Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Kentucky

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 Alabama, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

The Carnegie
1028 Scott Boulevard
Covington

As one of the wealthiest men of his time, Andrew Carnegie provided grants to cities, towns, and educational institutions throughout the world to construct libraries for the edification of their citizens. The bulk of his grants were provided to Americans and 1,689 libraries were built across the country. Twenty-seven libraries were built in the state of Kentucky and twenty-three are still standing, among them the Beaux-Arts former Kenton County Public Library in Covington.

Covington Kentucky Carnegie Library ghost haunted
The Carnegie, formerly the Covington Carnegie Library, 2010, by Greg Hume. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Two years after the library’s construction in 1904, an auditorium was added for community events. The auditorium fell in serious disrepair and was boarded up in 1958, but the library continued to thrive. Outgrowing the original structure, the library moved to a larger facility in 1974 and the building was threatened with demolition. Concerned citizens formed the Northern Kentucky Arts Council to utilize the structure as an arts center. The auditorium was fully restored in 2006 and the center was renamed “The Carnegie” to honor the building’s original use.

Over the years, the building has garnered several legends of ghosts and was investigated by the team from Paranormal Investigations of  Kentucky (PINK) in 2010. The team heard stories from several staff members including one who’s pants leg had curiously been tugged on as they climbed a ladder to the attic. Another staff member who had often worked in the theatre late into the night had a number of experiences with items he was using disappearing only to reappear in a different location. The investigators were able to capture several EVPs during the investigation.

Sources

Carnegie Community Arts Center
107 North Main Street
Somerset

Carnegie Community Arts Center Somerset Kentucky haunted ghost
Carnegie Community Arts Center, formerly the Pulaski County Carnegie Library, 2014, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This graceful, Neo-Classical structure near the heart of Somerset has served several different functions throughout its history. Constructed originally as a post office in 1912, the building was transformed into the Pulaski County Public Library after the post office’s move to a new facility in 1972. Following construction of a new library facility, the building now serves as an arts center for the community and hosts several spirits and a paranormal museum.

The International Paranormal Museum and Research Center opened in the basement of the arts center in 2017 and houses paranormal memorabilia from around the world as well as several haunted objects. In fact, the old building itself has several ghost stories associated with it including tales involving a little boy who died on the adjacent property and a woman who died while working in the building. One of the museum’s operators has had a few haunting encounters like hearing the sound of a woman clearing her throat in a restroom while he was working in the building alone.

Sources

  • Harris, Chris. “Carnegie Community Arts Center Paranormal Museum can be spine-tingling.” Kentucky Commonwealth. 4 October 2017.
  • Torma, Carolyn and Camille Wells. National Register of Historic Places Pulaski County Multiple Resource Area (North Main Street Historic District Nomination). 14 August 1984.

Carnegie Hall
401 Monmouth Street
Newport

The Newport Public Library was organized in 1898 and set up on the second floor of a nearby bank. The group solicited a grant from Andrew Carnegie for funds to build a permanent home. With the $25,000 grant, the Beaux-Arts style Newport Carnegie Library was constructed in 1902 on Monmouth Street. The library moved to a new location in 2004 and the building was used as storage by the city until a local businessman purchased it in 2007. Under the businessman’s purview, the building was exquisitely restored and opened as an events space.

A 2014 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer mentions the possibility that the building may be haunted. During a wedding, a sensitive guest noted the presence of a woman and child in the building’s basement.

Sources

  • “112-year-old gem nestled in Newport.” Cincinnati Enquirer. 17 June 2014.
  • Our History.” Carnegie Hall at Newport. Accessed 17 April 2019.
  • Warminski, Margo. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Monmouth Street Historic District. 28 March 1996.

Helm-Cravens Library
Western Kentucky University Campus
Bowling Green

On this campus known for its ghostlore (see my coverage of the haunting of Van Meter Hall), there is very little written about the spirit at the Helm-Cravens Library. George Eberhart provides only a single sentence on this haunting: “Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University, Helm Library. A student who fell to his death while trying to open a window on the ninth floor is said to haunt the library.” The Helm Library only has a few floors while the Cravens Library, which is physically connected, is nine stories. So, obviously the incorrect building is listed. There is no further information on this haunting.

Sources

Jeffersontown Branch—Louisville Free Public Library
10635 Watterson Trail

Louisville

Scholar William Lynwood Montell’s monumental works on Kentucky ghostlore, including his Ghosts Along the Cumberland: Deathlore in the Kentucky Foothills and Ghosts Across Kentucky comprise the base for a great deal of the works that have come in recent years. In his Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky, Montell includes stories from three libraries, all of which are included in this guide. This book includes firsthand accounts of supernatural encounters collected as part of interviews with people across the state.

The original building that housed the Jeffersontown Branch Library was built on property that was once occupied by the county poor farm. A former director noted that the atmosphere in that building was often dreary and a woman wearing a frilly pink or white dress was seen peering from the front window. The director often heard disembodied footsteps and once saw an entire shelf of books tumble to the floor without reason. The activity ceased when the library moved to a new building next door.

Sources

  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Louisville Free Public Library
301 York Street
Louisville

It is more than appropriate that the architects of the Louisville Free Public Library would employ Louis XVI-style architecture for the building in a city named for the same French king. This building, designed by the firm of Pilcher and Tachau of New York and opened in 1908, is considered the finest example of Louis XVI-style Beaux-Arts architecture in the state. The library, which has been a cultural touchstone in the city and region, continues to occupy this grand building.

Of course, it also seems that one of the librarians has remained on duty here. Some years ago, a library staff member encountered the woman while closing up the library around 9 PM. The staff member told author David Domine, “It was like she was two feet off the ground, and she was just going about her business of putting the books back in place. She had on round spectacles and her hair was up in a bun, and she wore a high-waisted, long skirt and long-sleeved blouse.”

Louisville Kentucky Free Public Library ghost haunted
Louisville Free Public Library, 2007. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The staff member watched the strange figure going about her duties for about 30 seconds before the figure looked up and vanished before his eyes. He left the building quickly after this strange vision. It turns out that many others have seen the spectral librarian as well, though her identity is lost.

Sources

  • Domine, David. Phantoms of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2006.
  • Hedgepeth, Marty Poynter. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Louisville Free Public Library. 29 June 1979.
  • LFPL: A History of Pride and Resourcefulness.” Louisville Free Public Library. Accessed 17 April 2019.

Shively-Newman Branch—Louisville Free Public Library
3920 Dixie Highway
Shively

According to Montell’s Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky, this branch library has been known to be haunted since 1990. Attached to the Shively City Hall, the building has seen much community activity over the years. Perhaps this energy has contributed to the paranormal activity. In the auditorium, library staff has heard the sound of a man’s voice, apparently in pain, over the speakers. Lights have flickered off and on, while books and other things have disappeared only to turn up elsewhere.

Sources

  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Woodford County Library
115 North Main Street
Versailles

Some years ago, a high school student working as a page at the library was helping staff close up for the night. Going upstairs, the young man felt the presence of someone behind him. Turning around, he saw an older man with grey hair and dressed in a grey suit with a maroon tie looking at him. As the page attempted to leave that floor, the figure would glide in front of him. He eventually made his way downstairs where he told the staff that he would no longer go upstairs at night.

The Woodford County Library was constructed in 1906, but was lost to a fire after only a year in the new building. The imposing and grand building that still stands on North Main Street was constructed thereafter. The recollections of a librarian interviewed by William Lynwood Montell provides several ghost stories for this building. Besides the young page, a custodian frequently had experiences with objects moving on their own volition.

Sources

  • Jeffrey, Jonathan. “Keeping the Faith: A History of the Library Services in Versailles, Kentucky.” Kentucky Libraries. 1 December 2003.
  • Montell, William Lynwood. Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.
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