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21 First Avenue
Evansville, Indiana 47710
Willard Library Web site
Can be found at 21 First Avenue, in Evansville, Indiana, which is right across the Walbash River from Kentucky. Evansville is nestled in the southwest corner of Indiana, about 100 miles west of Louisville, and 160 miles east of St Louis.
Described as the oldest working library in Indiana, the Willard Library is an 1885, two story brick building. Mr. Willard Carpenter, who donated the land for the library, and financed its construction, had great, artistic taste! Outside, the library is trimmed in stone, showcases Italian Gothic architecture, and has a standard Victorian corner tower. Inside, the library's ceilings are high. The windows are large because before electricity was invented by Edison, they used to hang kerosene lamps in them, to provide light for the library's patrons.
Description of the Ghost:
Seen by many witnesses, since the early 1930s, she is described as a lady who is dressed in gray, early 1800s style clothing: A long gray dress, high-topped shoes, a gray hat and veil, or just a shawl. While seen by Psychic, Mrs. Warren, the lady was wearing a shawl. Also, Mrs. Warren got a good look at the ghost's hair style; parted down the middle & braided down the back, which was confirmed by Librarian Margaret Maier, who had many sightings of this ghost. Many have smelled the aroma of her overpowering perfume, and have experienced the turning on & off of faucets, lights, and the gentle opening & closing of doors, when no one of this world was near who possibly could have been responsible.
Reported Manifestations of the Gray Lady:
- The Lady in Gray was first seen, in 1930, in the basement children's library by a janitor, who had come late at night to stoke the furnace, in order to heat the library for the next day. He soon quit, because he was afraid.
- The second janitor, hired to replace the former one, had direct contact with the Gray Lady, as he suddenly bumped into her, once again in the basement; she promptly disappeared. After many sightings of the Gray Lady in the basement, he too quit. They had nothing to fear, as the Gray Lady is shy, confused, harmless, and sometimes friendly.
- Before the remodeling, Joan, the Special Collections Librarian, was alone in the bathroom stall downstairs, in a bathroom that was locked. She heard the bathroom faucet turn on, all by itself, and which was still running when she came out of the stall.
- A 3 year old, rambunctious boy at a children's party in the basement, was ignoring his mother, and wandering all around the library. Suddenly, he became very upset. With huge, frightened eyes & many tears flowing, he ran back to his mom's lap, and refused to budge, after claiming to have seen the Lady in Gray.
- The Gray Lady took a liking to two, long-time, experienced librarians of fifty years, Margaret Maier, and Helen Kam; (who are both deceased now in 2000, but were originally alive, when this story was reported in the 1980s). When they first started to see the Gray Lady, in the children's library in the basement, the apparition appeared as a "blurry gray mass". But during the major reconstruction effort in the children's library, the Gray Lady decided to go home with Margaret, as Margaret thought kindly of this Gray Lady. This unexpected guest began to appear clearly in front of Margaret & her family, after carefully testing their reactions, with some incidents, that let them know that she was there.
- Margaret & her sister Ruth knew they had an unseen guest with them, when they suddenly caught the aroma of the Gray Lady's unmistakable, really strong perfume. Their second clue, which confirmed the unseen presence, was that their clothes dryer suddenly turned on by itself, while the sisters were watching TV in the other room.
- The Gray Lady made a partial appearance in front of Margaret's nephew. As the young man was sitting at the dining room table, he saw a fuzzy, gray form, going up the stairs, wearing clearly seen high button shoes, that thumped up the stairs.
- After the above incidents, Margaret saw her first clear sighting of the Lady in Gray, after coming into the house from her back yard. The Lady was dressed in a long flowing gray dress, and high button shoes, and was floating down the hallway where she vanished. This gentle Lady in Gray stayed for 4 months, as a guest of Margaret and Ruth, until the construction was finished in the basement of the library, when the ghost returned to haunt the library. The sisters didn't mind at all.
- Other Reported Sightings: After the construction was finished, the Lady in Gray started to appear, and give signs of her presence, on the other floors as well.
- On the top floor of the library, the door opened and shut, all by itself, during a women's meeting being held there. After feeling uneasy about this incident, the women decided to meet somewhere else.
- While women from a local church were using the microfilm resources on the third floor, they came down and were worried about the aroma of a very strong perfume, that had engulfed them, and wondered if something was leaking.
- For a book sale, the plastics company across the street gave some space for the Library to use for this event. Several sightings of the Gray Lady, hovering around the books, were reported by employees.
- Frank Chandler reported that the Gray Lady turned on all the lights in the library one night, when no one was there.
- Another head librarian, while alone in the closed library, heard the upstairs water faucets turn on,
and then off, all by themselves.
- Special Collections Librarian, Joan, had a second experience with the Lady in Gray, which happened after the remodeling. Joan was reading a book, while walking from the upstairs staff room, where she had just had lunch, and was on her way back down to the basement. While going by some book stacks, she instinctively felt that she was about to run into someone. When she stopped quickly and looked up from her book, she was surprised to see the Gray Lady, standing clearly in front of her, like a real person. Joan shut her eyes, and looked away for a second. When she looked up again, the Gray Lady had vanished. This incident didn't scare her, for this seen presence hadn't felt threatening.
Who is the Lady in Gray, and why does she haunt the library?
One possible theory, is that the Lady in Gray, may be the daughter of Willard Carpenter, Louise, who had sued the library in the 1890s over money that had been given to the library, as she felt the money belonged to her. When she lost her case on both the local & appeals level, she became very angry and bitter, and never got over her defeat.
There are two reasons why this theory probably isn't true.
- If Louise was really there, she would have the opposite personality of the Gray Lady. Instead of being shy, gentle, harmless & confused, Louise would've been very angry, and vindictive toward the living, and probably would require an exorcism/seance, so the library could be used.
- A Research Librarian, Don, had identified the time period of the Gray Lady's clothes, as being from a
much earlier era, than the 1890s.
If not Louise Carpenter, then who is she?
In 1985, a well-known parapsychologist, Mrs. Lucille Warren, paid a visit to the library, to see if she could find out more about the Lady in Gray. Mrs. Warren saw the ghost in the children's library, and gave an in depth description of her, including her specific hair style, her attire, and that her clothing was from the early 19th century. While the Lady in Gray was too shy to speak with Mrs. Warren, Mrs. Warren sensed and saw that the Lady in Gray wasn't haunting the library at all, but the field on which the library was built. She saw that the Lady in Gray was staring into a pool of water. From this information, Mrs. Warren had the psychic feeling that the Lady in Gray had drowned in the water canal, that is still located near the library; a possible suicide. Mrs. Warren also felt the the Lady in Gray, didn't quite understand that a building was built around the spot she was haunting, and that's why she seems to be confused.
The Lady In Gray wasn't seen for 3 or 4 years, during the late 80s, but she was merely keeping to herself, as she did up to the 1930 sighting by the janitor. In 1992, a child saw the ghost of Margaret Maier sitting in a peacock chair in the children's basement room, with the ghost of the Lady in Gray standing behind her.
More Recent Sightings... 2000 - 2004
The video cams placed in the Research Room, The Children's Room and the Basement, have picked up the image of the Lady in Gray going about her business, enjoying the books on the shelf, even trying to read to a child. Her favorite place to be is the Margaret M. Maier Children's Room.
To see these images for yourself, visit: LibraryGhost.com
"Take a virtual tour of the library with Greg Hager, Willard Library Director"
"Libraryghost.com offers three cams for your ghost hunting pleasure. The Children's Room cam and the Research Room cam are both refreshed every thirty seconds. The newest cam, which is located in the basement, is virtually live - it refreshes every second!"
Historical Photos and most interior photos courtesy Willard Library.