Many of these involved unexplained electrical disturbances. Women staff members on several occasions reported turning off the lights in the Multi-Purpose Room, only to find them on again ten minutes later, with the switch controlling them still in the “off”position. Maintenance men Marlin Dillard and Don Leasor experienced similar disturbances in the same room and on the stairwell, and each time they could determine only that nothing was causing a short.
Ed Johnson was no more successful in finding the cause of mysterious behavior in a vacuum cleaner. “One night after the library had closed, I was running the sweeper back and forth between the book stacks,” he said. “Once I moved too far and pulled the plug out of the wall. Naturally, the vacuum quit working, so I turned the switch off and went back down the stacks to plug in the fifty-foot cord. But before I had walked back to turn the switch on again, the vacuum started by itself!
Ed is positive that the switch was off when the machine came to life. “The next thing I did was to unplug it, wind up the cord, and say to whoever or whatever was there, “Okay, guys, the building’s yours. I’m going home! Lots of times I’d had feelings that I was being watched, but nothing like this had ever happened before.”
Nearly everyone I interviewed reported the same sensation of being watched, especially in the Multi-Purpose Room. A custodian was vacuming there one day when she happened to glance up at an adjoining stage. The curtains were open and the stage was set for some upcoming events. The woman thought to herself how nice it looked and went back to her sweeping. When she glanced up again a short while later, the drapes were closed. Because they were operated by an electric opening and closing mechanism, the woman reasoned that one of the control switches must be at the Circulation Desk, and that the staff there were playing tricks on her. Upon confronting them, however, she discovered that the only switch for the curtains was the one in the Multi-Purpose Room itself.
Maintenance man Don Leasor had another eerie experience while vacuuming, when he heard what sounded like someone “rattling the heck out of a key chain.”
“Whatever was making the noise was in the same room with me,” he explained. “And whenever I’d shut the vacuum off, the noise would stop, too.”
Don has probably experience more unnerving icident’s that anyone else. Several times since he began working in April 1986 he has seem mysterious glowing lights inside the building.
“The first time,” he said, “I was getting ready to walk out the door, so I turned off the lights in the front room. About five seconds later, I saw small glowing lights moving over the wall, right above the entry way, just as if someone were shining little flashlights with eight-inch diameters of illumination. The glowing would appear and disappear every three or four seconds.”
Don is certain that he was not seeing reflections from passing automobiles. “I’ve seen car lights shining from the street and into the library, but these looked nothing like that.”
Even more upsetting was the experience shared by Don and former custodian Marlin Dillard. “We were upstairs, in a different part of the library, but we could hear distinctly what sounded like somebody latching the doors to the Multi-Purpose Room,” said Marlin. “Then, when we went down to look, nobody else was anywhere in the building.” Strangest of all was the fact that the doors were not even pulled shut when the two men came to inspect them!
Another time Don heard strains of “something that sounded like Beethoven” coming from the piano in this same Multi-Purpore Room. “I heard just a little of it, but then it stopped. And there was absolutely no one else around,” he siad. “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 sneeaked 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 the 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 with spooks!” So we talked about the possibility of getting an exorcist, about having a priest come and bless the building, but some of the emplyees didn’t want that. In their minds, that gave credence to something they didn’t want to think 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 librariian Grace Gasson, who attributes 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 one 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 a library, you could make a big mess in a hurry if you wanted to, by throwing 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!
To read more stories about haunted Wyoming, be sure to look for “Ghosts on the Range” by Debra D. Munn.
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