Kira Butler from The Midnight Society recently posted her cemetery bucket list, which inspired me to create my own list in my commonplace book. My list is strictly American cemeteries (for now), because mama is broke.
Below is my list, which is always growing. Many were chosen because they are reportedly haunted (of course). Am I missing any must-see cemeteries? Let me know in the comments.
My library is filled with used books, which can create a rather haunting atmosphere. Who had these books before me? How did they live? How did they die? The lingering fingerprints, marginalia, and dust from a distant house, bookstore, or library. It is as though each used book brings along its own trail of ghosts. In The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson writes “Materializations are often best produced in rooms where there are books. I cannot think of any time when materialization was in any way hampered by the presence of books.” It seems, then, that the best place to look for ghost stories is at the library, which is full of used books.
Willard Library, Evansville, IN
The Lady in Gray has been haunting the Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana since 1937. She was first seen by the night janitor around 3 am (witching hour, of course) in the basement. Several people since have reported her apparition, water turned on and off, the smell of perfume, cold temperatures, moved furniture and books, phantom touches, and odd items appearing from nowhere. You can see the ghost during a trip to the library, in-person or online.
The library has fully embraced their ghost, offering their space to ghost hunting groups and even placing ghost cams in multiple rooms of the library, which you can watch online. Visitors to the ghost cam site share their screen captures of the Lady in Gray on the site’s gallery.
Doris & Harry Vise Library, Cumberland Univ., Lebanon, TN
I am going to be straightforward and honest and say I’m including this library because there’s a ghost cat. Library director Jon Boniol once saw a phantom cat floating across the the library floor, disappearing behind boxes stacked under a table. Jon said, “I did not see any legs or paws and no motion like a normal cat walking on a floor. The apparition was near the floor, about the right height for a cat, but it appeared to be gliding smoothly through the air instead of touching the floor. I couldn’t tell if it came in through the door or came from under my desk.” A former librarian also reported the ghost of a young girl that liked playing peek-a-boo behind the circulation desk (Britannica).
Peoria Public Library, Peoria, IL
The story goes that this library sits on cursed ground. In 1830, a very prominent citizen, Mrs. Andre Gray, lived where the library now stands. After the death of her brother, she took custody of his son.
Her nephew got into some trouble, so he hired a lawyer and took out a mortgage on the home (for security). The lawyer sued to foreclose on the home when Mrs. Gray’s nephew could not make payments. A very upset Mrs. Gray kicked her nephew out of the house. Shortly after, he was found dead and floating in the river (University of Illinois). Mrs. Gray cursed the house and anyone that would occupy it in the future. In 1894, the building became a cursed library: the first three library directors died under mysterious circumstances. The library was torn down and a new one stands in its place, but ghosts remain. People have reported their name being called in the stacks, cold drafts and the apparition of a past library director.
Julia Ideson Building, Houston Public Library, Houston, TX
A former library intern described an interesting evening at this library:
The Ideson Building is closed on Fridays, and the rest of the staff was either off for the day or out at a conference.
So at around 4:00PM that day I began to pack up the archival material I was working with when I heard the faint sounds of a violin playing a slow and slightly plaintive song.
“That’s….really weird…,” I thought to myself. The stone walls of the Ideson building are fairly thick, and there certainly wasn’t anyone else in the building who would be playing music! Needless to say, it was spooky enough that I packed up my stuff and went on my way. (Houston Public Library)
The phantom violin player was Jacob Frank Cramer, a former nighttime watchman. In the evenings he would play his violin on the roof before bedtime. He was found dead in the library in 1936, but his violin plays on.
Pattee Library, Penn State University, PA
According to legend, in the 1960s a graduate student was in the library doing research over Thanksgiving Break when she was stabbed and killed (Daily Collegian). People can allegedly hear her screams on the anniversary of her death. Other paranormal activity includes touching, moving objects (i.e. book carts moving on their own), transparent girls reading books, and disembodied eyes (Britannica).
Old Bernardsville Public Library, Bernardsville, NJ
The building itself wasn’t always a library and actually is not anymore. Built in 1790, the building was known as Vealtown Tavern during the Revolutionary War. During this time a woman, Phyllis Parker, found her lover’s body in a coffin awaiting burial inside the Tavern’s taproom. He had been hung for treason without her knowledge. This sight of her dead lover drove her mad and attached her to the building for eternity. While it was a library, visitors and staff reported voices, uneasy feelings, and the apparition of a woman (The Old Bernardsville News).
This blog, and the communities attached to it, will keep me going in the frightening political climate of America (to be frank). When I write, I hide; this year won’t be any different. I will savor the moments when I’m in my office with candles lit and a blank notebook page, ready for a new ghostly adventure.
Hey, all. I had the pleasure of writing about one of my favorite stories: Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” And, I got to explore it through two of my favorite television shows: The X-Files and Supernatural.
For the next few posts, I am going to explore ghost stories in my home state: Indiana.
In Indianapolis during the 1960s, the Beck family was allegedly terrorized by a poltergeist that threw glass, knocked on the walls, and left “mysterious bat-like bites.” The family living on North Delaware Street included Renate Beck (in her 30s), her daughter Linda (in her teens), and her mother Lina Gemmecke (in her 60s).
The start date of the activity differs from source to source, but it began in March 1962 when a glass was thrown by an invisible source. In a later incident, the grandmother (Gemmecke) got up from a chair and a glass was mysteriously thrown across the room, hitting the wall right above the chair she had just been sitting in. Members of the family also reported bite marks appearing on their skin, a rarity for poltergeists. Damage to the house included feathers torn out of pillows, pictures ripped from frames, broken glass, and dents in the walls from thrown objects.
Dr. William Roll, a researcher of poltergeist phenomena, stayed with the family from March 16-22 and documented the case in a chapter of his 1972 book, The Poltergeist. He was also accompanied by clinical psychologist, Dr. David Blumenthal. Below are some interesting passages about his experience.
Concerning the bites…
Concerning the knocks…
A poltergeist’s origins can be attributed to various factors. The unseen spirits receive power from human drama and/or children entering their teens. In this case, we have a 13-year-old daughter. We also have reported tension (by neighbors) between Renate and her mother. Poltergeists can also be hoaxes and many thought Gemmecke was behind this one.
On March 26th, the police were called to the Becks’ by neighbors. There, they found Gemmecke lying on the floor semiconscious. When she regained consciousness, she threw an ashtray across the room and flipped over a piano bench. The cops witnessed the whole thing. She was taken to the hospital for diabetic shock and then taken to jail overnight for disorderly conduct. Gemmecke returned to her home in Germany to avoid punishment. This incident made many question the validity of the Becks’ stories.
What really happened during March of 1962? Did high emotions create a noisy spirit with a biting problem? Was it a prank or cry for attention? We’ll never know. The activity, like a glass thrown across the room, came and went.
Bonus! Here’s a newspaper clipping from the Indianapolis Star (March 14, 1962) about the poltergeist on North Delaware Street and his new friend, a Scottish Terrier.
Marimen, Mark and James Willis. Weird Indiana: Your Travel Guide to Indiana’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling, 2008.
This happened to a family friend of mine. I like this story a lot, because although it does involve ghosts, it makes me fear them less.
This story takes place some time ago. The family friend was one of the little girls in the story, now a grown woman with kids of her own.
My friend was a little girl when her father died unexpectedly due to illness. Her mother was a waitress, and now a widow with two young girls. It was getting close to Christmas, and the mother knew she was not going to be able to buy presents this year for her girls. The family had suffered so much recently, and it broke the mother’s heart to know Christmas was going to be especially lonely. The mother decided to head out of town with her kids to spend the holidays with relatives.
Children in long car rides can get very cranky. The girls complained that they were hungry and tired of being in the car, so the mother decided to pull over at a diner. She only had enough money to buy food for her kids. When the waitress came over to take their order, she insisted on bringing the mother coffee and a dinner “on the house”. “You look so tired, ma’am, some coffee and a hot meal will do you some good. It’s on the house”, the waitress explained with a warm smile. As they were getting ready to leave, an older man approached the family. From under his arm he handed a wrapped package to each girl, saying only “Merry Christmas”. The girls tore into the packages as soon as they were in the car again, each girl had a beautiful porcelain doll. The mother was astonished at the kindness of the people here. She decided when they drove back through this town on their return trip, they would pay this diner another visit. She wrote down the exact address and location of the diner, and the family hit the road again.
After the holidays, the family attempted to return to the diner. All that was there was a vacant lot. Confused, and thinking she must have written down the wrong address, the mother pulled into the gas station around the corner and asked the attendant about the diner. The attendant shook his head and said “That place burned down years ago”, the mother turned to leave, very confused. “You know, though”, the attendant spoke hesitantly “you are not the first person to come to my gas station, insisting you had been there since it burned down”.
My friend says this really happened to her family as a child. I have even seen the doll she received from the man (she has kept it all of these years).
For the next few posts, I am going to explore ghost stories in my home state: Indiana.
Besides its nearness to Chicago and its beauty, its spiritual power, there is between the Dune country and the city a more than sentimental bond — a family tie. To see the Dunes destroyed would be for Chicago the sacrilegious sin which is not forgiven. – Alice Mable Gray
At the top of Indiana and bounded by Lake Michigan is Indiana Dunes State Park. The rolling sands are a destination for Hoosiers during the summer, and also the home of a spirit called Diana.
In the early 20th century, a mysterious woman moved to the Dunes for solitude. She was seen skinny dipping in the waters of Lake Michigan. She was also known as an avid hunter. Locals called her “Diana” after the Roman goddess of the hunt and nature.
In more recent times, people have reported seeing a naked spectral woman running along the shore and disappearing into the water. They say it’s the ghost of Diana.
Diana was actually a woman named Alice Mable Gray, who was originally from Chicago. She was well-educated, cultured, and a feminist. She loved nature and searched for a simpler life. According to an article in the Chesterton Tribune:
Gray was a highly educated, soft spoken and cordial woman who had a deep love for the Indiana Dunes. At the age of 16, she enrolled in the University of Chicago, where she studied mathematics, astronomy, Greek and Latin and where she was named a Phi Beta Kappa honor society member.
Upon her graduation, she studied in Germany, at the University of Gottinger, where she was introduced to a movement called Wandervogel, or Birds of Passing. This movement was said to be a “walking commune,” as it involved young people giving up their material possessions to live off the land in nature.
She worked in Chicago after her return as a literary magazine editor, but was not satisfied with city life. In 1915, she moved to the Dunes for a different environment. The Dunes was a popular area for writers and artists, but Gray lived there all year round in an old hut (even during the bitter winters). Gray spent her days writing about the Dunes, giving children tours, and studying wildlife. Unfortunately, the media liked to interrupt her solitude and also take liberties with the subject matter.
Sadly, by contrast, several newspapermen writing about her took great liberty with their subject matter. They turned Gray into a mythical figure of sorts, referring to her as “Diana,” writing flowery accounts about her life in the dunes, and focusing more often than not on the fact she was seen — at least once — swimming nude. She was described in the varying accounts as a “bronze goddess,” a “water nymph”, and an “ideallyic gal” who often roamed the dunes naked.
According to the Chicago Tribune, she wrote an article for the newspaper about a day she
spent out in civilization. She watched a movie, took a stroll, and had a fancy meal in a restaurant. Gray, like a true naturalist, lamented the millions spent on the pier, yet the lack of funds to preserve the Dunes. She concluded the article by saying “silence and darkness out there are what I love. I must go back to them at once.”
She would appear in the news again, but for more controversial reasons. Around 1920, she became associated with a man named Paul Wilson, a man that was allegedly hot-tempered. No one knows for sure if they married, but they lived together. In 1922 they got “wrapped up in a Prohibition-era mysterious homicide” (Chicago Tribune). Wilson got in a brawl with another man and was shot in the foot. Gray somehow fractured her skull, an injury that sent her to the hospital.
Gray was out of the news until her death in 1925. She died of uremic poisoning. Some versions say she died in Wilson’s arms, and that she asked him to cremate her body and spread her ashes over Mount Tom. She allegedly said to Wilson, “I love the great silent darkness up there; the silence that lives in the noise of winds and water, the darkness that finds itself in the fleeting, eternal waves of those reaches of sand; the only reality of life for me is there.” The Chicago Tribune said it was too costly.