Haunted Libraries

There are plenty of delightfully scary haunted library stories. But it’s one thing to read about a haunted library and quite another to be in one.

So many of the libraries I visited in my youth seemed to have some sort of … presence.

Now I’m not saying there was definitely something there.

But I’m not saying there wasn’t.

They were all in old buildings, with extraordinarily creaky floors. Pause here to note that in one of our previous houses, if you were sitting in the family room, sometimes you would hear the sound of footsteps walking slowly from one side to the other in the room above. And, no, it wasn’t squirrels on the roof, or the house settling, or our imaginations. It was distinctive. It was purposeful. It was freaky. While it never felt scary to go into that room where the footsteps occurred, it always gave me chills if I was home alone, sitting downstairs, suddenly hearing the heavy tread above.

But back to the old libraries: many of them not only had the creaky floors but also very dim rooms and, for some reason, oddly angled nooks and crannies. The shelves were so tall you couldn’t see around them. This all had an isolating and disorienting effect, especially to a kid. Often, while wandering around, I had the sense that I wasn’t alone. That perhaps someone—something?—was watching.

And college libraries can be unsettling too—especially those dark, secluded stacks. (Yes, that prompted one scene of The Semester of Our Discontent.) *shivers*

Libraries are among my favorite places in the world, so I will never stop going to them. I did not see a ghost, so I don’t know why it felt as though one might be lurking around. But I will admit that every once in a while, it became necessary to run over to the check-out counter just to be near other humans. (Wait, did I say that out loud?) I mean: to check out a book.

Any deliciously creepy libraries in your past or present?

31 thoughts on “Haunted Libraries

  1. Great post, Cynthia! Today is gloomy in NH (maybe those dark skies behind brilliantly-orange trees?). Maybe I’ll toddle down to the library with my illicit coffee tumbler to get some writing done—and see if any unexpected company turns up.

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  2. The libraries I’ve frequented have mostly been modern building with severe angles and lots of metal–not nearly as fun as the old wooden ones you describe. But hey, they’re still LIBRARIES–so they’re terrific!

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  3. It’s sad that in our county all the old libraries have been torn down and replaced with modern–glass and stone–buildings. They’re beautiful and functional, but truly lack character and warmth.

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  4. Fabulous post, Cynthia! When I think of haunted libraries, my mind often wanders to the ghostly librarian in Ghostbusters. EEEP!!

    And I hear you about college libraries. I used to stay very late and end up freaking myself out, both sitting alone and walking back to my car. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it!

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  5. Totally! My last job before officially retiring was in a college library, and my office was to die for. Triple window that caught the morning light, lovely view of trees that hosted songbirds. And my own ghost. To all accounts, she’d been a voracious reader and daily enjoyed reading in a blue flowered chair in a sunny corner that was demolished when my office was constructed. Fortunately, she had passed some years before the demolition, but it did not escape her notice. And wrath. I had a technology-rich job and lots of tech toys all around me. She messed with every device, even the phone, whenever she felt like it. The tech support people got sick of hearing from me and they really never got the the root of the problems. But I knew. 😉

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh my goodness! That’s incredible. Have you written about it, Kate? Would love to read.

      And yeah, I guess I could see how the tech people might not have been prepared with ghost solutions… 😉


  6. Great post, Cynthia! I don’t have any haunted library stories. I have fond memories of the libraries in the two towns where I grew up. The one in Queens was mid-century utilitarian, but I’d walk to and from there every week during the summer (back when you could do that alone at seven or eight years old, and cross a giant boulevard by yourself) to read all the books on the summer reading list. The gorgeous old stone library in Scarsdale was an oasis. I was back there a couple of years ago. They were about to close for a giant remodel but they were keeping the beautiful building I loved so much. BUT there was a library on Amsterdam Avenue near where I lived in Manhattan that was super creepy. I’m sure ghosts roamed in the dead of night at that place. I just looked it up. Totally cleaned up since my days in the 1980s.

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  7. Ooooh …. creepy! I try not to think about ghosts because when I was a kid I read a book about poltergeists. I was torn, because I wanted to believe all the compelling evidence, but if I believed, would one make itself known to me as a compatriot? Or if I didn’t believe, would one come to me to prove they exist?

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