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The Grey Lady

of Evansville’s Willard Library

by Lynn Taylor

Indiana boasts its share of famous hauntings. Near the top of the list is the “Grey Lady,” of whom it is said, makes her presence known at the Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana, in the southwestern part of the state.

The Willard Library has been made popular by the Discovery Channel, the Sci-Fi Channel, and numerous paranormal organizations, all attempting to prove or disprove the Grey Lady’s existence.

The facility, said to be the oldest public library building in Indiana, was constructed in the Victorian Gothic style, and opened in 1885. It was named in honor of Evansville philanthropist Willard Carpenter.

According to an article written by Jackie Sheckler (Herald-Times, 10-31-1999, Bloomington, IN), the first appearance of the Grey Lady occurred at 3 a.m. on a frigid morning in 1937. The night janitor had just stepped down into the basement to shovel more coal into the furnace when he came face-to-face with a dark figure. Raising his flashlight toward the mysterious form revealed a veiled woman, dressed in “glowing grey” from head to toe.

According to librarian assistant Sandy Feltz, the janitor promptly ended his employment at the library, after his encounter.

From that point on to the present, the Grey Lady has been witnessed by many employees and patrons of the Willard Library.

Growing interest in the Grey Lady in more recent years prompted the library to begin hosting Halloween tours* of the facility in 1996.

Of the Grey Lady, Feltz commented, “No one is afraid of her, but many people have had strange things happen to them here."

Among the strange occurrences reported:

In the restrooms, visitors have witnessed lavatory faucets turning on by themselves.
Visitors and employees have reported hearing footsteps when no one is present.
A heavy perfume smell sometimes wafts through the air, the fragrance coming from no identifiable source.

With the floor buttons lighting up and doors opening, an empty elevator operates on its own, moving from floor to floor.

Motion sensors have a habit of setting off the alarm system when the library is closed.
In addition, books have flown off of shelves without aid, chairs have been seen moving of their own accord, and file containers have been knocked to the floor by an invisible force.

Feltz further offered that, in the 1960s, a group of young children were participating in a library and making a lot of commotion in the process. They were noisily running and skipping on the stairs in the hallway. One of the youngsters suddenly came running up to his mother, fearfully describing a woman who confronted their boisterous behavior.

"The little boy said, ‘She was a ghost lady shaking her finger at me!’" Feltz recalls. "The party ended rather abruptly."

But who is the Grey Lady? There are several theories, but the most popular one is that she is the ghost of Louise Carpenter, a daughter of the library's founder, Willard Carpenter.

According to Feltz, Louise became so angry after her father gave money to build the library, that she took legal action against the library's Board of Trustees in a failed bid to stop construction. Some believe that Louise was so embittered by the experience that, after death, she came to haunt the building that she fought so desperately against.

On one occasion, the Discovery Channel visited Willard Library and concluded, "There is something here," Feltz says.

More recently, the Grey Lady has been featured on the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Proof Positive” program, a show that examines the merits of various paranormal claims or encounters. The Grey Lady case was not deemed “proof positive” by the program’s chosen “experts” due to a lack of solid evidence, but it should be noted that neither was it proven to be a hoax.

Now, anyone with access to the Web can look in on the Willard Library by way of web-cam. If you decide to peek in, and you are really lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of the old grey gal, as she tidies up her books.


* First offered as a Halloween tour, the Grey Lady tours are now offered year-round and free of charge. If you are thinking about going, be sure to call ahead and make arrangements.
The Willard Library is located on the corner of First Avenue and Lloyd Expressway in Evansville.

The Willard Library was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
The Grey Lady Tours are offered year-round but have listed times around Halloween. Reservations must be made in advance for the free tours.

A “Ghostcam” has been set up at: http://www.libraryghost.com/
Web site: http://www.willard.lib.in.us/

Contact the Willard Library at:
Willard Library
21 First Avenue
Evansville, IN 47710
Phone: 812-425-4309
Fax: 812-421-9742
Email: willard@willard.lib.in.us
 

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Updated: February 05, 2006
AAARC and The Sentinel Files Copyright 1999

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