Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—West Virginia

Libraries are as the shrine where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed.

–Sir Francis Bacon

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, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library
404 West Pike Street
Clarksburg

A bronze plaque in the vestibule of Waldomore Mansion paraphrases the above quote from the English philosopher and statesman Sir Francis Bacon: “Books are the Shrine Where the Saint is.” Perhaps there is a saint remaining in spirit within this former residence.

Waldomore Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library haunted ghosts Parkersburg West Virginia
Waldomore, 2015, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the West Virginia Collection of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

Standing in stark contrast to the modern Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library next door, Waldomore Mansion preserves an old-world elegance and many fond memories for the citizens of Clarksburg. Built around 1839 for Waldo Goff and his wife, Harriett Moore, the home was dubbed using a combination of the state senator’s and his wife’s names. The Greek Revival home was occupied by the Goff family until heirs deeded the property to the city with the express condition that the house be used as either a museum or library.

In 1931, the home was opened as a permanent home for the local public library and served as such until growing pains required the library to build a modern facility next door in 1976. The building now houses meeting space for the library as well as its local and state history collection, among them the papers of paranormal researcher Gray Barker. Waldomore underwent restoration and renovation in 2016 and 2017 which installed a new wiring system and helped to preserve the home to allow it to continue to make memories for local citizens for many years to come.

As for the spirit that may continue to occupy the home, some locals have reported the figure of a woman in white peering from the upstairs windows and the tinkling of piano music heard coming from a lone piano in one of the parlors.

Sources

  • Collins, Rodney S. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Waldomore. 14 February 1978.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.
  • Murray, Brittany. “Waldomore upgrades, renovation near completion.” The Exponent Telegram. 8 February 2017.
  • Racer, Theresa. “Waldomore Mansion in Clarksburg.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State.

Downtown Campus Library
West Virginia University Campus
Morgantown

N.B. This was originally published as part of my “Southern Index of Higher Ed Haunts—West Virginia.”

Studious spirits inhabit this 1931 library. One staff member was studying here when he heard the elevator doors open and someone walk to the desk on the other side of the partition and pull the chair out. When he looked shortly after that, no one was there. Legend blames this activity on a staff member who died after falling down an open elevator shaft.

Sources

  • Kinney, Hilary. “Spooky stories surface throughout campus.” The Daily Athenaeum. 31 October 2013.
  • Racer, Theresa. “WVU haunts around campus.”Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 20 May 2012.

Kingwood Public Library
205 West Main Street
Kingwood

The small town of Kingwood, in Preston County, is home to the West Virginia Zoo and a haunted library. Sandwiched between a gas station and a McDonald’s, the Kingwood Public Library occupies a 1966 building that stands on land that has a dark history. A brick jail was built on this plot of land in 1871 and housed inmates until a new jail was opened nearby in 1925. The old jail was then acquired by the American Legion and housed a post until 1966 when that building was razed for the library.

Theresa Racer reported that a librarian posted of activity on the WVGhosts website which collects accounts of ghosts from throughout the state. The librarian noted that odd sounds were heard throughout the building including footsteps on the concrete basement stairs. “Objects move around on their own accord, and doors open and close without any living hands assisting. Most interesting are the stories of books actually jumping off the library shelves!”

Unfortunately, the link to the story on WVGhosts no longer works and the story may have been taken down, leading to the question of if the activity remains.

Sources

Martinsburg Public Library
101 West King Street
Martinsburg

Like the Kingwood Library, the Martinsburg Public Library occupies the site of a former building, but one with a less dark history. On this respectable location in the heart of Martinsburg, across from the courthouse the Flick Building, later called the Wiltshire Building, was constructed in 1815. Ten years after the building’s construction, a group of locals met here to establish the Martinsburg Library Society.

During the Civil War, the building was the headquarters of General William Henry Seward Jr., son of the Secretary of State William H. Seward Sr., who commanded a brigade in the area. This building was torn down in 1966 (the same year as the demolition of the jail in Kingwood for construction of their library) and replaced with the current library building.

Martinsburg Public Library West Virginia haunted ghosts
Martinsburg Public Library, 2015, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the West Virginia Collection of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

According to Justin Stevens in his book, Haunted Martinsburg, the library has been the scene of odd doings since the 1970s. At that time, staff members would regularly hear people on the third floor after closing and at times when the library was otherwise empty of patrons. The odor of coffee was also detected. Most strange were the puddles of water that mysteriously appeared throughout the building. Some people actually witnessed water running down the stairs from the third floor, though no source was ever discovered. In the childrens’ section, a librarian had several experiences with child-like spirits.

In the 1990s, a library director brought in a psychic medium to try to contact the resident spirits. The medium eventually contacted a spirit named Jeff who had served in the Civil War. Staff members performed a ritual to free Jeff and the other spirits within the building. There has been little to no paranormal activity since.

Sources

  • Stevens, Justin. Haunted Martinsburg. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2016.

Morgantown Public Library
373 Spruce Street
Morgantown 

Staff and patrons of Morgantown’s 1923 Public Library have often heard the sound of falling books only to discover that none have fallen. The spirit has been dubbed, “Isabelle Jane,” though the apparition seen is that of a man in 19th century clothing. The library was constructed on the site of two homes, but it is unknown if the haunting is related.

Sources

  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.

Morrow Library
Marshall University Campus
Huntington

N.B. This was originally published as part of my “Southern Index of Higher Ed Haunts—West Virginia.”

Library patrons are sometimes interrupted in this 1930 library by the sounds of arguing, though the source is never found. Originally the main university library building, this building now houses special collections.

Sources

  • Donohue, Kelly. Unnamed article. The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.

Trans Allegheny Books
(formerly the Parkersburg Carnegie Library)
725 Green Street
Parkersburg

Parkersburg Carnegie Library, formerly Trans Allegheny Books, 2010. Photo by Richie Diesterheft, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Once occupying the old Parkersburg Carnegie Library, Trans Allegheny Books, a popular bookstore closed on the death of its owner. Several spirits, both human and feline may still reside in the old library. See my entry, “Book Heaven—Trans Allegheny Books,” for further information.

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