The Elephant at Oglethorpe

by Dr. Paul Hudson ’72, Historian Laureate

6.7_1942Yamacraw_Elephant1One of the strangest stories of Oglethorpe University is about the elephant buried on campus. In the 1940s, Oglethorpe had a fledgling medical school, which no longer exists.

When faculty member Dr. John Bernard heard that several elephants had been mysteriously poisoned at the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus downtown, he seized on a rare opportunity.

Claiming he needed specimens for his Comparative Anatomy class, Barnard, in 1941, persuaded some of his medical students to collect one of the elephants. Lab assistant Johnny Kelly and several others transported it in a flatbed truck, unloading it near Lowry Hall (now expanded into the Philip Weltner Library.) They dissected the carcass outside in the cool November weather.

Under Dr. Barnard’s supervision, the medical students studied the elephant specimen for about a week and then buried it somewhere behind Lowry Hall. The grave was not permanently marked, so the exact location is not known.

Curious Oglethorpe medical students standing atop dead elephant on campus after they had dissected it and before burial.

Oglethorpe medical students had the unusual opportunity of dissecting the deceased elephant  before burial.

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