Investigation: Lincoln Academy

The Research Behind Lincoln Academy:

After digging deeper and deeper into the mystery that is Lincoln Academy, I believe that I have finally and honestly delved far enough in to understand the many stories of what the “school” actually was.

In 1884, Miss Emily Prudden bought fifty acres of land from Dr. Francis Garrett in an are called All Healing Springs – more commonly known today as the Crowders Mountain / Gaston County area. The first building to be opened on the site was Prudden Hall, followed in 1888 by Lincoln Academy. The institute was a boarding school to educate  poor and underprivileged African American girls, many of which graduated to become doctors, lawyers, and other professions. In 1955, Lincoln Academy was moved to Bessemer City where it became Lincoln High School and the original building at All Healing Springs was closed down.

Twenty years later, in the 1970’s, Kathleen Smiley was kidnapped and bound to a tree in the general vicinity of where the Lincoln Academy building once stood before being brutally murdered by two young men.

Today, all that remains of Lincoln Academy is the cemetery, located across the street and perhaps a hundred yards or so from the school, as well as the remains of the legendary building; copper pipes amid a mass of brick foundation overtaken by trees, grass, weeds, and flowers that may have been the basement area of the building. About two hundred yards from the school location, a local golf course was built and is still in operation.

The Haunt:

Dozens of stories and experiences circulate about what sort of activity surrounds Lincoln Academy. We documented sightings of mists and unexplainable smoke and fog, disembodied automobiles, sounds of  children crying and laughing, whispers and feelings of being touched and tapped. We also took note of photographs that were taken by various people of a disembodied head and face appearing in the remains of an abandoned shack near the cemetery.

Accounts of partying also originate from this location as well as rumors of satanic worshipping, animal sacrifices, and cult gatherings.

The Investigation:

We have currently visited Lincoln Academy twice – both times during daylight hours. Neither visit has brought very much enlightenment towards paranormal activity, however. We took extensive photographs of the school area and well as the cemetery but we caught nothing out of the ordinary at either site. We are afraid that EVP could be contaminated at any time due to the golf course location as well as the small pond just through the woods below the cemetery that was home to a small group of vocal ducks. There was also a few homes located within sight of the cemetery that could interrupt EVP recordings if anything of loud sound were to be made from those locations, such as loud music, loud laughter, cars starting, horns honking, etc.

However, we do hope to plan a future, more extensive, investigation of Lincoln Academy.

Lincoln Academy - long after it's glory days.
Lincoln Academy - long after it's glory days.
Emily Prudden - Founder of Lincoln Academy
Emily Prudden - Founder of Lincoln Academy
Student of Lincoln Academy as well as Cathcart Hall.
Student of Lincoln Academy as well as Cathcart Hall.
Prudden Hall - year that appears on postcard must be false - Prudden Hall was not built until 1884.
Prudden Hall - year that appears on postcard must be false - Prudden Hall was not built until 1884.

Comments 19 comments

TJ  7 years ago

I went there and saw a ghost of a lady on the tree. It scared me.A lot. please investigate


Sad2Hear 6 years ago

RIP Kathleen...I'm sorry that your life ended at such a young age...You are in a much better place.


beth 6 years ago

i believe its very true. I've never been there, but in this case, seeing is NOT believing. I don't have to see it. I deffinitly believe it.


katie 6 years ago

i just went their last night. there is nothing left of the school except for a stait case. but we saw what looked like a lady walking in and out of and olb burnt down barn neear the school grounds.


Michael  6 years ago

i went looking for the place i really would like to go there and look around but i couldn't find it ive heard all kinds of storys and i wanted to go see if any of them are true can someone help me out and let me know were about it is at


Lilly 5 years ago

Their is nothing left of the school. i think the golf corse is expanding. The school has been completley destroyed they are even pulling up the foundation. the cemetary is still their however and so is the remains of the barn. be careful if you go their at night the locals will rat you out in a hot minute. its right behind the golf corse cart rental. downa little blocked off trail you can now see the remains of the school from the road. but you have to hike to the cemetary. when we went some one turned the lights on in my jeep. it was locked so we don't know how they were turned on. No ghosties though.


George 5 years ago

I have been to the site several times.Everytime I have been,I get an uneasy feeling,even during the day light hours. Captured misty smokey haze at the graveyard at night.Coming out of the graveyard one night on a moom lite night,I looked over towards the golf course where the school used to be a saw a black shadow figure walking along the edge of the field,I told my son to look and went to point my flashlight at it to show him where it was.Just as the flashlight beam hit it,it vanished.My son saw it too,before it vanished.Is it haunted? maybe,or has all the satanic worship that is said to go on there opened portals to the dark side? There is something going on there for sure,Bad vibes!! Vary scary at night!!


Lisa 5 years ago

I went there about 20 yrs or more ago...at night with friends...got out and walked around the cemetery. But we did not hear or see anything.


Hannah 5 years ago

I just went there tonight with a group of friends...we got out of the car and walked to the cemetery. We heard twigs snapping and it sounded like someone or something was running towards us from the woods. It was really creepy. It all started happening after my friend touched one of the tombstones.


jacob 5 years ago

dat place is freaky man im goin soon wit a baseball bat and ima walk every where around dat place lol hmu if u wana come with


Tiffany 4 years ago

I want to go there I live in Gastonia. I would love to actually go myself and see or hear these things so I can fully believe it....but I'm a little more scared of the cults around that area.


Tammy Cantrell 4 years ago

The senseless abduction and brutal murder of Kathleen Smiley and Lincoln Academy has haunted our lives through memory, and our children’s through stories, for decades here in Gaston County. Everything from the ghost of Kathleen Smiley to a green or purple mist have been reported floating down the road, or haunting the old cemetery a few hundred yards from where the school once stood.

I'm a professional photographer, and a few months ago, while in the midst of a shoot at the Lincoln Academy area, my eye was caught by a curtain being drawn back on the door of an abandoned building. Instinctively, I had my camera on sequential mode and kept shooting throughout the experience. I felt an overwhelming sense to leave, which I did at that time.

Upon examination of the photographs, I realized there was someone standing behind the curtain. Upon investigation and comparing a photograph of Kathleen Smiley I was able to obtain, realized it was unmistakably her. A medium was contacted and a team did visit the sight. Kathleen Smiley is at peace – and not haunting anything. I believe this was the reason she revealed herself to me. She wanted her memory, and this horrible and tragic story, to come to a close.

So, if you visit Lincoln Academy, know that whatever you feel, see or hear is NOT Kathleen Smiley. It never was HER. She hasn't been at that location since the murder. She is no longer where I photographed her either. But, now resting in peace and happiness.

I have opted to place the photograph in my solo photography show at the Gaston-Lincoln Regional Library throughout January; however, not publish it online for fear of theft and sensationalism by the same kind of people who get drunk and drive out to the old Lincoln Academy in hopes of discovering drama. The same kind of people who have desecrated a sacred cemetery and littered the property with broken glass and aluminum cans. Neither is the photograph for sale. That is not what this is about. It's about knowing the truth and moving on.

And the truth is that Lincoln Academy, formerly Prudden Hall, was a vital part of Gaston County's heritage, especially the black heritage. It's a shame it was leveled and not preserved to begin with. But, what makes it worse, is that it's remembered for a heinous crime vs. the invaluable contribution it made to Gaston County.

Rest in peace, Kathleen.


sandra 4 years ago

i visited there as a curious teenager in day and night no haints.what is in that area though is drinkers and dopers.


James 4 years ago

Is the cemetery across the street?


shane 4 years ago

WARNING: do not go hear. this place has the definite presence of evil. after seeing an elderly woman every where i look. if you look back she would be their, and be closer to you every time you looked. i also saw the tree that she was tied to, witht the marks of where the ropes stripped of the bark, and the oldest piece of rope ver near by. and DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING from this site. legend says that any thing messed with will cost you !!


Shelly@G.P.R.G. profile image

Shelly@G.P.R.G. 4 years ago Author

So sorry that it has taken me months to answer however I do appreciate that you see Lincoln Academy in the same light that we do - for less of a murder scene and much more for the history it presents. In my opinion, nothing remains of Lincoln Academy in a paranormal sense. All that remains is memories and they MUST be remembered.


Tammy Cantrell 4 years ago

Allow me to set the record straight here. Kathleen Smiley was never a student at Lincoln Academy. She was abducted in Georgia by two men from Gastonia and driven to Lincoln Academy.

This senseless abduction and brutal murder of Kathleen Smiley and Lincoln Academy has haunted our lives through memory, and our children’s through stories, for decades. Everything from the ghost of Kathleen Smiley to a green or purple mist have been reported floating down the road, or haunting the old cemetery a few hundred yards from where the school once stood.

A few months ago, while in the midst of a shoot at the Lincoln Academy area, my eye was caught by a curtain being drawn back on the door of an abandoned building. Instinctively, I had my camera on sequential mode and kept shooting throughout the experience. I felt an overwhelming sense to leave, which I did at that time.

Upon examination of the photographs, I realized there was someone standing behind the curtain. Upon investigation and comparing a photograph of Kathleen Smiley I was able to obtain, realized it was unmistakably her. A medium was contacted and a team did visit the sight. Kathleen Smiley is at peace – and not haunting anything. She never was. I believe this was the reason she revealed herself to me. She wanted her memory, and this horrible and tragic story, to come to a close.

So, if you visit Lincoln Academy, know that whatever you feel, see or hear is NOT Kathleen Smiley. It never was HER. She hasn't been at that location since the murder. She is no longer where I photographed her either. But, now resting in peace and happiness.

I displayed the photograph during my show this year at the library; however, will not post it on the internet for fear of theft and sensationalism by the same kind of people who get drunk and drive out to the old Lincoln Academy in hopes of discovering drama. The same kind of people who have desecrated a lovely cemetery and littered the property with broken glass and aluminum cans. Neither is the photograph for sale. That is not what this is about. It's about knowing the truth and moving on.

It's such a shame that Lincoln Academy, in all it's wonderful historic relevance to this county, was demolished rather than renovated and preserved not because of a senseless tragedy, but because of those who wouldn't let the drama go.

Rest in peace, Kathleen.


eliz 3 years ago

The place was said to be haunted many years before Kathleens untimely death.


Robert Kayler 3 years ago

I have been there so very many times in my life. I'm 48 and the first time I was 8 and my big brother use to take me there to scare me. Back then all the buildings were still standing, there were around 15. There has not been a building standing since around 85 and that was Cathcart hall, the boys dorm. That's the one in the first pic. I have done so much research and have metal detected the whole area. I have been at night and mostly in daytime. I'm not sure what building Tammy saw someone behind the curtain but it must have been before the early 80's or in the golf coarse building which is not a part of LA. Anyway , I may not be suseptable to hauntings but I have never seen or heard anything that would make me think this place is haunted. It is a good place to detect, in 15 years I have collected two quart jars of silver coins one large jar of wheat and indian head pennies, eight gold rings , three silver rings and one big gold pocket watch. You can see the whole layout of the campus on the Sanborn fire insurance maps from the 30's. You may have to go to public library and request a password to look at Sanborn

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