We go to libraries to find our next great read, to study for an upcoming test, or to get a bit of peace and quiet. But what if we aren't the only ones? In some places, the idea of not-quite-human patrons isn't something out of a horror novel, but a very real possibility.
Below, you'll find some of the most haunted libraries in America, from the Willard Library's "Grey Lady" to the violin player of the Houston Public Library. While these buildings are certainly home to shelves and shelves of books—they're also, according to local lore, the home of a ghost or two.
The Willard Library (Evansville, Indiana)
Built and stocked in the 1800s, the Willard is Indiana’s oldest public library. Though a library card is required for checking out the Willard's books, there is one visitor who doesn't obey the rules: the Grey Lady. Spotted first in 1937 and more than 1,000 times since, the veiled apparition floats quietly through the stacks, shifting tomes and leaving a musky aroma (and many terrified patrons) in her wake.
Peoria Public Library (Peoria, Illinois)
Not even religion book can save a library that’s built on cursed ground. Legend has it that a woman named Mrs. Andrew Gray lost her home to foreclosure in 1830, then doomed the property—which would become the site of the Peoria Public Library—and all of its future owners. After the building's construction, the first three directors all mysteriously died, and strange things continue to this day. The current librarians claim that when they are alone in the stacks, the temperature drops, and they hear their names whispered from beyond.
Pattee Library (Penn State University)
Several nooks and crannies of Penn State University are said to be haunted: the Schwab Auditorium, Watts Hall—and most notably, the Pattee Library. Students have reported seeing a pair of glowing red eyes, some ghost girls bookmarking a few favorites, and book carts moving of their own volition. The creepiest story, however, is based on a real event: In 1969, grad student Betsy Aardsma was stabbed to death while studying at the library over Thanksgiving break. It's said that she was wearing a crimson dress at the time, and now students can hear her nighttime screams from the basement below—and even glimpse her red orb.
Blanche Skiff Ross Memorial Library (Nevada, Missouri)
Located on the Cottey College for Women’s campus, this library stands over what used to be the Amerman Sanitorium—the site of several deaths. One belonged to music student Vera Neitzert, who died there after a candy-making accident left her with severe burns. But she isn't the only spirit roaming the library and campus: There's also a man in a smoking jacket who lurks in the balcony and seems to like the company of the Victorian ghost girls who play on the stairs.
Parmly Billings Library (Billings, Montana)
Parmly’s paranormal guests have a playground that consists of six floors and a basement. There’s a six-foot-tall entity who’s called dibs on the kitchen and lounge areas, a bespectacled brunette who floats around the third floor, and an intense woman who shares the basement with a gray blob of a ghost. No one really knows why the library is home to so many ghosts, but we suppose even the deceased love to lose themselves in a good story.
Saline County Library (Benton, Arkansas)
Set up in the old Palace Theatre from 1967 to 2003, the Saline County Library inherited the theater’s ghostly inhabitants. Librarians have reported hearing phantom footsteps, seeing objects move by themselves, and recognizing the faint click of an old typewriter—even though there’s not a single archaic machine to be found on the grounds. The library has since moved on to another location; however, we have to wonder if it took any floating stowaways with it.
Murry and Leonie Guggenheim Memorial Library (West Long Branch, New Jersey)
Designed by the same team behind the New York Public Library, this beaux-arts-style library lives on campus at Monmouth University. What used to be a summer home for Murry and his wife, Leonie, is now a studious haunt complete with a ghostly lady in white who waits until the clock strikes midnight to make her way down the staircase.
Houston Public Library (Houston, Texas)
Though the building is cuddled next to immaculate courtyards and boasts an impressive Spanish Renaissance-style architecture, there are spooky things hidden within its walls. There's the ghost of a watchman who was found dead on-site in 1936. There's also a violinist in the Tudor Gallery, and he still roams the halls of the Julia Ideson Building and plays his melodies when the mood strikes.
Featured photo: Jez Timms/Unsplash