1999 2/25/1999 J.H. (Staff) About 6:50am Joyce was standing by front desk computers and the security gate alarm went off. 2/4/1999 All Staff Answering machine kept going off by itself. 9/17/1999 J.H. (Staff) Joyce was shampooing carpets. She felt like someone was watching her. 9/24/1999 J.W. (Staff) The “strange smell” was back. Jo smelt it out in the stacks. 10/16/1999 Patron & staff A patron had gone through the security gates and set off the alarm. After resetting it, the alarm went off continually for about 5 minutes. We had a time getting it to shut off.
Part III The Library Built over a Cemetery
Another time Don heard strains of “something that sounded like Beethoven” coming from the piano in this same multi-purpose room. “I heard just a little of it, but then it stopped. And there was absolutely no one else around,” he said. “What made this even creepier was that it happened the same night that the gate swung back and forth by itself.”
Perhaps his scariest experience was hearing voices, however. “One night when I was carrying out the trash, I thought I heard people talking” he said. “So I set the trash outside and closed the door as if I’d already left. Apparently, whatever was in the building thought I had. But then I sneaked back inside and heard the voices coming from the multi-purpose room. It sounded like a man and a woman yelling and arguing, although the words were muffled so I couldn’t tell what they were saying. And since I had just come through that part of the library before taking out the trash, I knew no one was there.
“I even checked to make sure that the noise wasn’t coming from outdoors,” Don said. “But finally, I gathered up my nerve and opened the door to that room. As soon as I did, the voices immediately stopped!”
Don Leasor was not the only staff member to hear the strange voices. A former maintenance assistant who was too terrified to be interviewed claimed that she often heard them when she worked alone from eight until ten at night.
Since so many frightening things were taking place late in the evening, library director Helen Higby rearranged schedules and made it a rule that no one worked alone.
“Even if it turns out that there’s nothing there,” she pointed out, “if someone were to get nervous and imagine something, then trip and fall down the stairs, we might not find them until the next day. And we’ve got enough ghosts already!”
Not long after the new policy took effect, the business manager came in to do some work on a holiday, and mindful of the new rule, she brought her Doberman pinscher along. “After she had been in her office for a while,” Helen said, “the dog suddenly went over to the door and cocked its head as if someone were outside. Then it came back and sat down in the middle of the room, but it continued to stare at the door, fully alert. That’s all that happened, but it gave everybody the creeps, because dogs, unlike people, don’t imagine things.
“At one of the staff meetings,” Helen continued, “I told everyone, “Listen, I know how to deal with budget cuts; I know how to deal with all kinds of normal problems. But I don’t know how to deal about having a priest come and bless the building, but some of the employees didn’t want that. In their minds, that gave credence to something they didn’t want to thin about.”
Apparently nothing out of the ordinary had been reported for a year or so at the time of my interviews in February 1988, but it is unknown whether the phenomena have stopped or are just not as noticeable now that workers are forbidden to be alone in the building. Skeptics might conclude that the new rule provides less opportunity for overactive imaginations to concoct spooky stories, but with so much evidence from so many people, it seems clear that something of an unusual nature was occurring. Even former librarian Grace Gasson, who attribute the disturbances to the building’s structural defects and the susceptible imaginations of the living, admits that she has no explanation for such things as the wildly oscillating security gate.
If the troublesome manifestations at the Sweetwater County Library were indeed of a paranormal nature, what caused them? Do the spirits of the dead really return to wreak havoc when their resting place is disturbed? No on I interviewed believed that the spirits were of a malicious nature. As Helen Higby observed, “Whatever is going on, if it’s some kind of being, apparently it’s benign, because it hasn’t done anything destructive or harmful. And in a library, you could make a big mess in a hurry if you wanted to by through the books on the floor or dumping the card catalogues.”
Whatever caused the strange events at the library, most of the staff are less inclined to scoff at the supernatural these days. And even without the new rule, the odds are that you’d have a hard time finding anyone willing to spend the night there alone!
Special Thanks to Debra Munn and her publisher for allowing the copying of this article.
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