Happy Hump Day, ghouls and ghosts!
Halloween is getting closer with each passing day and I’m so excited about it that I’ve literally been living off of pumpkin pie and bite-sized candy for the last week.
…I don’t feel good. I think maybe some basic organ functions are stressed out?
Anyway, while I try to maintain a normal blood-sugar level, today we’re going to explore haunted libraries! And honestly, my afterlife plan is to be a library ghost so I can read all the books I couldn’t get to while I was alive.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not is completely irrelevant. We’re not here to discuss the probabilities of life after death. Although I will say, once people start reporting ghosts whispering “it’s Britney, bitch,” and “what’s the wifi password?” I might give a little bit more credence to the idea.
Right now, it seems like every ghost is wearing a civil war uniform and women are in bonnets, bemoaning a lost husband. Where are all the modern ghosts in trucker hats and flared jeans haunting a Starbucks Where are my feminist ghosts at?
So, yes, I might be a skeptic. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the stories or the “…but maybes” that can come with the fact that no one can ever truly know for certain what else might exist beyond our earthly bodies.
Here’s my list of the most haunted libraries around the world!
👻Combermere Abbey Library – Cheshire, England
Combermere Abbey is a former monastery, and then later, a country house for the family who took ownership in the 16th century. Built sometime around 1130 (like, I don’t even know if I should be putting “b.c.” or some shit after that date, it’s so old and I’m terrible with history …and time?) it was entered on English Heritage’s “Buildings at Risk” register is 1998. The abbey is partially occupied and restoration work has been ongoing since 2010 to save the building, because like I said, it’s old AF. Focus, as of late, has been on the library after structural problems were discovered in the east wall.
The library has had one very famous ghost story since 1891, when Abbey owner, Lord Combermere, passed away after being run over by a horse-drawn carriage. CAN YOU IMAGINE BEING RUN OVER BY A HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE? What kind of slow-ass walking do you have to be doing to not move out of the way in time? Did you not hear it coming? Clip-clop?!
While his funeral was taking place on December 5th at St. Margaret’s Church in Wrenbury, Sybell Corbet (whose sister Lady Sutton was renting the Abbey for herself and her siblings to stay) took a photo of the Combermere Library with a long exposure camera. This was the most practical time to do this because the whole house was empty, family and staff members paying their respects at Lord Combermere’s funeral.
After having the photo developed, Sybell found what appeared to be the image of a man’s upper body sitting in one of the chairs in the library. Lord Combermere’s children said the likeness was that of their late father, and the apparition is sitting in what was his favourite chair. Was the ghost of Lord Combermere getting some peace and quiet while his body was being buried some dozen kilometres away?
Abbey staff members still report possible ghostly sightings and other paranormal activity.
The picture is pretty compelling, but given that it was a long exposure shot from the 1800s, there’s a strong chance someone sat in that chair for 15 minutes and just fucked up the shot. But who really knows?!
👻Peoria Public Library – Peoria, Illinois
It seems that this library was doomed before it was even built.
In the 1830s, Mrs. Gray gained custody of her nephew after the death of her brother. But her nephew was a little shit – getting into trouble with the law at every opportunity as if his fucking aunt didn’t have enough to worry about being a widow and running low on money. But being the woman she was, to get her shitty nephew out of his legal troubles, Mrs. Gray hired a lawyer, David Davis (his parents must have hated him with a name like that.) Davis took Mrs. Gray’s house as collateral to cover his fees and when his bill came due and Mrs. Gray couldn’t pay, Davis sued to collect the mortgage for his fees. Distraught and angry, Mrs. Gray kicked her nephew out of the house while Davis took her to court to collect.
Soon after, her nephew’s lifeless body was found floating in the Illinois River (cause of death unknown,) and Mrs. Gray was understandably devastated. But she didn’t blame herself, she blamed Davis. And as she was forcefully made to leave her home, she cursed the property and all future occupants. *spit spit*
According to the tale, after Davis assumed the property, nothing would grow on the land that had once held Mrs. Gray’s beautiful gardens, and Davis was waking up to banging on the door nearly every night, finding Mrs. Gray’s nephew outside, begging to be let in – then disappearing.
In 1894, the city of Peoria purchased the property and a library was built. The first three directors of the new library all died under suspicious circumstances. The first, E.S. Willcox, died in a streetcar accident in 1915; the next, Samuel Patterson Prowse, suffered a heart attack during a library board meeting in 1921 and the third, Dr. Edwin Wiley, died by suicide after swallowing arsenic in 1924. Though these very well could be coincidences and tragic outcomes, as is the way with this bitch we call life, at the time of these happenings, Mrs. Gray’s curse was always the first thing on people’s minds.
Though the original library was torn down in 1966 and rebuilt, to this day, library visitors still report seeing Mr. Willcox wandering the halls, dressed in his early 20th-century attire. Employees have seen his face in doorways, have heard their names called when no one else is around and have felt cold spots where there should not be any drafts.
👻State Library of Victoria – Melbourne, Australia
Built in 1854, the State Library of Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free libraries in the world (give it up for Australia’s trailblazing!) Its vast collection includes over two million books and 350,000 photographs, manuscripts, maps and newspapers. It sees roughly 1.8 million visitors a year, which is just crazy and I totally want to go.
Many of those visitors and staff have reported ghostly sightings. One is allegedly a former librarian named Grace. She is a kindly spirit who seems to attempt to keep a poltergeist away from the library staff and patrons. People have experienced loud, strange noises, glowing orbs and cold spots. An eerie presence plays the piano at night, and there is also a 19th-century man (complete with a curling mustache like some kind of millennial hipster who is trying to look like a 19th-century ghost) who favours the music department of the library and has a habit of taking books of music off the shelves and leaving them scattered around.
Library staff have been so disturbed by the ghostly activity at different times in the library’s history that mediums and clairvoyants have been hired, and brought in to try to calm and cleanse the disturbing spirits. Though, to date, this spiritual effort hasn’t stopped the scares. GO FIGURE.
👻The Willard Library – Evansville, Indiana
The Victorian building that houses the Willard Library is a gothic masterpiece, built in 1876. It is said to be haunted by “The Grey Lady.” Theories abound about who this apparition is. Some say it’s Louise Carpenter, the daughter of the library’s founder, Willard Carpenter.
When Willard died, he left most of his estate to his library. Louise was furious because, and I’m just guessing here, she was a spoiled brat. She sued the library but lost. Does she hold such a grudge that she still haunts the property to this day? Girl, get over it! I’ll show up with some sage and tell her spooky ass: “I’m cleansing this library because you need to get the fuck over it already! You are dead!”
But, library staff disagree on her identity mostly because The Grey Lady isn’t malevolent, and they have come to see this spectre as a kind of extra library employee.
Over a thousand sightings have been recorded of this unknown ghost since 1937 after a janitor reported seeing a floating apparition of a woman in the boiler room. Sightings are mostly always visual in nature, but she is known to be accompanied by a strong scent of perfume. Other times, she moves books, adjusts the lights and turns faucets on and off.
Other visitors have claimed to see a male child in the children’s reading room. Manifestations in this area range from levitating books and orbs of lights, to being touched and having your hair stroked, which a little ghost kid would totally do with ghost-kid jam hands.
👻Houston Public Library – Houston, Texas
One morning in November of 1936, librarians found the night watchman/handyman/gardener, Jacob Frank Cramer, dead. The cause was later determined to be a lung hemorrhage. Ever since then, all hauntings reported at the Houston Public Library – built in 1854 and expanded in 1926 – have been attributed to Cramer.
Cramer rented a small apartment in the basement of the library and lived there with his beloved German Shepherd, Petey. Cramer loved to play the violin, and in his downtime could often be found sitting on the top floor of the library serenading the building that he loved. And maybe that was romantic back then, but if I walked into a library and saw an old man playing the violin now, I’d be seriously creeped out. SHHHHHH.
Patrons and staff have reported finding violin sheet music strewn around the basement floor where Cramer used to live, hearing a scratching sound as if the dog was digging at the marble floors and the sound of a dog’s toenails tapping on the floor as it walks away.
A senior library services specialist reported seeing shadows in his peripheral in the stacks of the Texas Collection, but when he would look directly at what he thought was the shape of a man, the image would disappear. Lights in the Texas Room have been known to flicker on and off, and despite the current gardener insisting he hasn’t planted anything new, trees will sprout up in freshly planted locations around the building.
A ghost that does yard work? That might not be so bad.
👻The National Library – Kolkata, West Bengal, India
In 1891, The National Library was established, then known as the Imperial Library because of that whole British Colony bullshit. The use of the library was restricted to superior officers of the government. Then in 1903, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, the Viceroy of India, came up with the idea of opening the library for public use. Is he like the first person to ever think of this? I will research this later if I don’t forget (I totally will.)
After India established its freedom from the British government, the name of the library was changed to the National Library. It was officially opened to the public on February 1, 1953.
In 2010, the library and the Archaeological Survey of India started a restoration project of the building, during which time a secret chamber was unearthed. Archaeologists came across a room that was nearly 1000 square feet in size and had no entrance except for a bricked-up archway. Rumours began to spread immediately, with many people assuming that it was probably a punishment room from India’s colonization past, used by Warren Hastings and other British officials – similar to those used in many castles in England, where people were systematically beaten and tortured. Or a treasure room. Treasure room sounds like more fun. Archaeologists opened up the archway but allegedly found nothing but mud.
The chamber is shrouded in secrecy – a chamber of secrets if you will. But since it was opened during renovations, twelve labourers have lost their lives in freak accidents, and eyewitnesses have reporting hearing disembodied footsteps and voices throughout the building.
You never opened bricked-up walls or doors in haunted spaces. Fact.
👻The Africana Library – Kimberley, South Africa
Built in 1882, this library wasn’t able to hire a credentialed librarian until the early 1900s. Hired for the prestigious position was Bertrand Dyer, a very qualified and trained librarian, whom one would never suspect of having criminal dealings. Because please tell me one criminal you know of named BERTRAND. Come on. But, soon after taking the position, Dryer proved me wrong about his lame-ass name and hatched a plan of fraud in an effort to make some extra cash. He would place orders for books, inflate the price the city was paying and then pocket the difference.
Once his scam was discovered, Dryer was allegedly so ashamed of himself that he decided to die by suicide. He took cyanide, but not enough. Instead of dying quickly, Dyer suffered in agony for three days within the library before finally succumbing to the poison. What a fucking awful way to go.
Though today the library is more of a museum and monument than the old library, visitors have reported seeing the ghost of a man in Edwardian attire, floating up and down the halls of the old library. The ghost has been observed rearranging books on the shelves and others claim that if they are having trouble locating a particular book, Dyer will help them out by knocking it off the shelf.
👻UBC Library – Vancouver, British Columbia
This legend is widely known by the students of the University of British Columbia, but in doing my research for this post, it was the first time I’d ever heard it. And I have to say it might be my favourite one on the list, and it’s not because it reminds me of an episode of Supernatural.
On a typically rainy and dreary evening in Vancouver some time in the 1960s, a couple was driving along University Boulevard on their way to the main UBC library, when they got into a heated argument. Things got so tense between the pair that the young girl demanded to be let out of the car. Her boyfriend obliged, leaving her in the rain as he drove off. The girl began to walk, making her way to the library, alone in the rain, when she was struck but another car and killed instantly.
To this day, it’s said that her spirit haunts University Boulevard and the library grounds. She is still always trying to hitch a ride.
There have been numerous reports made by male students who say they picked up a hitchhiking woman. She hands them a note with the library’s address on it and gets into the back seat. When they turn to talk to her, she has disappeared.
👻Andrew Bayne Memorial Library – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This historic building was once the home of Amanda Bayne Balph, the daughter of Allegheny County Sheriff Andrew Bayne, the namesake of the building. His daughter donated the property – all 4 acres – in 1912 to be used as a library and a park. Built in 1875, the Victoria-style home houses approximately 14,000 print volumes.
When the building was bequeathed to the borough of Bellevue after her death, Amanda Bayne Balph stipulated in her will that no trees were to be removed from the property. But after a 300-year-old tree on the grounds needed to be removed due to Dutch elm disease, paranormal activity in the old house seemed to begin and Amanda Bayne Balph is the suspected resident spirit.
Sightings of a woman dressed in Victorian clothing appear to turn lights and ceiling fans on and off, play with computers and other electronics, and hide books and keys, and other items from the staff members. But if you ask nicely, she’ll stop. Which, I guess, if you need to be stuck with a ghost, a polite ghost would be my choice.
👻The Grange Library – Toronto, Ontario
The Grange is a historic Georgian manor in downtown Toronto. It was built in 1817, making it the 12th oldest surviving building in Toronto and the oldest remaining brick house. Today, it is part of the Art Gallery of Ontario and has been expanded so many times that only a small portion of the building is made up of the original manor.
The house was built by D’Arcy Boulton, one of Toronto’s leading citizens in the 1800s. When he died, the house was inherited by Boulton’s son and Toronto mayor, William Henry Boulton. He died in 1874 and left the house to his widow, Harriet Boulton. She remarried and in lived in the house for the rest of her life. The house was bequeathed to the Art Museum of Toronto in 1910.
There have been many sightings over the years, with the most common one being that of a gentleman in a yellow
velvet coat walking through walls where doors would have stood in the manor’s original blueprint. Which, to me, raises the question that if ghosts do exist are they sentient, or are they some kind of trapped energy with no willpower that is just doomed to repeat the same actions over and over and over again? Because that doesn’t sound like as much fun as getting to deliberately fuck with people.
Many have suggested that this yellow-coated man is The Grange’s former butler, William Chin, who retired after fifty years of service by leaving a note that stated: “Left dear old Grange at 1:00 o’clock p.m. to be [a] wanderer.” And wander he does.
There are also reports of apparitions seen around the staircase. A lady in black hangs around one of the bedrooms on the second floor and a lady in white has been seen in the kitchen.
That’s a wrap on my list of haunted libraries! Seriously, that was a lot of research. I’m tired. I need more chocolate.
So, here’s the discussion question: If you had to spend the night in one of these libraries, which one would you pick? Do you think you’d last the night? Do you believe in ghosts?!
Answer in the comments and let’s chat!
Stay safe. Be Kind. But, take no shit.
Later, Booknerds ✌️🔪