Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Library Ghost

Soon after the New-York Historical Society Library reopened in the early 1990s after a fire, I heard this story.

The library stacks are closed to the public. The staff rarely enters some of them. But come what may, the light bulbs need to be changed every so often. Shortly after the fire, one of the maintenance men was asked to change a 60-watt bulb, finally burned out after years of use. He took his tall ladder and a new box of bulbs and set off into the darkened stacks. Minutes later, he emerged onto the floor, scared and babbling. "Not goin' back in there, nope, not me!" He went to put away the ladder.

"Hey, what's up?" one of the librarians asked. "I've got to get a book for one of the curators. Please go back and change the bulb -- I can't see where I'm going!"

"Well, maybe you didn't see her, but I sure did. I'm not going back down that aisle with that lady floatin' in the air."

"What are you talking about?" the librarian asked. "What lady?"

"That old lady in the white dress. I never saw her before, and I'm sure not gonna see her again."

"Oh, come on, you're just scared of those shadows. Luther, go into the stacks with Fred and change that bulb, will you? I've got to get that book!"

Fred looked at Luther and said, "You go, fella. Not me. Not again."

Luther took the ladder from his colleague and set off into the stacks. The librarian shook her head and gave Fred the "aren't you being silly now?" look.

In no time at all, Luther fled the stacks, ladder leading the way. "I'm sorry, miss, but there is no way I'm going back in there. Not me. That lady in white is just as dead as they come and she's scaring me to death!" Luther put the ladder away.

Did the light bulb get changed? Did the staff member ever get his book? We'll never know. Does anybody?

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