The Poseyville Carnegie Public Library Ghost

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The Poseyville Carnegie Public Library Ghost
Stanley Melburn Campbell

Around 1825, Poseyville, Indiana established its first library in a rented small two-room cottage. In 1901 The Town Hall was built with the second floor being furnished as a library through a generous donation by George Waters, a landowner and prominent citizen, and the surviving books from the old library were moved there. Miss Ottie Sands was elected its librarian.

Constructed in 1905, the Poseyville Carnegie Public Library’s claim to fame is that it is reportedly the smallest community ever to receive one of Andrew Carnegie’s libraries. Other than that, nothing considered strikingly interesting ever occurred to or at the library until the renovation and expansion resulted in a rededication in October 2000.

The old Hansbrough Inn, a historical structure in its own right constructed around 1890 on the south side of the library, was demolished for the expansion and a new wing added over the site. That was when strange things began happening and patrons, staff and volunteers began reporting the feeling of someone  watching them or that they were not alone despite evidence to the contrary. The staff tries hard to remain skeptical of the whole situation but their experience to date has shown that what you expect is not always what surprises you.

A haunted library is hardly unique. The Snohomish Public Library in Snohomish, Washington reports to have a lady ghost haunting the old Carnegie section of the library. And closer to home, the Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana has an equally mysterious lady ghost wandering its halls. Both libraries have gone so far as to setting up ghost cams and mentioning the paranormal occurrences on the Internet. Therefore, there is a precedence that sanctions haunting of libraries.

Another likely source for the origin of our guest, although from the evidence she appears content with the old Carnegie library area, comes from the old Hansbrough Inn that closed around 1910. In 1975, the library purchased the inn and used it as a pair of apartments until it became necessary to demolish the building to make way for the new addition. The basement of the inn had once served as a dining room for guests back when passenger trains still stopped at Poseyville. The floor was beautifully decorated with sky blue and white Italian ceramic tiles. During the demolition the contractor found it necessary to break up the basement floor of the inn before filling it in, thus significantly disturbing the ground beneath. But for now that appears to be another story altogether to investigate.

Keeping in mind that an investigation into the paranormal realm of ghosts and poltergeists can be a quandary, it is always best to avoid taking a stand for or against their existence, especially considering when it is your own library being investigated. However, evidence has been accumulating.

Library assistant Sheryl Taylor was the first to admit noticing something unusual. She has the additional duty of cleaning the library and was accustomed to doing the bulk of the cleaning alone late in the evenings. One evening, as she went about her cleaning duties, there was a distinct familiar sound of someone entering the building. As a rule, Sheryl is an extremely cautious individual and always locks herself inside. Since there are only three working keys to the building she imagined it was either computer technician Stanley Forzley or myself making an unscheduled appearance. When no one announced himself she investigated but discovered herself alone in the building. This scenario has been repeated several times in recent years.

Since the present librarian’s desk is centered in the building it is not unusual to hear someone entering before seeing them. Because of this, one of our security cameras is fixed in position to show the main entrance and hallway. However, none of us have caught a glimpse of the ghost actually entering or leaving. The sound is very distinctive and the ghost is very particular about using the original library entrance. We’ve all come to accept it as part of our daily routine and even I habitually bid the ghost goodnight as I leave the building.

Miss Taylor believes our ghost is female and quite likely somehow associated with the library. It is as if the ghost wants to be a caretaker spirit.

“I never have the feeling that she, herself, wants to leave or that she wants me to leave the building,” said Taylor. “It’s as if she knows I only want to do the best for the library. There is a mutual respect of our shared space. I feel she wants me to know that she is present.”

There remains no confirming evidence that the ghost wandering about the Poseyville Carnegie Public Library is a former librarian. Ottie Sands, considering that her term of service restricted her to another facility altogether, would be excluded. If it narrows down to a librarian having actually served in the present facility, the choices are certainly limited to one of the following: Callie Elliott, Ruth Jaquess Werry, or Fannie Garten. My immediate predecessor, Carol Renee Lamar, retired after over 45 years of service and remains very much alive at the time this is being written.

In the winter of 2001 the ghost actually made her presence visually known for the first time. Taylor can vividly describe the encounter.

“I was cleaning the library. I needed to take some boxes into the basement and for some reason I have never really cared for going down there. It is a part of the original Carnegie building and I have always felt when I go downstairs that I am intruding into someone’s aura,” she explains. “On this particular evening, it just seemed that the air felt unsettled in the building. As soon as I placed the boxes on the floor and turned to go upstairs, I thought I saw something in the far basement room. Naturally, the scaredy-cat that I am, I hurriedly turned to the stairs to run. All of a sudden what I thought could be someone was a blur behind me on the stairs and it stopped as if I was supposed to stay. I looked over my shoulder again and saw a matronly woman surrounded by a hazy mist. She was dressed from an older era. I thought ‘okay, get it together, no one will believe this one, that I saw a ghost.’”

Sheryl is a little uneasy when talking about anything associated with the supernatural. Although a number of homes within the area are reportedly haunted, in Poseyville it is just not a subject openly addressed.

However, her encounter was not to remain an isolated incident. While in the basement our computer technician also encountered something that he believes may have been the same aberration. While working in the north end of the basement one night just prior to closing, he reported noticing a gray vapor in the far northeastern corner.

“My experience was hardly as dramatic as that experienced by Sheryl. I was taking a box of computer parts downstairs when I noticed a column of gray smoke. At first I thought the sump pump was on fire,” said Forzley as he describes his own experience. “The problem was that the vapor did not ascent upward or spread like the smoke of a fire. It just hovered there in one spot, then vanished.”

Physical manifestations appear generally concentrated in the basement. Exactly how long the ghost has haunted this area remains a mystery because until 1998 the library was rarely occupied during evening hours and no one ventured into the basement except by necessity. Since then we began storing large quantities of books pulled from library shelves down there along with other items like obsolete computers, phonograph records, display props, seasonal decorations, and magazines rarely required for the library’s daily operation. The only link with the Hansbrough Inn is a pair of iron floor gratings salvaged just prior to the building’s demolition.

“Sometimes the hair on my neck raises when I feel she is following me around,” reports Sheryl. “And when I leave I feel her presence. I believe she always walks me out safely, as if saying ‘goodnight and come back’. I have never felt threatened and she isn’t speaking, but I do feel she is trying to communicate with me. She isn’t troubled, but caring.”

As full renovation and construction efforts got underway, one of the contractors moved an old desk in the workroom and discovered an old black and white photograph of the library. This was a significant find considering this remains the only glimpse we have of the interior as it must have appeared around the time of the first dedication. With exception of the original librarian’s desk, which was reportedly given away for some unknown reason, we still possess all of the furniture shown in the photograph. We even have in our possession several of the books shown on the shelves. Unfortunately, no people appear in the photograph.

Still, the photograph gave us an opportunity to relive some of the library’s distant past. Using the photograph as a model, it became possible to redecorate at least one room into a reasonable facsimile of the image portrayed in the picture. Perhaps this is the reason our resident ghost now feels comfortable in letting us know she is here because she is in somewhat familiar surroundings.

“The library now has twelve computers scattered throughout the building. Four are located in the old Carnegie section and are constantly having problems,” reports technician Forzley. “I can be putting in a program one minute and suddenly it is gone. Network connections working completely fine one day have to be reestablished the next.”

In addition to the computer problems, 3.5 diskettes left unattended in the old Carnegie building appear to develop serious problems or go completely blank. DVDs even develop gaps despite being perfectly fine on previous viewings.

Light bulbs in the original library, despite being in new fixtures, are prone to burning out within a short period of replacement. Electricians have inspected both the lighting fixtures and wiring on two occasions, finding nothing wrong either time. It was even suggested that we attempt lower wattage bulbs and changing all the lights at once. Each of these changes appeared successful for a brief time but the problem always reoccurred. Interestingly enough, there appears a pattern in this sequence as well. The room containing the four computers in the old Carnegie section starts the pattern, losing two or more lights, then the Carol Renee Lamar Room loses one. Finally, the connecting hall loses one and the pattern repeats itself.
Admittedly, there are several logical explanations for any of these events but the staff is convinced that, taken as a whole, these activities are sound evidence of an honest to goodness library haunting.

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