Haunted Libraries: Houston Public Library

Julia Ideson Building of the Houston Public Library

8. Houston Public Library – Houston, Texas


Houston Public Library, like the Scottsdale library, got its start through an endowment from Andrew Carnegie and traces its existence back to 1854 where it began life as the Houston Lyceum. In 1904, a building resembling a miniature temple housed the Houston Lyceum and Carnegie Library. But with the discovery of and subsequent oil boom, the city’s population quickly tripled in the following two decades and the city outgrew it’s tiny library.

The librarian of the Houston Lyceum, one Julia Ideson, was finally moved to complain publicly about the conditions within the cramped library. The collection was growing to such an extent that shelves were being put where shelves weren’t meant to be. This growth left little space for people to actually do research and other work there at the library. While expansion to the existing building was not possible nor practical, land was sought elsewhere. Mayor A.E. Amerman proposed a plot of city-owned land on the north bank of Buffalo Bayou near Capitol Avenue, an idea which Ideson endorsed.

By 1926, the city would dedicate a new building – named for the woman who advocated for the expansion of the Lyceum – that would serve the city as the central library for fifty years. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  In 1979, the Ideson Building underwent renovations and reopened as the Houston Metropolitan Research Center. The Center has been designated as an official Regional Historical Resource Depository by the Texas State Library.

It is this building which is believed to be haunted…


Although the Ideson Building has never been “formally” investigated, there are plenty of reports from workers who have experienced one thing or another, but all attributed to one man.

The ghostly manifestation is said to be that of Mr Jacob Cranmer, the library’s first night watchman who also worked as a handyman and gardener. He rented a small apartment space in the basement of the library and lived there with his German shepherd Petey. In his spare time, Jacob loved to play the violin and would often sit on the top floor of the library serenading the building he loved. In November 1936, he was found dead of an apparent lung hemorrhage. He was buried in Hiawatha, KS, but many believe he never left. Patrons have reported the sound of toenails tapping on the floor and others have often found sheet music left in unusual places when it is normally locked away. Patrons and employees alike have heard Jacob’s return to provide ghostly strains of Strauss’ waltzes.

A senior library services specialist once reported seeing shadows out of the corner of his eye on the second floor in the Texas Collection. He thought it was the shape of a man, but as soon as the man looked directly at the shadow, it would vanish. Lights in the Texas Room have also known to flicker.

If only we had living people as dedicated to their jobs as Mr Cranmer seems to have been and still is…