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    Specters in the Stacks

    Ghosts haunt houses and hotels, asylums and graveyards. But did you know libraries are another favorite un-resting place for the dead? There are dozens of supposedly-haunted libraries around the world. Here are a few, not too far from us, where books aren’t the only occupants of the stacks.

    Willard Library, Evansville

    Willard Library

    One of the most famous haunted libraries, the Willard Library in Evansville has a long history of unexplained paranormal activity. Just across the river, it’s worth a quick day trip to check out yourself.

    Most well-known of the spirits: the infamous Grey Lady, a prankster who wanders the stacks and basement, announcing her mischievous presence by the clicking of a typewriter, or the stale scent of cheap perfume. Patrons and staff report the feeling of being watched—that they aren’t entirely alone. Books and furniture move on their own, faucets turn off and on, and the air takes a sudden chill—all signs of her presence.

    The last sighting of the Grey Lady was in 2015, when her image was caught on security cameras. Staff tried to save the footage, but the spectral figure was replaced by a strange, distorted blur.

    If you’re brave enough for some virtual ghost-hunting yourself, Willard features “ghostcams” on their website, overlooking paranormal hotspots in the library. But beware: there’s always a chance someone—or something—might be looking back.

    Hutchinson Public Library, Kansas

    The public library of Hutchinson, Kansas houses yet another otherworldly guest who can’t seem to move on.

    Ida Day Holzapfel worked at the town’s public library off and on, for a span of 40 years, beginning in 1916. A determined, dedicated librarian, Ida Day organized many of the library’s modern standards: a catalog and classification system, homebound and outreach service, and extended hours. But she was also considered difficult to work with. Eventually she resigned in 1953, taking a position in California, but promising to return one day to Kansas. The first day of her new job, though, she died—a freak car crash claiming her life.

    Since then, staff and patrons claim to see Ida Day’s figure, usually standing at the foot of the basement stairs. Ghostly footsteps and voices echo there, beneath the earth. Ida Day always intended to return to Kansas one day. Maybe she came back to watch over her library. Maybe she doesn’t approve of the changes over the years. Maybe she left some work unfinished.

    Holzapfel’s Gravestone

    Peoria Public Library, Illinois

    Last on our list of haunted libraries: Peoria Public Library in Peoria, Illinois. Here, dark figures wander the halls, books fly from the shelves, and restless spirits seem unable to move on. But the library’s spooky reputation was decided long before it was conceived.

    The city of Peoria built its public library in 1894. But little did they know the foundation was laid atop a cursed plot. According to local lore, some 60 years prior, a woman cursed the grounds following a mortgage and debt dispute. The curse tainted the land, trapping the restless dead within its boundaries—and dooming all future occupants to tragedy.

    Peoria Public Library

    Not long after being built, the library witnessed the effects of the curse. The first three directors suffered tragic, untimely deaths. In 1915, the first perished in a streetcar accident. Six years later, a heart attack claimed the second, in the middle of a library board meeting. And the third died only three years later, by suicide.

    These former directors still haunt the libraries halls. But they aren’t alone: apparently a dozen different spirits wander the stacks. Staff and patrons alike report seeing ghostly faces and figures in doorways, hearing voices whisper their names, and feeling sudden chills in the air.

    Peoria Public Library will likely disappear one day, the land reused for some other purpose, as it has been for centuries. But the plot will remain. Working its malevolence, the curse will continue to bind the dead to the land, denying the suffering souls their eternal rest.


    Too scared to visit one of these haunted libraries in person? Explore from the comfort of your own reading chair with these supernatural recommendations—all set in libraries!

    The Library of the Dead, T.L. Huchu

    A Perfect Bind, Dorothy St. James

    The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins

    Buried in the Stacks, Allison Brook

    Darkling Bride, Laura Andersen

    Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman

    Midnight Library, Matt Haig

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