Specters in the Stacks: Thirteen Haunted Libraries

cincinnati-main-library1874-the-library-was-demolished-in-1955Kittens, this is a big week for fans of all things Halloween. Today marks just 199 days til Halloween, kicking off our countdown to this year’s Halfway to Halloween celebration – stay tuned for more news and a prize giveaway next week! As this week goes on, we’ll be featuring some spooky tributes to Easter, but first and foremost, we’re celebrating the 56th annual National Library Week with a collection of thirteen haunted libraries, plus a gallery of fifty of the most breathtaking libraries in the world. Enjoy, happy haunting, and don’t forget to support your local library!

1. Deep River Public Library, Deep River, Connecticut

Historical Photo of Deep River Library Building via Deep River LibraryThis library, originally an elegant private home built in 1881, is reported to have experienced the ghostly figure of a woman, phantom sounds of late night parties, children’s laughter, and disembodied voices that “ask question after question in 20-second intervals—What is your name? What year is it? What am I doing here?—sometimes followed by flashes of light.”

2. Peoria Public Library, Illinois

Postcard of Peoria Public Library, 1911In 1894, the city of Peoria bought a parcel of land with a tragic history. After losing her nephew to an untimely death and her home to creditors, Mary Stevenson Gray is said to have placed a curse on the property. Rumors of soured land and ghostly appearances dogged the property for nearly fifty years before it was acquired by the state, but the curse seems no less potent since the library took up residence, as three directors died unexpectedly while serving the library, ghostly faces appear in the basement, and the library was featured prominently in two separate blackmail and embezzlement scandals in the early 20th century.

3. University of Michoacán Public Library, Morelia, México

Biblioteca Pública de la Universidad Michoacana photographed by VeoKenxiz via WikipediaPart of a Jesuit monastery complex since the 16th century, the Baroque library in the heart of Morelia is still home to a mysterious nun in blue…and perhaps less sanctified spirits, as well. Staff report the sensation of being followed, ghostly figures and footsteps, computers that operate without users, and one incident of phantom groping in 1996 that so terrified University employee Socorro Ledezma she requested a permanent transfer from the library.

4. Houston Public Library, Houston,Texas

Houston's main Carnegie Library, now demolished, via Texas EscapesThe sounds of a ghostly violin have been heard floating through the Julia Ideson Building of the Houston Public Library, built in 1926 and named for Houston’s first public librarian. The spectral musician is thought to be none other than Julius Frank Cramer, the library’s night caretaker, known to practice his violin after the building closed for the night until 1936, when he died in his basement apartment below the library.

5. Sweetwater County Library, Green River, Wyoming

Sweetwater County Library via uropaIn 1926, graves in the old Green River, Wyoming city cemetery were disinterred and moved to Riverview Cemetery. Over the decades, the land was put to various uses, with additional bodies turning up every few years as the property was re-purposed, most recently as the site of the Sweetwater County Library in 1980. Since opening, eerie events have plagued the library, from flickering lights to mysterious sounds and ghostly typed messages. You can read the library’s decade-long record of spectral events on their online ghost blog.

6. Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Andrew Bayne Memorial Library photographed by Alekjds via WikipediaHome to Amanda Bayne Balph until her death in 1912, an apparition in Victorian clothing is known to appear in this stately library. Believed to be the ghost of Amanda Balph, patrons and staff have also reported unexplained shadows, lights and other appliances that turn on and off, and books that mysteriously appear and re-appear. The activities are said to have escalated in 1998 after the death of the last elm tree on the property, a 300-year-old giant known as the “Lone Sentinel,” perhaps aggravating Balph, who had bequeathed the house under the specific conditions that no tree be removed from the property.

7. Hertzberg Circus Collection and Museum, San Antonio, Texas

Hertzberg Circus Museum, San Antonio Public Library via My San AntonioHousing the oldest public circus collection in the United States, supernatural sightings have been reported throughout the history of this art deco building. Spectral footsteps, jingling keys, strange voices, and phantom cold spots have been witnessed by staff and visitors to the library. The museum closed in 2001 after falling into disrepair and later reopened as the Witte Museum, to no noticeable decrease in paranormal activity.

8. Harvey Public Library, Harvey, North Dakota

Haunted Harvey Public LibraryOn October 2, 1931, 41-year-old mother of two Sophia “Sophie” Eberlein-Bentz was murdered by her husband Joseph in their Harvey, North Dakota home. The local paper sensationalized the murder-by-hammer, reporting “Blood had flowed over the bedding, upon the floor, and was splattered upon a portion of the wall.” Reports of flickering lights, objects that rearrange themselves, and the feeling of a ghostly presence have dogged the library, which opened on the very site of the Bentz “murder chamber” in October, 1990.

9. State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia photographed by AdamJWC via WikipediaHolding more than two million books, the massive state library of Victoria has more than enough room for a few spirits, from a spectral woman in white and an aggressive presence that haunts the Arts stack, to glowing balls of light and a piano that plays itself. A ghost is also said to haunt level six of the Domed Reading Room, a dazzling structure first opened in 1913 and towering more than 100 feet over the library.

10. Millicent Library, Fairhaven, Massachusetts

Donated to the town of Fairhaven in 1893, theThe Millicent Library photographed by Marc N. Belanger via Wikipedia Millicent Library is named in honor of Millicent Gifford Rogers, who died of heart failure just after her 17th birthday. Visitors have reported seeing a figure suspected to be Millicent appearing in a wash of blue light and outlined in the windows once the library has closed for the night. A ghostly woman in black is said to haunt the stacks, while a janitor that died in the library still appears to maintain the building’s basement.

11. Old Bernardsville Public Library, Bernardsville, New Jersey

Bernardsville Library circa 1907 via historical society of somerset hillsOriginally an inn and tavern built in 1710, the building that once housed the Bernardsville public library has long been a hotbed of ghost stories and paranormal activities. Phyllis Parker was in love with a Dr. Byram, tenant of the inn and suspected Revolutionary-era British spy. When he was hung as a traitor in 1777, Phyllis was said to go mad after discovering his body in the tavern while it awaited burial. She is believed to be the figure in white occasionally seen by patrons and the source of mysterious ghostly weeping sounds in the library. In fact, Phyllis’s ghost was so active in the 1970’s and 80’s that she was issued her own library card.

12. Murry and Leonie Guggenheim Memorial Library, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Murry and Leonie Guggenheim Memorial Library, Monmouth UniversityBuilt in 1905, the Monmouth University college library in West Long Branch, New Jersey, was originally the elegant summer retreat of the Guggenheims. The library is reported to be haunted by a lady in white, who walks down the library stairs every evening at midnight after the building has closed for the night. Visitors and staff have reported feeling uncomfortable and oppressive sensations while being in the library.

13. Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana

Willard Library circa 1901Housed in a towering Gothic Revival building, the Willard library opened in 1885 and has become legendary for its paranormal activities. Most prominent has been their Grey Lady, recorded since the late 1930’s and said to invoke the feeling of cold, odors of perfume or lavender, strange noises and phantom sensations. Notably, items are moved or turn up unexpectedly in the building, as in this spooky story relayed by the library staff:

“Our current Children’s Librarian Rhonda Mort came to Willard Library for a meeting before she came to work here. The  meeting took place in the Bayard Room and was standing room only. Rhonda noticed one empty chair and sat down. While she was sitting there, she became unbearably cold and also noticed that the people sitting on either side of her were leaning away from her. She decided to leave for a few moments and got warm again. When she returned, the chair was still empty, even though people were still standing. Later, after she came to work at Willard, she tried to explain the occurrence to Greg Hager, the Director of Willard Library. When she went to show him the chair, it was no longer there, and Hager said to his knowledge there had never been a chair in the Bayard Room like the one she described.”

In recent years, the library has embraced its spectral occupants, offering ghost tours, spooky stories at the library, and real-time streaming ghost cams, where paranormal enthusiasts can watch for and report any out of the ordinary occurrences.

The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde, Illustrated by Wallace Goldsmith

The gorgeous libraries featured in the gallery below aren’t necessarily haunted, but take a look through and I think you can see why some spirit might choose to linger for a century or three exploring these storied stacks. For more haunted libraries, visit Britannica.com’s exhaustive lists of US and international library ghosts, The Witching Hour’s Haunted Libraries series, and OEDb’s 10 Haunted Libraries of the US.

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Categories: Paranormal Activities

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12 replies

  1. I suppose since hipster coffee shops hadn’t been invented yet, the library seems the next likely haunt :)

  2. It’s time for a road trip. I call shotgun!

  3. This makes complete sense. If I become a ghost I’m definitely haunting a library. As long as it has good WiFi and a coffee shop.

  4. First I hate to anger/disappoint everyone here, potentially, but I completely do not believe in ghosts at all. However, still, reading about haunted things creeps me out! Also I agree that if I were to haunt something after my death, a library would be a likely spot. They are so wonderful! One of my favorite buildings of all time is the Boston Public Library – obviously, the old section only not the new part featured in such ridiculous films as “The Box”.

  5. Great post, spooky stuff. Got me thinking about that scene in Ghostbusters.

  6. Hi,

    I’m the one from The Witching Hour who has been working (sporadically) on the Haunted Library series. Thanks so much for including a link to our blog. :) There are many on your list that aren’t on the original list I’ve pulled from so I will continue the series once I reach No. 1.

    ~ Ysbryd

  7. Thanks, Ysbryd! We love the series – let us know when the next one goes up!

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