It's that time of year again... when ridiculousness runs rampant among children and adults. Especially adults, who love to dress up as vampires, pirates, French maids and superheroes of either gender and consume mass quantities of liquor on a weeknight. And writers of all kinds feel the need to expound on the some aspect of Halloween: its origins, its contemporary manifestations, the co-opting of a child's holiday by adults, yada-yada-yada. Well, why should I fight against the current? So I herewith present the obligatory Halloween blog post.
What else? Haunted libraries of the Midwest...
Peru, IL: Washington School. Located in downstate Illinois, Washington School serves students in fifth through eight grade and apparently has a library with paranormal activity. The story goes that a disturbed school librarian (!!!) killed three students and herself April 12, 1956, in the library. Since then, students have reported hearing screams and seeing an apparition.
Apparently the standard "shush" wasn't working for her.
Peoria, IL: Peoria Public Library. According to legend (as usual), the library was built on ground that was cursed by its previous owner. In 1830, Mary Stevenson Gray, a matriarch of the city, lived in a house on Monroe Avenue. After her brother died, she took over the care and feeding of his ne'er-do-well son, who was something of a hooligan. After one run-in with the local constabulary, he had to hire a lawyer, who took out a mortgage on Mrs. Gray’s home as security against the strong possibility of nonpayment for billable hours. When the deadbeat couldn't pay up, the lawyer sued to foreclose on the home and collect his fee. Mrs. Gray was furious (and understandably so). She kicked her worthless nephew to the curb. (Not long afterwards, his corpse was found floating in the Illinois river.) Mrs. Gray promptly cursed the property and all its future owners. In 1894, Peoria purchased the property and built a library. And even though the library was built next to Mrs. Gray’s home, not over it, the first three library directors promptly died under unusual circumstances. The first, E. S. Willcox, was killed in a streetcar accident in 1915; the second, Samuel Patterson Prowse, died from a heart attack suffered at a library board meeting in 1921. The third, Dr. Edwin Wiley, committed suicide by swallowing arsenic. Ghosts and paranormal activity ensued. The original library was torn down in 1966 and a new one built in its place, but the ghosts apparently have no intention of leaving the building. Employees have reportedly heard their names being called while alone in the stacks, felt cold drafts, and even claimed to have seen the face of Prowse in the basement doorway.
There's always a cold draft in my library, but that's just because they can't seem to regulate the temperature in any public building in which I've ever set foot...
Evansville, IN: Willard Public Library. A “lady in gray” supposedly haunts this 1885 Victorian Gothic building. (How appropos!) The spook apparently doffs a spritz of her favorite perfume before undertaking her spectral wanderings because a whiff of it is often sensed near the elevator, near the rest rooms, or in the children’s room. (Apparently every woman alive and dead loves Chanel No. 5!) Occasionally staff will walk into cold spots. (See above.) Former Director William Goodrich said the lady appeared once on a security monitor placed near the rest rooms. One theory is that the ghost is Louise Carpenter, the daughter of the library’s founder. Louise sued the library’s trustees, claiming that her father was “of unsound mind and was unduly influenced in establishing [Willard] Library.” She lost. (But this begs the question: if you don't like libraries, why would you want to spend eternity in one?) The library enjoys its notoriety: it was once featured on an episode of SyFy's Ghost Hunters show. You can check out the library's ghostcams here.
Detroit, MI: Detroit Public Library, Skillman Branch. This library is apparently located on the site of a former jail where executions took place in the early 19th century. Patrons and employees claim that the library stacks sometimes reverberate with moans, rumblings, and other strange noises.
(Hmmm, no comment other than librarians are very familiar with the variation of the "Mile High Club" that some people occasionally try to achieve in the stacks.)
Cornell, WI: Cornell Public Library. Apparently, people get the heebie-jeebies in the basement where the restrooms are located and report feeling "overwhelmingly uncomfortable."
(Uhmmm, I think I will just take a pass on this one.)
No pix of house, but Hinckley is famous for buzzards
Hinckley, Ohio: Old Stouffer House. Once a private home, the building was re-purposed as a library in 1975. Not long after, paranormal activities began in earnest. The librarians, those co-ordinators of information, began to keep a file on the occurrences. They found that books left out the night before would sometimes be reshelved, while others (particularly the novels of Anne Rice) would be flung to the floor. (Everyone's a critic! Even dead people!) Patrons and staff members report feeling an "odd" presence in the second story rooms and, upon occasion, paper clips have been known to sail through the air. A tradesman in the building to repair the furnace once saw a spectral figure on the basement stairs. The ghosts are believed to be those of Orlando Wilcox and his daughter Rebecca, who during the early to mid 1800's lived in a cabin on the site before the house was constructed. In 2003, the weight of the books and mold inside the walls forced the library to move to new quarters.
Broken Bow, OK: Broken Bow Public Library. This building, built in 1998, stands on the site of a former high school. Sometimes at closing, staff members report a cold spot and argumentative voices in the southeastern corner
of the library. (Well, perhaps the ghosts are arguing over the relative merit of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles versus Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Or maybe they think both are crap...)
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