Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Alabama

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on the District of ColumbiaKentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Albertville Public Library
200 Main Street
Albertville

For years, rumors have circulated of this library being haunted, but according to the library’s director, the stories are just rumors. Is this library haunted? See my entry for further information.

Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library
University of Alabama Campus
Tuscaloosa

Amelia Gorgas was beloved in life as the university’s postmistress and librarian and, those who have encountered her spirit contend that even in death she continues to provide a comforting presence. The wife of Confederate General Josiah Gorgas, the eighth president of the university and later its librarian, Amelia took over her husband’s position as librarian after his death, a position she held for 23 years. When this massive library was constructed in 1939, it became the first building on campus named for a woman.

Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library University of Alabama Tuscaloosa haunted library ghost
Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George F. Landregger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Much of the supernatural activity within the library occurs on the fourth floor, home to the library’s special collections. According to Daniel Barefoot, the library’s elevators will only travel to the fourth floor if the rider has a special key, though the elevators will often arrive on that floor with the doors opening to reveal no one. Some members of the library’s staff have claimed to have encountered the apparition of Mrs. Gorgas within the stacks on this floor.

Higdon and Talley note another specter seen within the library: a man dressed entirely in black who approaches shocked students with his arms reaching out for them.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. Winston-Salem NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Armstrong-Osborne Public Library
202 South Street East
Talladega

Talladega possesses not only one, but two haunted libraries. The Armstrong-Osborne Library is the town’s current library and sits next to the town’s first library, now the Jemison-Carnegie Heritage Hall Museum. Both buildings have a number of spirits which I have explored in my “Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn.” Just days after publishing this article, an article on the paranormal activity was published, the details of which have been described in this update.

Bay Minette Public Library
205 West 2nd Street
Bay Minette

Does the spirit of the first Bay Minette Public Library director continue to watch over the library? See my post, “Alabama Hauntings–County by County Part I,” for futher information.

Comer Museum & Arts Center
711 North Broadway Avenue
Sylacauga

This small marble building on a hill was originally used as the town’s library when it was constructed in 1939. It is now a museum of local history and art. In recent years it has become known for its paranormal activity and I have investigated here with S.C.A.Re. of Alabama twice. The first investigation was written up in “The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama.”

Demopolis Public Library
211 East Washington Street
Demopolis

In 2014, the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group was called in by the library’s director to find out if the “creaks and quirks” of the old building are simply that, or possibly something paranormal. The director states that staff have discovered books repeatedly falling off shelves, as well as hearing footsteps in the building’s mezzanine. The building that now houses the library was constructed in 1926 and long occupied by the Ulmer Furniture Store. It has housed the library since 1990. There’s been no word as to what, if any, evidence of paranormal activity was found.

Sources

  • Averette, Justin. “Haunted Collection: Paranormal group Investigates Demopolis Public Library.” The Demopolis Times.26 August 2014.
  • Marengo County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Marengo County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.

Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library
119 Cemetery Avenue
Evergreen

On the grounds of this modern public library, the apparition of a girl in riding attire accompanied by a phantom horse has been spotted. Within the library, staff have reported many odd happenings including cold spots, books being turned “topsy-turvy” on the shelves, and inexplicable noises.

Sources

Gadsden Public Library
254 South College Street
Gadsden

A library staff member closing up the library some years ago stepped off the elevator on the third floor and came face to face with a strange lady in 19th century clothing. The specter faded before his eyes. After that initial encounter, the staff member met the woman several more times. Throughout the years other staff members have experienced cold spots and odd smells, such as burning coal, on the third and fourth floors of the 1960s-era library. Author Mike Goodson contends that these unusual occurrences have ceased after the library’s recent renovation.

Sources

  • Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • McCoy, Betty S. Haints, Haunts and Hullabaloos: Etowah and Surrounding Counties. CreateSpace, 2011.

Homewood Public Library
1721 Oxmoor Road
Birmingham

interior Homewood Public Library haunted ghost
Adult reading room of the Homewood Public Library. The space was originally the sanctuary of a church. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Occupying a building that was initially constructed as a Church of Christ, it has been suggested that this library is haunted by some of the former church members. Library staff members have heard the sound of a group of ladies talking in the basement rooms that once served as Sunday school classrooms. Doors have been seen opening and closing on their own, and lights have been known to turn off and on by themselves. This activity mostly occurs after hours.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Singleton, William C. III. “Homewood Public Library – Researcher hopes for chance to study ghostly activity.” Birmingham News. 31 March 2010.

Houghton Memorial Library
Campus of Huntingdon College
Montgomery

Houghton Memorial Library at Huntingdon College haunted ghost
Houghton Memorial Library at Huntingdon College, 2008. Photo by Chris Pruitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Campus tradition tells of a scholarly spirit residing in this private, Methodist, liberal arts college’s 1929 Houghton Memorial Library. Faith Serafin reports that the spirit remained unnamed until 1990 when he was dubbed Frank. Library staff and students have been putting up with Frank’s antics for many years. Frank is such a well-known fixture in the library that he has been granted his own study room and given a chair which rolls around the library on its own volition on a regular basis. The mischievous spirit enjoys pulling books from the shelves, slamming the building’s heavy doors, and moaning to scare occasional students.

Sources

  • Enzwiler, Susan & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Huntingdon College. August 1999.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Houston Memorial Library
101 North Houston Street
Athens

The former home of Governor George S. Houston has been used as a public library since 1936. The governor’s spirit may still occupy the premises. The library has been covered as the Limestone County entry in “Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part V.”

Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion
1305 Greensboro Avenue
Tuscaloosa

The history of this grand Italianate mansion–which served as a library at one point in its life–connects with several haunted places throughout Alabama. Robert Jemison, the prominent businessman and politician who had this house built, ardently supported the construction of the haunted Bryce Hospital and had the construction supervisor for the hospital, John Stewart, oversee this home’s construction as well.

Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion haunted ghost
Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion, 2010. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Another tale links this house with the Drish Mansion. Higdon & Talley, authors of Haunted Tuscaloosa and Haunted Alabama’s Black Belt, note that the mansion’s tower was constructed specifically by Dr. John Drish so that he could observe this mansion’s construction. Additionally, Robert Jemison worked with African-American bridge builder Horace King who is believed to have designed and built Spring Villa, a haunted mansion in Opelika.

Throughout the years, the Jemison Mansion has played host to several families including the Van de Graaf family (Robert Jemison Van de Graaf was the inventor of the Van de Graaf generator) and later served as the Friedman Library. Staff within the house have encountered some paranormal activity. A director of the mansion told The Crimson White, a student newspaper for UA, that several times he had heard a tremendous crash within the house. “It sounds like a bookcase is falling over. You can hear the glass and timber splintering, but you can’t feel it like you would if something had actually fallen over.”

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • Leopard, Colby. “Buildings on campus and around Tuscaloosa thought to be haunted.” The Crimson White. 31 October 2012.

Julia Tutwiler Library
University of West Alabama Campus
Livingston

Opened in 1962, this International-styled campus building seems like the least likely of places on campus to harbor a ghost. Yet it does harbor a spirit; one that may remain here until a spelling error is corrected. First encountered in 1995, the spirit is believed to be that of former education professor Lucille Foust. She was known as a very “serious-minded woman” and an excellent educator. Therefore, Miss Foust may not be pleased that her memory is honored with a portrait with a brass plaque reading, “Principle of the Laboratory School.” Those on campus who knew Ms. Foust knew very well that she did not tolerate misspelled words, especially when it came to her title as “principal.” The portrait now hangs in the library with the uncorrected plaque.

Students and library staff have observed a feminine form, perhaps that of Ms. Foust, moving through the stacks, though her spirit is most commonly heard. Staff members have had their names called and have heard pages turning and drawers slamming in the empty building late at night. While this spelling error may keep the indomitable Ms. Foust’s spirit earthbound, it is all in the principle of the issue.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Linn-Henley Research Library
2100 Park Place
Birmingham

Opening in 1927, this historic library building originally served as the Birmingham Public Library. When the new library building was constructed across the street, this became a research library housing archives, government documents, a southern history library, and a ghost. Please see my entry, Southern Spirit Guide to Haunted Alabama, for further information.

Monroe County Public Library
121 Pineville Road
Monroeville

Few libraries can boast that someone famous slept there, though the Monroe County Public Library can. Actor Gregory Peck, star of the film, To Kill a Mockingbird, based on the novel by Monroeville’s most famous resident Harper Lee, stayed here in the 1960s when the building was the LaSalle Hotel. The old hotel was converted into the public library in 1984.

A sense of foreboding surrounds the second floor of the library. People have experienced disembodied footsteps, inexplicable sounds, and strange lights here.

Sources

Ralph Brown Draughon Library
Auburn University Campus
Auburn

According to Brandon Stokes and John Mark Poe of the Haunted Auburn Walking Tour, someone passing the South College Street façade of the Draughon Library saw a woman peering out the third-floor windows. While seeing someone looking out the windows is not unusual, being able to see the fluorescent lights behind the woman through her is quite unusual.

Draughon Library, Auburn University,
South College Street facade of the Draughon Library at Auburn University, 2017. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The third floor seems to be the primary location of most paranormal activity. This includes books sliding across tables and desks as students worked, books pulling themselves off shelves, and strange noises heard within the stacks.

Sources

  • Haunted Auburn Walking Tour. Organized and guided by Brandon Stokes and John Mark Poe. Auburn University Campus, 31 October 2016.

Tallassee Community Library
99 Freeman Avenue
Tallassee

This small library near Montgomery could be considered one of the most paranormally active libraries in the state. It is the representative haunting for Tallapoosa County in “Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VII.”

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