Thursday, December 3, 2009

Stanford students discover 'creepy' monument moved to less intrusive site

It’s not on the usual tour guide route. And if you’re interested, you will have to ask for directions and take a major detour across campus to a spot adjacent to the newly-constructed Hyatt Classic Residence senior housing complex facing the Stanford Mall on Sand Hill Road. But if you’re looking for the memorial tablet constructed to mark Leland Stanford Jr.’s original burial place, you’ll be disappointed. It’s gone. In its place, an unobtrusive metal sign advises the curious that the memorial tablet has been moved.

Following a story that appeared a couple of weeks ago in this column, several Stanford students set out to find Leland Stanford Jr.’s original burial place and the memorial tablet marking its location. “It took two tries,” said Stanford senior Justin Solomon. “The second time, we went with a flashlight. The tablet is really nowhere near the development or the burial site.”

For over 100 years, the marble memorial stood sentry over the spot where Leland Jr. was originally buried. Carved into its face are lines selected by Jane Stanford from a poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans that read in part “Yes, it is haunted this quiet scene, fair as it looks and all softly green….” In response to questions concerning the poem, Stanford’s archeologist Laura Jones said, “There is something kind of creepy about it.”

In 2000, the tablet disappeared to make way for the university’s Sand Hill Road development. Evidently, a monument proclaiming that the area was “haunted ground” did not suit developers hoping to attract upscale senior citizens. To avoid disturbing the community, Stanford University quietly relocated the tablet some distance away from the site of the small mausoleum that held Leland Jr.’s remains from 1884 until they were exhumed and moved to the much grander family mausoleum in 1893.

While a series of metal signs explains the relocation, the tablet no longer marks what Jane Stanford hoped would be a permanent memorial to her son. Stanford’s real “haunted ground” is actually down the street somewhere in the vicinity of the Hyatt-managed senior citizen complex.

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