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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The haunted Willard Library

Evansville Indiana is the home of the Willard Library, unlike many historic buildings that are converted to libraries or museums in order to preserve history, this library was never anything else.

The library was made possible through a grant by Willard Carpenter. He was so determined the library would never be used for any other purpose that he wrote in the by laws "It will be a public library for the use of the people of all classes, races, and sexes, free of charge. Forever."

He was so firm in his belief of how the library should be used that he went on to say, If the building ever ceases to be used as a library, it should be torn down and no brick should be left one on top of the other.

The beautiful Victorian building stands today, original wood floors, crackle happily as patrons peruse the aisles of modern book cases. The windows are a work of art in themselves with beautiful wood engravings framing the glass and accenting the walls. Stained glass portraits grace the top of the windows while paintings adorn the walls.

Maps dating from the 1800's are preserved under glass tabletops. A directory of businesses open at the turn of the century are posted, phone numbers only had 4 digits back then.

Evansville was one of the fastest growing metro areas in the 1900's.

Young girls could get a job at the cigar factory as it was chaperoned. My grandmother worked there when she was 13. Her children visited this library as kids.

He was a man who felt learning was best when shared and the library was the perfect place for those who had the gumption to learn and reach out with the help of authors.

I'm not sure how many romance novels were available in the 1900's, but the books were there to be enjoyed by all.

In 1937 a janitor went to work at the library to stoke the stove so it would be warm when it opened. He allowed hobos to sleep in the coal room as it was closed off from the rest of the library, it was here he first saw the Grey Lady.

A woman in button hole shoes and a full skirt was in the room, when he asked if he could help her, she disappeared. He wound up quitting his job, but most employees who have seen the grey lady take it in stride.

Over the years, the Grey Lady has become an attraction in her own right. the library even holds a ghost tour every October for those who hope to catch a glimpse of her. She even has her own web cam and site.

Just in case you might think the employees are having fun and can't be taken seriously, you can ask the police about the time the alarm was triggered, when they went to investigate, an officer said he saw two figures in the upstairs window. NO one was found. the librarian told him he saw the ghost and he said "what ghost"

There is a beautiful staircase leading to the second floor when a kindergarten boy refused to climb down the stairs after his mother called him, he said he was afraid of the ghost. Mom went up the stairs to get him.Other signs of the grey lady are cold spots, books falling from shelves, chairs being moved, and a strong smell of perfume.

some say she wears a veil over her face and others say she doesn't.

When one employee was being interviewed she was asked about the Grey Lady. She told the reporter there hasn't been a sighting in a long time and she believed the ghost was gone. Just as she said this a book flew off the shelf in an arc and landed on the floor.

"I could be wrong" she calmly told the dumb founded reporter.

There is speculation about who the Grey Lady is. The Campbell's had a daughter who sued for possession of the library after her father's death. she lost, so some think it is her ghost who haunts the library. The employees I spoke to disagree. The ghost is peaceful, not angry. Though many have seen the Gray Lady, only the police officer claimed to see two figures in the window. Could it be Mr. Campbell and his wife, looking over the place and ensuring the promise of how the library is to be used is a kept one?

The Grey Lady likes the back room where the stove (heater) used to be and the children's wing which is in the basement. she also likes the top floor. Rumor has it, Campbell ran out of money and couldn't afford a bell for the bell tower. To this day, there is no bell. Since there is no bell to summon readers to the library, perhaps the Grey Lady is there to welcome patrons, all patrons, regardless of race, gender or social standing.


Anonymous said...

i noticed you have the last name wrong their names wasn't campbell it's carpenter , as in willard carpenter , hope that helps but other then that mistake it's a very good blog

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