In October of 2016, I participated in an investigation of this library and its older, original building, now Heritage Hall, next door with S.C.A.Re of Alabama (a group founded by Kim Johnston, who wrote Haunted Shelby County, Alabama and Haunted Talladega County with Shane Busby). In my “Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn,” I recorded my impressions of the two buildings and the modest results of the investigation, as well as the history. Speaking to staff members in both locations, it seems that there was, oddly, far more activity in the new library than the old one. With this recent article, that seems to be the case.
According to the article, the activity has been experienced in two ways: as things moving on their own accord, and in visual phenomena.
Doors open and close on their own, sometimes surprising employees. One librarian had a door “almost hit her in the face and no one was on the other side.” Books also regularly move about, sometimes flying off the shelf in front of multiple witnesses. Another librarian had a box of labels disturbed while she worked with them. “It was like somebody hit the box from the bottom and they came flying out of the box.”
Others have witnessed orbs floating in mid-air, but the most perplexing of the visual phenomena is the shadow-like apparition that has been seen. A staff member was leaving for the day when she saw the specter. “It could have been the light shining through…it looked like it was just standing there, waving.” Librarians have named the spirit Fred.
The article speculates that the cause of the activity may be the Civil War memorabilia that the library has in its collections; noting that the orbs are seen in the room where this memorabilia is kept. The library does have a genealogy room that we spent time in during our investigation. If I remember correctly, this room was noted as having some activity, which could easily be the same room the article refers to.
The library’s genealogy room is off of its Hall of Heroes. Lined with photographs and other mementoes, the exhibit pays homage to the county’s veterans. Perhaps, this concentration of artifacts has attracted spirits to the library for a last farewell?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
Old Shelby County Courthouse
1854 Old Courthouse Circle
This 1854 building has served a myriad of uses over the years. In 1934, a public library was opened on the second floor which moved into a new dedicated library building in 1940. People within the old courthouse have had a variety of paranormal experiences. For more information, see the Shelby County entry in my article, “Alabama Hauntings—County by County.”
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.
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.
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.”
Walter J. Hanna Memorial Library
4615 Gary Avenue
During a renovation of this downtown Fairfield building in 1989, several workers witnessed odd and frightening activity. Please see my article, “A slab shattering spirit,” for further information.
The Baker-Peters Jazz Club is a study in incongruity. This large, brick antebellum home is boxed in by urban sprawl, even surrendering its front yard on Kingston Pike to an oil change center. In the yard of the house a large neon sign depicts a martini complete with an olive and advertises the jazz club that was once housed in the Greek revival splendor behind it. Sadly, the club has now closed but it has not yet given up its ghosts.
During the Civil War, East Tennessee was a rather dicey place to be no matter with whom your sympathies lay. While the area firmly lies in the bosom of the Confederacy, geography did not change the opinions of the local citizenry. While Knoxville was firmly secessionist, the hearts of the citizens in much of the rest of East Tennessee remained with the Federal Government. When Confederate troops swarmed the area, they were harassed by locals who sabotaged rail lines into the city forcing Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer to build a series of forts around the city. Knoxville fell to Union forces in late 1863.
West of the city of Knoxville, the farm of Dr. James H. Baker was a haven for Confederates looking for solace among company of like-minded individuals. Dr. Baker, a prominent physician, took in wounded Confederates turning his manse into a field hospital. After Union forces captured the city, Baker’s home remained a safe house for Confederates and the local postmaster, William Hall, is supposed to have reported Baker to the Union authorities. Soldiers soon appeared at Baker’s door demanding that he give up any Confederate soldiers in his care. Refusing to do so, Baker ascended the staircase and barricaded himself in a room at the top of the stairs. The soldiers followed, shooting Dr. Baker through the door, killing him.
But that’s not the end of the killing. Dr. Baker’s son, Abner, returned from service in the Confederate Army to find his father dead. After hearing the tragic tale of his father’s demise, Abner hunted down Postmaster William Hall and avenged his father. Soon after, an angry mob killed Abner for the postmaster’s death.
In the 20th century, the house has served as a series of restaurants where employees and patrons have often felt spirits present. One guest told a reporter for the UT Daily Beacon that she gets “a creepy feeling, almost like you can tell that you’re invading someone else’s home.” After hours, passersby have reported lights in the darkened club, sometimes having the appearance of a lantern. Managers have reported having items moved and having glassware falling on a regular basis. The identities of the spirits are unknown, however, I hope Dr. Baker and his son enjoy the smooth jazz.
Burleson, Simpson. “Local jazz club haunted by Civil War era doctor.” UT Daily Beacon. 1 November 2005.
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2011.
Flory, Josh. “Oil change business planned outside of Baker Peters House.” Property Scope. 22 August 2014.
Price, Charles Edwin. Mysterious Knoxville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1999.
Wheeler, W. Bruce. “Knoxville.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.
The oldest firehouse in the city, the building recalls an era when government buildings were elegantly ornamented and sometimes extravagantly designed. The 1904 building utilizes Jacobean Revival style and retains some of its interior elements including a cast iron spiral staircase fire pole, though a truck now occupies the space where horse stalls once stood. The station’s façade now bears the building’s nickname, the “Vogt Reel House,” name for a former city commissioner who donated the land the station sits upon.
Firefighter Henry McDonald was nearly 70 years old, but still on duty on Christmas Day in 1945. World War II, the most devastating war in history had ended just a few months previous when Japan surrendered in August. He had lived to see two world wars dominate the headlines of the Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader (these papers would merge in 1983 to become the Lexington Herald-Leader).
That Christmas Day, he peacefully drifted off the sleep in the firehouse and would not wake. He was laid to rest in Winchester Cemetery down the road from Lexington.
At some point after McDonald’s death, things seemed to indicate that his spirit had taken up residence in the old firehouse. Some heard the sound of heavy boots treading the iron staircase while unexplainable cold breezes were felt. McDonald’s beloved cane-bottom rocking chair was even heard rocking by itself in the attic. While the activity sometimes chills firefighters working in the building, the spirit has earned their respect and affection. An article from the local NBC station, notes that McDonald’s spirit “is a pretty good ghost. So good he has earned a bump in rank.”
The firehouse’s captain remarked, “He has been promoted and now they call him The Captain.”