun 8/23/2009

Speaking of unexplained deaths in C.H., are you going to do a feature on the infamous book, &quot;Blood on the Old Well&quot;? The apparently unbalanced lady who wrote it had her own explanation for them all.

Charly Mann      8:33 PM Wed 7/22/2009

Hey Carrboro-Lite. Your theory does hold some water, but back then being a homosexual was actually not very acceptable. There is actually a belief that some people in the dorm murdered them, and then told the investigators a few things that would point to your conclusion. One thing that does not make it look like a murder-suicide is the fact that no trace of poison was ever found in anything in their room.<br \><br \>On aNON&#39;s comment on the &quot;Negro janitor&quot;, unfortunately this description was common throughout Chapel Hill&#39;s news coverage back a hundred years. One positive thing I never saw the &quot;N&quot; word used in any newspaper or student publication. There were some other pretty insulting things that a small minority of students did towards blacks that I will cover in articles with photographs in the future <br \><br \>

aNON      6:44 PM Wed 7/22/2009

I love that the author made a point to say &quot;Negro Janitor&quot; when he did not mention the race of any one else in the story. So irrelevant to the story, but I guess, unfortunately, that was the mindset of people in those times.

carrboro-ite      6:42 PM Wed 7/22/2009

isn&#39;t it pretty obvious what went on in this case? The guys had matching bedspreads?<br \><br \>interesting case though.

Peter Childs      11:18 AM Wed 7/22/2009

You were one unique twelve year old boy; reading several newspapers and clipping articles about strange deaths.

B Knight      5:35 PM Tue 7/21/2009

Death defying fact that nine college-aged men died in such a brief time in Chapel Hill, when I guess the popiulation was a small fraction of what it is today, and no one seemed to be alarmed.

Mary Barber      10:46 AM Tue 7/21/2009

Looking through the pages of this website make me aware that Chapel Hill has a lot of unexplained deaths and unsolved murders.

Beth Hogan      10:38 AM Mon 7/20/2009

I am surprised a town as small as Chapel Hill was in 1961 was having so many young men die so mysteriously. I hope you do another piece on the other men you remember dying at this time.

Mollie Fields      5:29 PM Sun 7/19/2009

I think in 2009 this would have received a lot of media attention, and a lot of high profile investigation. I can think of a couple of probable murder scenarios besides murder-suicide with the facts presented here.

Yvette Davis      2:41 PM Sun 7/19/2009

My son told me about this place on the Internet yesterday. I can not believe how much great information I have found on Chapel Hill.

Barb Newton      11:08 AM Sun 7/19/2009

I think the deaths of these two students at Cobb Dorm is just bizarre. Do you have more details on the investigation?

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Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.



What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.

-- Charles Kuralt



Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".



Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies


We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.





There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.



The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.





The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.





William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.



The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.



Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.



We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.



Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.



The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.



Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.



Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.



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