I like books, music, and lists, so where better to find those than – The Library! And since it’s October, it must be time for some happy haunting. Combining all of these elements, and just for fun… we bring you Haunted Libraries! Funny, but it seems to me that on the few occasions that I actually visited my college library as a student, the living weren’t even haunting the shelves… with the exception of the newspaper and magazine section (we weren’t particularly literate, but we were apparently well informed on current events).
Britannica Blog (click the link to see more) lists many haunted libraries from around the world, but I’m going to pick on Ohio (with more ghosts than I would have imagined) and England (with fewer than I would have expected); just for Stacy Buckeye and A Brit in California (OK, Amber too):
- Ashtabula County District Library. The ghost of Ethel McDowell, who was appointed librarian when this Carnegie building opened in 1903, haunted the library prior to an October 1991 fire that took place during a million-dollar renovation. Odd footsteps were heard in the second-floor storage area, and apparitions and cold spots were reported in the basement hallway.
- Circleville, Pickaway County Genealogy Library, Samuel Moore House. The ghosts of runaway slaves are said to haunt this 1848 building, a stop on the Underground Railroad. Slaves could have been kept in a secluded underground room connected with the basement beneath the sidewalk on Mound Street.
- Dayton, VA Medical Center, Patient Library. Center Historian Melissa Smith said she has felt an uncomfortable presence in the library, while others have seen a ghostly woman standing at the upper windows.
- Granville, Denison University, William H. Doane Library. A shadowy woman in an old dress sometimes wakes up napping male students on an upper floor.
- Hinckley, Old Library. A young woman in an old-fashioned blue dress and a man with a hat have been seen in this 1845 structure. After the building opened as a library in 1975, librarians began to keep a file on the occurrences. Books left out the night before would sometimes be reshelved, while others (especially Anne Rice novels) would be flung to the floor during the night. Others have felt an odd presence in the upper rooms, occasionally paper clips sail through the air, and a furnace man once saw a ghostly figure on the basement stairs. The ghosts are believed to be those of Orlando Wilcox and his daughter Rebecca (1837-1869), who lived in a cabin on the site before the house was built. In 2003, the weight of the books and mold inside the walls forced the library to move to new quarters. A good summary of the haunt is Michelle Belanger’s “The Haunting of Hinckley Library,” Fate 56 (November 2003): 35-41.
- Ironton, Briggs Lawrence County Public Library. The library staff has reported odd computer behavior and the sound of keys rattling, and Genealogy Librarian Marta Ramey said the hydraulic door to her office once closed abruptly three times in a row. The phenomena are blamed on Dr. Joseph W. Lowry, who was murdered in 1933 in a house on the current library site.
- Kent Free Library, Carnegie building. The first librarian to work in this 1903 Carnegie was Nellie Dingley, who died of pneumonia in France in 1918 while volunteering as a Red Cross nurse. She is said to haunt the place. The library moved to new quarters in 2005.
- Paulding County Carnegie Library. One night in the 1980s, cleaners were in the building late at night when they looked up and saw a figure hovering in the north wing. The frightened workers refused to return to the library. In 2003, the director and board president were walking near the elevator when a large plant suddenly fell to the ground next to them.
- Steubenville Public Library. This Carnegie library opened in 1902 with Ellen Summers Wilson as the first librarian. Her office was located in the central tower, and after she died in 1904 stories began to circulate about creaking sounds and footsteps in the unoccupied attic. Today the attic houses air conditioning equipment that mysteriously turned itself off-until the controls were moved downstairs.
- Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, West Toledo Branch. Odd noises and bumps can be heard in the area near a fireplace on the west wall. The ghost of a man wearing clothing from the 1930s has also been seen there.
- Arundel Castle, Sussex. A “blue man” ghost, apparently dating from the late 17th century, has been seen browsing the bookshelves.
- Blackheath Library, St. John’s Park, London. The library in this former vicarage is inhabited by the ghost of Elsie Marshall (1869-1895), who grew up in the house. Lights come on when the building is empty, and an unseen presence brushes past people at the door.
- Bristol Central Reference Library. The gray-robed monk who haunts Bristol Cathedral is said to visit the library next door to consult theological books.
- British Library, Euston Road, London. If there are any spooks in the new facility that opened in 1999, no one is saying, but when it was under construction in 1996, workmen heard clanking sounds and one civil servant saw a “weeping man in 18th-century dress,” according to the Sunday Times, May 19, 1996.
- Combermere Abbey, Shropshire. A visitor to the abbey library, Sybell Corbet, took a time-lapse photo of Lord Combermere’s favorite carved oak chair on May 12, 1891, at the same time that the man was getting buried four miles away. When developed, it showed a blurry image of a bearded man sitting in the chair.
- Farnham Library, Vernon House, Surrey. Charles I slept in this building one night in 1648 when he was taken to London for eventual trial and beheading. The room that he occupied, now an office area, has a “heavy psychic atmosphere.”
- Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. William Windham III, an 18th-century scholar and close friend of lexicographer Samuel Johnson, haunts the library at this old estate. David Muffon was in charge of putting the estate in order after it was acquired by the National Trust. In November 1972, he was working at a desk in the library when he noticed a “gentleman sitting in the armchair by the fireplace reading books. It was so natural I thought nothing about it. . . . After about 15 seconds he put the book down beside him on the table and faded away.” Muffon asked the old family butler if the house had any ghosts and was told, “Oh yes, there’s the ghost of William Windham who sits on the armchair on the far side of the fireplace.” For many years the butler had set out books, specifically those given to Windham by Samuel Johnson, on the table for the ghost to read. “Rather more interesting,” Muffon revealed, “the next year we actually found in a trunk in the attic clothing very similar to the clothing I saw the ghost wearing from the 1780 period.”
- Holland House, Cropthorne, Worcester. The ghost of Mrs. Holland is seen in the library of this Tudor retreat house.
- Longleat House, Red Library, Wiltshire. Reputedly haunted by an elderly gentleman dressed in black. Librarian Dorothy Coates said the spirit was friendly and could be the ghost of Sir John Thynne (1512-1580), who was responsible for the original building at Longleat.
- Mannington Hall, near Cromer, Norfolk. Antiquarian Augustus Jessop (1823-1914) saw the ghost of a large man in an ecclesiastical robe as he was consulting books in the library late on the night of October 10, 1879. The figure was examining some of the volumes Jessop had piled on the table, disappeared at a slight noise, then reappeared briefly five minutes later.
- Raby Castle, Durham. The library is haunted by Sir Henry Vane the Younger, who was beheaded for treason in 1662. His headless torso sometimes appears on a library desk.
- Windsor Castle, Royal Library, Berkshire. Elizabeth I and Charles I are said to roam the stacks.
- York Central Library. In 1954 the library was disturbed by a series of paranormal incidents involving a book titled The Antiquities and Curiosities of the Church (1897). Every fourth Sunday at 8:40 p.m., an unseen hand would remove the book from its shelf and drop it to the floor. An intense cold spot would presage the event, and on at least one occasion the caretaker reported seeing the outline of an elderly man searching for a book.
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