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2 Ghosts, 1 Library

SARAH:

The Willard Library

Willard Library, Haunted
The Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana.

The Library’s Inception

The Willard Library is the oldest working, private donation library in Indiana. Willard Carpenter, also known as the “pioneer of public charity” was the original owner and donated the land for the property. Willard had established a trust fund in 1876, stating that he was choosing to establish and endow a public library. He did so in hopes of it becoming an institution that would be used toward the improvement of moral and intellectual culture for the people of Evansville.


Willard Carpenter was an agent for the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War. He had incorporated his concerns about the rights of African Americans into his rule that the library “be maintained for the free use of all persons who desire to consult it.” This is why it was donned a PUBLIC library, in its time it was really a shocking social experiment for the later half of the nineteenth century.


Willard would finance the construction of the library, which started in 1876 at First Avenue and Pennsylvania Streets in the middle of a Willard Carpenters field - which had at one point been the backdrop for circuses. A bad economy forced the construction of the library to stop in 1877. The foundation of the building lay there for five years without being touched. In 1882, construction commenced yet again, and Carpenter vowed he would supervise the building for the rest of his life. He worked side by side with the architects, hired all of the workers himself, and made sure that only the absolute best materials were used. There was a formal opening held on March 28, 1885.


Inside, the ceilings were high and the windows large. They were as big as they were because of the lack of electricity, so they got most of their light from the sun, and by night, they were hanging kerosene lamps in the windows themselves to give the library light.


Outside, the building has the standard corner tower you see in a lot of Victorian homes and buildings. There was a rich color contrast on the roofs due to the use of white stones and brick. There were Gothic arches over the windows, and Terra Cotta was used a lot for the exterior decoration. Mostly in the form of roses and owls, which were there because they were symbols of wisdom.


The library is home to a large variety of genealogy and local history collections on its second floor. In August of 1976, the collections opened and included: fifty state references, family histories done in book/microform/manuscript, and loose paper formats. They have newspapers from 1821 to today., church records, Catholic Diocese records, records on local cemeteries and funeral homes, numerous online databases, and three large search engines - Heritage Qeust, Genealogy Bank, and Ancestry Library. The Library hosts an annual event called “Midnight Madness” where the library is open until midnight throughout the entire week for research purposes. Genealogists and anyone else interested come from all over the world come to research their family histories.


As of 1972, The Willard Library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, so it is definitely an important place.


Hauntings

With the library holding so much history and ancient text, it’s not very surprising that numerous people have come forward stating that the library is haunted. In fact, it should almost be expected.


It all started long ago, with a simple question. Is Willard Library Haunted? In order to get that question answered, the team behind decided to put up cameras in each of the rooms within the library, and they chose to stream them online. Now, my oldest sister and I used to watch these cams YEARS ago…and now we both live in Indiana and I just happened to look it up to see if it was still up and running (not knowing it was located in the state we both currently reside in), and it is - and so are the cameras.


With the cameras on 24/7 and a whole lot of people watching them, things started to get interesting. The website itself became a virtual ghost-hunting mecca. You can take a virtual tour with the Willard Library Director, Greg Hager, and see if you can find anything on the hidden cameras.


That aside, one of the most common things screen captured is that of the Grey Lady, or Lady in Grey according to some. She is most often seen in the children’s reading room, which is in the basement of the library…can we say creepy?


The Grey Lady was reported over 60 years ago (obviously that is before web cameras and online streaming were a thing. An employee at the library had come to work after a treacherous walk in the cold to start his night shift and had seen her not long after he arrived. However, this was not the first time she had been seen.


The first time she was seen by a custodian in the library in 1937. The custodian was there doing his nightly clearing routine and walking the building. This was around 3 am…so ya know, the witching hour lol. He was headed towards the furnace room. He claimed to see a female ghost dressed in a glowing grey Victorian mourning type of dress, with a veil on her head. He said he was taken aback and terrified. He dropped his flashlight and took off in a panicked run. When he got his wits about him, he returned for the flashlight and check the area again. The Grey Lady was nowhere to be seen. At this point, he’s questioning himself like “what the fuck did I just see?” When he returned the next day to start his shift…he decide he was done. Whatever happened to him that night was enough, and he quit.


Since then, all of those that have sought her out, and even those that haven’t, have reported spooky and unexplainable happenings within the library.


In 2007, psychics visited the library and they were able to verify that ghosts had been there. Numerous paranormal teams have been there as well with a plethora of equipment and they had also agreed the library was haunted.


Several employees of the library have reported that they had seen the ghost of the Grey Lady. While lecturers from the University of Southern Indiana had visited the library, they said they saw the ghost looking into the water. Police have responded to security alarms going off and say they had seen 2 ghosts in the upstairs window. The police did NOT mention the Grey Lady…just 2 ghosts. One is a black mass that is seen on camera. However, the Grey Lady is the one that is most often seen and mentioned.


Margaret Maier, a former employee of the library, said that the Grey Lady had seemingly been disrupted by construction on the building and followed her home while the Children’s Reading Room was being renovated. Margaret and her sister both say they would feel cold air touching them, and could smell a really strong perfume that neither of them owned or wore.


Betty Miller, a former librarian, stated that she had heard a heavy stream of water running upstairs on the second floor, even though it was after closing, and she knew she was alone. She got brave and went up to see what it was, and was shocked to find the faucet in the bathroom had turned on by itself.


The most common occurrences of unseen things happening are:

  • The water being turned on and off

  • Feeling cold spots or cold surrounding you

  • Smelling strong perfume

  • Noises, ya know the bumps in the night

  • Books and furniture would be moved

  • Odd items being found throughout the library

  • Feeling your hair being touched

  • Ladies earrings being touched


Members of the Tri-State Genealogy Society claimed they experienced paranormal activity within the library. Two of the members who happened to be working alone in the library reported smelling a strong, pungent perfume while they were researching in the cemetery records area.


There was a normal library patron that had come in to do research and jumped in the elevator to head to the floor they needed. This elevator was the old school type elevator, wrought-iron gate that you had to pull close and then pull a slab down behind it before it would move. Now, this patron had NO idea that the library was supposedly haunted. Guess who popped in to ride the elevator with him - the Grey Lady. He said he was terrified and fight or flight kicked in, except ya know, elevator…there is nowhere to fly to.’’


It seems as though the Grey Lady doesn’t just stick to the normal routines that most ghosts do. In a lot of other haunts you hear about, the ghost typically tends to stay in the same area and tends to do the same things - like move things around, and usually, it is always the same thing. Whereas the Grey Lady doesn’t stick to a routine. She has been seen everywhere in the library. Each room, the stairs, the elevator. And she doesn’t shy away from construction areas, or expansions. She has been seen there too, even in the areas that were added on that would not have been there when she was alive and kicking. The Grey Lady also didn’t just come out at night…she has been spotted at all times of the day and night.


Who is the Grey Lady?

Some believe the Grey Lady is the spirit of Louise Carpenter, who was the daughter of Willard Carpenter. Willard died on November 3rd, 1883 of a massive stroke. It is very well-known that Carpenter had a strained relationship with all three of his children, Albert, Louise, and Marcia. Willard Carpenter had written in his will that Louise and her husband would receive nothing of him or his estate (which included the library). Instead, the majority of his finances went towards his business as well as Willard Library.


Louise had sued the library in the 1890s over money she felt was owed to her by her father. The case was lost. She even went as far as going through the appeal process, only to lose the case again and walk away empty-handed. This of course caused upset and Louise was never able to get over it. They say Louise is haunting it now to lay her claim on the property she felt should have been hers when her father passed away. She be bitter.


There was a parapsychologist, Lucille Warren, that visited the library in 1985 and saw the Grey Lady. During this encounter, she was again seen looking into a pool of water. Lucille felt as though the connection to her looking into a pool of water was a significant one. She claims the Grey Lady was not haunting the library…and instead, she was haunting the land the library was built on. She had a psychic feeling that the Grey Lady had drowned in a nearby canal - more than likely from suicide.


Whichever scenario it is, or if it’s something else entirely, the Grey Lady was never menacing or gave off bad feelings. She was always just kind of there, and never bothered anyone - unless they saw her, then their panic took over and made it worse than it was. She is still there, she is still roaming for whatever reason. But at least she has a place to call home.


Ghostly Fun

I have actually looked at the website and they still have the cameras available to watch. They have also added more cameras since way back in the day when my sister and I used to watch them. They now have 6, set up in the spots she is most commonly seen. There is one for viewing in the Children’s Room, one in the Basement Hall, one in the Research Room, one in the Stairway, one in the Children’s Story Room, and one in the Adult Services room on the first floor.


In October of each year, the library holds a Ghost Tour. The first tour happened in 1990 for eight hundred lucky people. The event was such a hit, that it has continued on to become an annual event that you can plan to attend. You can check out the calendar of events on the library's website to find out when it’s happening this year the closer it gets to October. The library is open every day of the week, and open for visitors whenever they decide to stop in.


 

DAVID:

The Ackley House


Ackley House, New York
The Ackley House in Nyack, New York

For most of us when we think of tales of true crime they are stories and cases of murders. Sometimes it can be robbers like Black Bart that Sarah went over last week but for my portion of this episode, I’m going for two birds with one stone, true crime and paranormal.


On the banks of the Hudson River of Nyack, New York sits a beautiful six bedroom 3.5 half bath Victorian home constructed in 1890. 1 La Veta Place is coincidently painted in light blue which is known as Haint blue in the Southern United States which I will get into later. What makes this home so special besides being a well-kept Victorian home is that it is America’s only legally haunted house. Now I don't mean haunted house as in for entertainment as I covered in our Halloween episode. I mean actually haunted house as in bumps in the night, full body apparitions type ghost.


IN 1967 Helen and George Ackley would move into the 4,000 square foot home with their four children: Cynthia, George, Cara, and William. Between 1960 and 1967 before the Ackleys purchased the home I couldn’t find any reason why it was vacant. Some sources referred to it as a rundown house so this could be the main reason why it sat empty. In the first few weeks, Helen spent at the house alone getting things in order before the family would move in. In these first few weeks, some of the neighborhood children would approach her asking if she had any children and if she bought the house which she informed them she did buy it and her children would be joining her next week.


She would also invite the kids to come in and look at the empty house. Some of these kids giggled as two hung back and would ask Helen if she knew she bought a haunted house. Later that same day a plumber hired by the Ackleys would become concerned for Helen’s safety being there alone as he would hear footsteps running up and down the stairs at least six times while he was there. Already hearing about the ghosts from the kids that questioned her earlier she tells him not to worry and that she might as well get used to it being there alone. Later that night as Helen and her husband George are turning in for the night, she noticed the hallway light was still on and George would request the light be left on. Helen found this odd for her husband to want this light left on as he never wanted one left on before. Helen would ask when did he start to sleep with a light on. George would respond with “since the first night we moved in here and I don’t want to discuss it, goodnight”


The Ackley family would spend the next 20 years in this house and wouldn’t encounter anything malicious. Helen would recall most of the activity would be french doors in the home opening, along with windows opening on their own as well. Also, the light over their dining room table would swing on windless days and suddenly stop.


George would travel frequently and one of Helen’s experiences would come one winter night while looking out a window facing the Hudson river. As she stood there she would feel a cold presence very close to her and every hair on her neck would stand up. She would say out loud “It's beautiful on the river isn’t it?” As she said this she could feel her hair lay back down and after a few more minutes she would turn to leave and feel the cold presence following and she would speak out loud again “Thank you for sharing the view with me. I’m going to bed now. Goodnight” Helen would go on to say after she said this she felt as if she was walking down the hallway alone at this point.


One of Helen’s other experiences came while she was painting the living room and the only time actually saw one of the spirits. While she was on top of an 8-foot ladder she said she could feel eyes watching her but it wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling to her. As she painted she would say “I hope you like the color. I hope you are pleased with what we are doing to the house. It certainly must have been lovely when it was first built.”


She described him as smiling with his hands clasped around his crossed knees, nodding and smiling in approval. Wearing an immaculate light blue suit and a cap. With white ruffle stock at his throat, white hose, and shiny black pumps with buckles. With piercing blue eyes, an apple-cheeked face, and thick white eyebrows.


Helen’s daughter Cynthia would see on three occasions a hooded figure but be quite sure it was a woman. Cynthia would almost daily with her bed being shaken lightly as our parents did to wake us up for school. Cynthia would also recall one time during spring break the ghost would try to wake her for school and spoke them telling them she didn't have school the next morning and wanted to sleep in. The next morning she wasn't woken up by the shaking.


Helen would also say that their children would receive gifts from the ghosts. Cynthia would receive tiny silver sugar tongs when she would marry Mark Kavanagh. Mark would go on to recall two incidents himself on his personal website.


The first happened on Christmas eve. I was home alone due to various activities. I was playing Christmas elf in the living room putting gifts together. It was totally quiet in the house. After a while, I kept hearing a muffled conversation coming from the dining room around the wall. I would get up and walk over, and nobody was there. I felt like I was being watched. I had purposely turned on every light in the surrounding rooms. I was getting nervous. Then my future Brother-In-Law suddenly pounded on the door making me jump out of my skin, and the talking stopped.

The second incident happened in our bedroom on the third floor. It was a clear dark night, Cyn had already fallen asleep and I was drifting. Then I heard the bedroom door creak, and the floorboards squeak. My back was to the edge of the bed. Suddenly the edge of the bed by my mid-section depressed down, and I felt something lean against me. I went literally stone stiff! I was speechless and could hardly move. I was able to twist my neck around enough to see a womanly figure in a soft dress through the moonlight from the bay windows. I felt like she was looking straight at me. After about a minute, the presence got up and walked back out of the room. I finally relaxed enough to shake my wife out of sound sleep acting like a toddler who just had a nightmare.

Later I reflected on the incident. I believe the ghosts were checking me out because they knew my wife and her ex-husband. They probably wanted to see if I was a "good" person for her. It was the woman that used to shake Cyn's bed every morning to go to high school. After that episode, no other sightings occurred. I did get the impression that they did "approve" of me, and my wife and I were married about 18 months later.

Helen would go on to write an article that was published in Readers Digest named “Our Haunted House on the Hudson” after this article was published Ackley’s home would be on local ghost walks and become a popular topic around town.


In 1989 George would pass away and along with property taxes for the area getting out of control, Helen would make the choice to sell her beloved Victorian home and move. With a soft real estate market at the time the house would be on market until 1991 when wall street trader Jeffrey Stambovsky and his wife Patrice wanted to move out of New York City to Nyack. They would put down 32,500 of the 650,000 asking price (over 1.3 million in 2023 down payment is 69,612).


Some of the sources claimed that Helen’s realtor did inform the Stambovskys that the house was haunted and some sources said they didn’t. One source would claim that Helen’s realtor did disclose that house was haunted and Jeff would laugh and say “we’ll have to call in the ghostbusters.” where another claimed that Jeff had no idea that the house was haunted until a local resident informed that it was when speaking to them about the property.


A week after contracts for the sale were signed Stambovsky would request to meet Helen in person on the property to discuss the ghosts. Helen would passionately speak about the hauntings and the ghost that resided in the house. After learning about the ghosts in the house Jeff would request a rescission of the contract of sale and damages for fraudulent misrepresentation by Helen and her realtor. Even though Jeff didn’t seem disturbed by these tales of the ghost it was more so his wife that didn’t want to live in the alleged haunted house.


Jeff Stambvosky didn't attend the closing which caused him to forfeit the down payment. The New York Supreme Court would dismiss the action and Stambovsky would later appeal this.


During the appeal, the NYSC would rule in favor of Stambvosky’s stating as they were not local to the area and could not readily learn the home he had contracted to be purchased to be haunted. Justice Isreal Rubin would go on to say during the appeal process.


"[A] very practical problem arises with respect to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon: 'Who you gonna call?' as a title song to the movie Ghostbusters asks. Applying the strict rule of caveat emptor to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineers and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale. In the interest of avoiding such untenable consequences, the notion that a haunting is a condition that can and should be ascertained upon reasonable inspection of the premises is a hobgoblin that should be exorcised from the body of legal precedent and laid quietly to rest.


So in plain English, he is pretty much saying that it seems a bit silly to have Zak bagel bites as he is known on another favorite podcast of ours to accompany home inspectors during the inspection phase during the sale process. As the Stambvosky V. Ackley case would become national news and become known as the Ghostbusters ruling. Helen would have up to 50 potential buyers within a week of the court’s decision. One of the prospective buyers was The Amazing Kreskin a renowned mentalist ( performer of highly developed mental abilities like telepathy, rapid mathematics, mind control, mediumship, etc.) He wanted to buy the house to house his collection of paranormal objects. She would sell the house in 1991 for 1.9 million dollars (2.1 million today) and move to Florida.


So who was it that bought this house from Helen? A man by the name of Adam Brooks which wrote and directed the film “Definitely, Maybe” even though he never experienced anything in the house himself. Also, pop singer Ingrid Michaelson is best known for the song “The way I am.” she would say it was a magical home with an unbeatable view. Which we both can agree on after we looked at it on google maps.


Rapper Matisyahu would also own the Ackley house as well but didn't experience any activity himself.


The house last went up for sale in 2021 and sold for 1.8 million.


In 1993 Helen was contacted by paranormal researcher Bill Merrill and medium Glenn Johnson who would disclose to Helen they made contact with the spirits of 1 Laveta Place. They would go on to tell Helen the poltergeist couple was more than likely Sir George and Lady Margaret who lived in the region during the 18th century. Sir George who is Helen more than likely saw her while she was painting. Bill and Gleen would publish a book in 1995 titled “Sir George, the ghost of Nyack” about the events that happened in the home.


Helen Ackley passed away in 2003 and her son-in-law would place his odds that she returned to 1 Laveta Place in the afterlife as it was her favorite home she had.


Now at the beginning of this, I had mentioned a color shade of haint blue. In Gullah culture of the Southern United States haints are witch like creatures seeking to chase victims to their deaths by exhaustion. In Gullah culture a tactic to ward of these evil creatures would be to paint the cieling of your porch or entire house in Haint blue to trick them in passing through or make your house look like water which haints couldn’t cross. This painting of Haint blue is commonly found in Georgia and South Carolina in Gullah communities today.




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