Between the book stacks, where visibility is low and silence the rule, things can get creepy.
I worked in libraries for most of my college years, and I can tell you that shutting down for the night is an eerie experience: checking the library for patrons, either clueless, playful, desperate, or malicious, that remain, making sure sound equipment and other machines are off, flipping off the lights and turning the key in the door to secure the collection. This is the time when weird experiences happen. Most library ghosts are not reported by patrons during the day, but by the staff at night. There are plenty of exceptions, of course, and a library benefits immensely from a lively ghost story or two inside its walls. Here is one such story.
The Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, was once the home of Amanda Bayne Balph, the daughter of Andrew Bayne, a former County Sheriff. Her husband, James Madison Balph, was an architect and designed and built the three story Victorian home in 1875, installing an expensive marble fireplace in each room and mahogany paneling. After he died in 1899, Amanda lived there until her death in 1912, at which time the house became the property of the borough, since neither Amanda nor her sister Jane Teece had children. In 1914 two rooms were converted into the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library.
There were four stipulations which the family insisted upon when they left their home to the borough of Bellevue: the surrounding streets must be named “Balph” and “Teece,” the mansion must be used as a library, the 4-acre estate was not to be developed, and the estate’s elm trees were not to be removed. This included the largest elm east of the Mississippi, a 400 year old tree known as the “Lone Sentinel”. Over the course of the 20th century every elm on the property died of Dutch Elm Disease, culminating in the removal of the Lone Sentinel in 1998. A large branch was taken off by a windstorm and there was a fear that it might fall on nearby buildings.
For decades, patrons have reported seeing a strange woman in a bonnet. On days when the library is closed, she has been seen looking out the second story window from what was Amanda’s bedroom. Her reflection appears in windows, looking exactly like the picture of Amanda Bayne Balph which hangs on the wall of the library. Her appearances in general are friendly rather than fiendish, as if she is reassuring everyone that her agreement with the city is still in effect. During the death and removal of the Lone Sentinel she was sighted frequently, ostensibly distressed at the sight and no doubt desiring that it be taken care of properly.
Like many ghosts, Amanda is a bit of a prankster, turning lights off and on, punching numbers into the library computers and once turning on the ceiling fan when a group of children were in the library for a reading. Perhaps she thought it was too hot for the kids and decided to make them more comfortable? Librarians there alone at night hear footsteps in Amanda’s bedroom when no one is there. It is also reported that missing books reappear on the shelves, but a ghost that reshelves books seems a bit too good to be true!
This library is featured in Jeff Belanger’s book, The World’s Most Haunted Places. Happy Halloween from Synkroniciti!