For some reason when it comes to paranormal activities, a lot seem to take place on college campuses, often in the library with hauntings occurring deep in the darkness of night.
University of Wisconsin, Madison, the flagship of the Wisconsin State university system, has its share of legends and poltergeists that inhabit the Memorial Library among a number of buildings on campus. One reason for Wisconsin’s abundance of spirits is the campus rests upon over 39 Native American burial grounds, known as effigy mounds: mounds in the shape of animals, such as bears or wolves. Violate these sacred grounds and the forces of disturbed souls are unleashed.
Within Wisconsin’s Memorial Library, whose eerie edifice contains dark aisles, dim lighting, and study cages is said to tread the spirit of Helen Constance White, the first woman to gain a professorship within the UW English Department and a person who gaveher time generously to tutor any student who came to her office needing assistance. In her apartment, she kept four desks, which is somewhat eccentric. One was for personal correspondence, “always a mess.” The second was for books, yet to be written. The third was for work that had to be done immediately, and the fourth was for typing. She was known as the Purple Goddess, as all her outfits were purple—black did not become her. Upon parting she often affably said, “I hope our paths will cross again.” In Memorial Library as you’re reaching up for a well-read copy of The Divine Comedy they just might.
The Purple Goddess is not alone within the walls of Memorial Library. According to Katie Butler Kinter, a cataloger of library ghosts, and a former cataloger in the Memorial Library, while she was re-shelving books in a remote section of the stacks, a breeze blew past her and the words, “Sally Brown” whispered in her ears. Searching the alumni records there was no record of Sally Brown’s name. She is thought to have been a former cataloging assistant whose picture hangs on the Memorial walls.
Mix into these paranormal visitations the real 1979 assault by Eugene De Voe, the ‘Library Stalker’, who attackeda woman with an axe in the UW stacks—she survived, De Voe was sentenced to five years in prison—and the realities of a library getting a bit scary become ever more credible.
In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia, is Lehigh’s Linderman Library, funded by Lehigh’s founder Asa Packer in 1873 and named in memory of his deceased daughter, Lucy Packer Linderman. In contrast to Memorial Library, the Linderman library is an architectural landmark with a Victorian Rotunda, a magnificent 1929 grand reading room, and an impressive collection of rare books including John Audubon’s four-volume “Birds of America.”
The recent renovations done on Linderman Library have purportedly resulted in the decrease of sightings and strange events, but not altogether. Gail Neneth, a cataloging assistant at Linderman, recalls a time one morning over a decade ago when making her early morning rounds in the basement, she flipped on the lights to discover over 150 journals had been pulled off the shelves and formed into an architectural model. The sophistication of the design impressed her as many of the journals were placed so precariously that the whole creation could have easily have collapsed with one wrong move. Was it a specter architect or a student diversion that would have taken hours?
Whatever the answer, Lucy is still known, on occasion, to flicker the lights well past closing. Most likely at the 3am hour, the still time, when the roads between the living and the dead are said to flow free and wide.