Winters in Indiana can be cold and brutal, temperatures frequently drop well below freezing and when a blizzard blows in from the East, the snow can last for weeks.
The winter of 1937 was no exception. Times were hard and jobs thin on the ground. To have work and a warm place to sleep was a blessing.
As he dragged himself out of bed on a bitter winter morning the janitor of Willard Library must have had mixed emotions.
Grateful for a job, it was still a struggle on those icy winter mornings to rouse himself and tend to the library furnaces.
Nevertheless, at 3 am he let himself into the deserted building and made his way down to the cellar pausing only to pick up a lantern.
Not long into his task, his only source of light was suddenly and inexplicably extinguished. Cursing and fumbling about in the dark with only the glow of the furnaces to guide him, he struggled to relight the lantern.
When he did, he received the shock of his life. Standing before him, watching him carefully, was a woman dressed in grey.
But this was no modern lady who had slipped into the building looking for shelter. Her dress was of Victorian style, her buttoned up boots long out of fashion and her hair was pulled neatly into an elegant chignon.
Startled at the apparition before him, the janitor dropped his lantern and fled. Resigning from his post soon after, he was clear about his reason, he had come face to face with the Grey Lady of Willard Library and he was not prepared to do so again.
The Willard Library is housed in a beautiful Gothic building in Evansville, Indiana. Built with money donated by Willard Carpenter in 1881, the library houses many important genealogical documents as well as local archives.
Attracting visitors because of its architecture and literary collections, it has lately become a world -wide phenomenon for another reason.
Rumored to be haunted by the Grey Lady, web cams dotted about the library stream images that can be accessed by anybody with a computer.
Thousands of people across the globe now visit the library’s website every day hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive ghost that is said to haunt the building.
Sightings of the Grey Lady
Since 1937 the grey lady has been spotted by staff and visitors to the library on numerous occasions. Fortunately, unlike the janitor before them, most have realized that the ghost is mischievous but benign.
The Grey Lady was last sighted on August 10, 2010 by the Assistant Children’s Librarian. Sitting alone in the library she felt somebody brush her hair back and gently touch the long dangly earrings that she had chosen to wear that day.
Assuming at first that it was a curious child admiring her glittery jewelry, she was stunned when she turned around and realized that she was in fact alone.
One Sunday afternoon, two library workers keen to get home and enjoy what was left of the weekend, found themselves with more work on their hands than they expected.
Tidying up after the last of the visitors had left, the librarians straightened up the chairs and tables. Carefully, tucking one chair under the table, they were stunned to see it pushed back out a few minutes later.
Once again they tucked the chair in and once again it was pushed out. After this had happened a number of times the staff left the chair as it was, the Grey Lady had clearly not finished.
The Head of the Special Collections Department recorded her own strange experience while working in the library. She claims to have seen a box file jump off a shelf as if it was pushed by unseen hands.
The box contained lots of individual sheets of unbound paper. Rather than fall in a disorganized heap, the librarian was astonished to see that the contents arranged themselves in a perfect fan shape on the floor.
One long serving employee of the library, Margaret Maier, claimed a special relationship with the Grey Lady.
Margaret was the children’s librarian for over fifty years and saw the apparition of the Grey Lady on many occasions.
The Grey Lady seems particularly fond of the Children’s Library which is in the basement of the building and perhaps felt a special attachment to Margaret.
In the 1980’s the Children’s Library was closed for a brief period while it was remodeled. During this period, Margaret believed that the Grey Lady followed her home.
She began to smell the perfume of the Grey lady around her house as well as seeing her apparition in her living room.
Chillingly, Margaret’s nephew also saw the apparition of the Grey Lady in his aunt’s house. Clearly disturbed by the building work in the library, Margaret’s ghostly guest was probably seeking some home comforts.
Not surprisingly children visiting the library have reported seeing a grey spirit. In the 1980’s a three year old boy was part of a group decorating an Easter tree.
Wandering away from his mother and clearly upset, he refused to be tempted back to the activity. When asked by his mother why he wouldn’t join in, he claimed that he was frightened of the lady ghost who was standing with the group.
On another occasion a group of children were playing near the stairs outside the Children’s Library. Laughing and joking, they were making far too much noise for a library.
When they suddenly went quiet an adult investigated.
Questioned, the children informed the adult that a lady in a grey dress had come down the stairs and placed her finger to her lips to indicate they should be quiet.
The lady then disappeared into thin air.
The director of Willard Library recalls a television interview where the Grey Lady almost made a ghostly appearance on the local news.
The library was holding a book sale and a local news team was filming an interview with the director to gain publicity for the event.
Working in the background, two female members of staff were tasked with selecting children’s books for the sale.
Leaving their shelves unattended for a few minutes, they were stunned and upset to discover on their return that every fourth book had been pulled from the shelves and placed at an angle.
This should have taken a significant amount of time, yet it had been completed in minutes by an invisible force. Realizing that they may be witness to a paranormal event, the film crew recorded images of the shelves and interviewed one of the women.
Editing the footage later they were stunned to discover that whilst the interview regarding the book sale was intact and undamaged, all evidence of the paranormal incident was wiped clean.
One of the most fascinating developments in recent years has captured the ghostly image of the Grey Lady on numerous occasions.
Embracing their ghostly occupant, the library has set up numerous webcams which are streamed to the internet. Log into the library’s site and you can flick between the different rooms in the library.
What appears to be a grey apparition has been captured by many observers across the world and reported back to the library.
Worryingly these sightings often take place when the library is at its busiest. The Grey Lady is clearly unconcerned that she will be spotted as she peruses the book shelves or strolls along the corridors.
Often filmed standing next to or right behind them, she appears to go unnoticed by visitors.
Other phenomenon recorded at the library include faucets being turned on and off, footsteps in empty corridors, the elevator moving up and down of its own volition, electrical equipment stopping and starting, strange objects appearing and a lingering musky perfume which is said to signify that the Grey Lady is nearby.
Who is The Grey Lady?
So who exactly is the mischievous Grey Lady who has made her home in Willard Library? The general consensus is that she is Louise Carpenter, daughter of the library’s founder Willard Carpenter.
Divorced and left penniless by her gambling husband, Louise was incredulous when her father died and left her nothing.
Challenging the legality of his will she was angry that her father’s entire fortune was left to the library. When her legal bid failed and she died in poverty, Louise’s spirit is rumored to have returned to haunt the library for spite.
Others dispute that Louise is the Grey Lady, pointing out that the ghost that haunts the library is benign. Would the disgruntled Louise really be so peaceful?
Surely the ghost of this scorned woman would want to wreak as much havoc as possible?
The true identity of the ghostly spirit and why she has made her home among the books and documents of this Indiana library is still uncertain.
What is certain is that her ghostly presence has been witnessed and recorded many times over the years.
Lacking in malevolence, she appears to be curious about the people who visit the library, touching them gently or playing pranks upon them.
The library itself has embraced its ghostly occupant and made her a feature of their building, honoring her status as spirit in residence.
Webcams have been placed in the areas she likes to frequent, hoping to record definitive evidence that she really does exist.
Across the world thousands of ghost spotters join in, carefully scrutinizing the recorded footage every day, hoping to be one of the lucky few who capture a glimpse of the Grey Lady of Willard Library.