What better time than Halloween to tell the story of the Stanford Mausoleum?

Stanford Mausoleum
The Stanford Mausoleum

What better time than Halloween to tell the story of the Stanford Mausoleum?

The only problem is that it’s actually not that scary.

Granted, beginning in the 1980s, students have held irreverent Halloween celebrations at the mausoleum. But even their off-and-on commemorations have been nothing to fear. Among Stanford students, you’re just as likely to find someone dressed as a giant, walking banana peel as you are as a zombie or vampire.

A Stanford Daily photograph from the 2000 party, for instance, showed a male student dressed in a costume evocative of a zebra.

Instead, the Stanford Mausoleum, which holds the remains of LELAND and JANE STANFORD and their son, LELAND JUNIOR, has been a place of contemplation and commemoration amid the tree-sheltering quiet of the Stanford Arboretum near the corner of Palm and Campus drives.

For instance, the various Founder’s Celebrations held over the years generally have featured everything from hymns to wreath-laying to speeches to tours of the inside of the mausoleum.

The crypt, which is constructed of Vermont granite, was completed in 1888. It was not the family’s first mausoleum, however. When Leland Junior died in 1884, he was originally interred in an elaborate brick and stone structure that was near their home. Vi, the senior living facility, is now located there. His coffin was moved to the current mausoleum in 1893 to join that of his father five days after Leland Senior’s burial. In 1905, Jane Stanford was laid to rest next to her son and husband after her death.

Adjacent to the mausoleum are the Arizona Garden, a botanical garden featuring cactus and succulents; the Angel of Grief, a 1901 memorial to Jane Stanford’s brother, Henry Clay Lathrop; and a 1899 statue of the Stanford family, which once was located in Memorial Court.

In 2011, Stanford magazine shared some interesting – but relatively unknown – facts about the mausoleum. Among them:

• Frederick Law Olmsted’s plans for Stanford actually imagined the family mausoleum as creating “dramatic focal points for which the entire campus would provide an elaborate frame.”

• The mausoleum cost more than $100,000 to build.

• The well-endowed sphinxes located at the back of the mausoleum were originally placed in the front. The magazine reported that “an archival document notes that Mrs. Stanford, upon seeing the woman/lion statues, ‘found the artistic effect not pleasing.’”

• Mrs. Stanford was fearful that someone might disturb the mausoleum, so she originally installed a guardhouse near the front steps.

• The mausoleum, which went through the 1906 earthquake unscathed, was in desperate need of thorough cleaning and a coat of anti-graffiti sealant by the 1990s.