Haunted Libraries: Andrew Bayne Memorial Library

Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, Bellevue, PA

Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, Bellevue, PA

3. Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, Bellevue, PA

History

Unlike most of the stories told so far, Bayne Memorial Library began life as the home of Amanda Bayne Balph, daughter of Andrew Bayne who was a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention and Sheriff of Allegheny County in 1838. Mrs Balph’s husband, James Madison Balph, was a prominent architect at the time and designed the Victorian home, placing marble fireplaces in each room and etching his name above the entrance to the house.

Upon the death of Mrs Balph and her sister Jane Bayne Teece, the house and surrounding property was bequeathed to the Borough of Bellvue. The sisters wanted the house to be used as a library and the rest of the property to be converted into a park.

In 1914, a library committee announced the opening of two rooms in the old home for use as a library. In the early 1920s, a group of women called the Bellevue Federation sought and received permission to use the home as a meeting place. They used the upstairs rooms for their meeting space.

It wasn’t until 1927 – thirteen years after the library committee first met to announce the opening of rooms for use as a library – that the library and park were formally dedicated to the citizens of Bellevue. At the time of the dedication, the library contained 3,000 volumes, most of which had come from the private libraries of Amanda and Jane.

In the 1960s, the library was renovated and with the renovation came the monumental task of updating texts that were in poor shape or no longer used. Some were discarded outright, some repaired, but all were finally cataloged.

Today, the park surrounding the library has playground equipment and a large field that is used for football and extreme frisbee. During the summer, the library offers movies and concerts on Wednesdays.

Haunting

Since the library began life as a home, it’s understandable that it was a beloved place for those who spent so much of their lives within its walls. One of the manifestations witnessed by staff and patrons alike is that of Amanda Bayne Balf herself, recognizable because a of her portraits hangs in one of the library rooms. She is often seen upstairs in what was once her bedroom. She is also known to be a mischievous entity, often turning lights off and on, randomly. Strange numbers have also appeared on computers, entered by unseen hands.

Sources

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Haunted Libraries: Pattee Library

Pattee Library, Pennsylvania State University

Pattee Library, Pennsylvania State University

7. Pattee Library, University Park, PA

History

The library began life in Old Main, which was the first building of significance on Penn State’s campus, with 1,500 books. In 1904, the library moved to the Carnegie Building which had a 50,000 book capacity, however by 1940 the collection had grown to three times that size. Enter Pattee Library: built in the late 1930s as part of the Public Works Administration-General State Authority and named for Fred Lewis Pattee, considered the first professor of American literature. Over the next thirty-three years, the library would see three expansions: the Stack Building in 1953; “West Pattee” in 1963; and “East Pattee” in 1973.

Hauntings

As I began searching for any hauntings within the library, I found something related and probably the source of any activity: an unsolved mystery. Apparently, on November 28, 1969, graduate student Betsy Ruth Aardsma was stabbed to death in the stacks of the Pattee Library. You’ll have to follow the link below to read the full story of what happened, but she seems to be the one haunting the books down in the basement. People have a sense of presence there, things get moved around, and one student claimed to feel someone grab her neck. A single shrill scream – like the one Betsy emitted the night of her murder – can often be heard from the Stacks, a dark remote area on the second floor.

Apparently, though, Ms Aardsma isn’t alone in her ghostly wanderings. Screams have been heard from the subbasement and shadowy female forms & glowing red eyes have been seen in the library.

One story could probably be chalked up to an over-active imagination. After falling asleep in the library atop a copy of a satanic bible, one female student reportedly felt unsafe in the library and felt she was being watched. That feeling followed her home and in the middle of the night she woke to a choking sensation, as if unseen hands were trying to end her life, and she was unable to call out to her roommate. I guess college students never succumb to sleep paralysis.

Perhaps Ms Aardsma’s ghost is destined to roam among the books for all eternity, since her murder was never solved, but like most ghosts on campus, she’s been integrated into campus life quite smoothly.

Sources:

Mystery Of Stacks Murder Continues As Anniversary Nears
Penn State Poltergeists
Haunted Colleges Series: Penn State University

Haunted Libraries: The Phoenixville Public Library

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phoenixville-library-outside
9. The Phoenixville Public Library, PA

History

The public library in the Borough of Phoenixville, PA began life in 1896 as the Public Library of the Phoenixville School District after prominent citizens took advantage of a newly passed law which allowed schools to own and operate public libraries. A donation of books from the Young Men’s Literary Union served as the core of the collection. In 1901, the town contacted steel magnate Andrew Carnegie who had been bestowing libraries on worthy communities around the United States. He agreed and sent architect’s plans along with $20,000. The new library building opened a year later.

Over the years, the library saw many changes, including a Children’s Library in the basement and other remodeling in the main library. In the 50s, the school district expanded and patrons living within the school district had access to the library service for free those living outside the school district were charged $5 per family. In the 1960s, the State Library of Pennsylvania provided funding to the library to expand its collection to 1.5 books per capita. By 1978 the Phoenixville Public Library joined the Chester County Library System which would increase the funding for the library at $1 per capita.

Today The Phoenixville Public Library has the third largest circulation of any of the libraries in Chester County, with 69,000 pieces.

Hauntings

Though there isn’t a lot of detailed information, there are a few ghosts believed to haunt the 100 + year old library. First, there’s the lady in the attic. I can’t imagine why she’d be up in the attic, but according to the library’s Executive Director, John Kelley, “she’s having a grand old time.” Another site stated that a man and his dog, which could probably be the haunting on the front lawn of the library that another site made reference to. A crew from the para-reality show “SCARED!” filmed an entire episode at the library and one investigator was allegedly really spooked in the office down in the Children’s library in the basement. When a more local investigation group, Chester County Paranormal Research Society, spent the night in the library, their electronics seemingly went crazy. A night surveillance camera even caught a book flying off the shelf. Further research indicated that there are three ghosts, but no details were forthcoming so it is assumed that the three areas of the library people feel are haunted are the three in question.

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Resources:

Library Ghosts: Northeastern US
Phoenixville Public Library

Armistead’s Cost

Pickett's Charge Map

PIckett’s Charge Map – Click Image for larger view (at the Civil War Trust website).

The morning of July 3, 1863 began with an assault on Culp’s Hill, but General Meade had ordered troops back to Culp’s Hill to fortify Union ranks. By 11 am, the Union forces regained lost ground. The Confederate assault at Culp’s Hill was stymied. General George Edward Pickett’s brigade, having the only fresh troops on day three of the battle, was ordered, under General James Longstreet’s command, to assault the weakened center of the Union line. Confederate artillery commenced firing on Union troops on Cemetery Ridge at approximately 1 pm. Union cannons answered this bombardment with a cannonade of their own. At 3 pm, the battlefield quieted and the order to begin the infamous “Pickett’s Charge” across a mile of open battlefield towards a “copse of trees” was given.

Originally positioned at the rear of the brigade, General Lewis Addison Armistead, a Confederate from North Carolina, led his men forward during the charge. Union cannon began to fire at the advancing Confederate Army, mowing down as many as 20 Confederate troops at a time, as it advanced towards Cemetery Ridge. General Armistead’s “support troops” filled in the gaps and, eventually, ended up in the front of the Confederate charge.
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Gettysburg, PA: The Devil’s Den

Devils Den, Gettysburg, PA (c1909)

Devils Den, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (c1909) – Location of intensive fighting on Day 2 (July 2, 1863) of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress Archives.

I’ve been to the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania twice (so far) in my lifetime. Once in 1999 with my family and again in 2005 with my old, college roommates at my insistence. Both times, I’ve really enjoyed myself there. The historical significance of the Gettysburg Battlefield alone is really inspiring. And, of course, the ample graveyards and ghost stories really made me feel at home.

You have to spend at least a day in Gettysburg. The battlefield is so extensive it takes a whole day to do a self guided car tour– if you see everything from Iverson’s Pits, the Roundtops, the Devil’s Den, the Triangular Field, and Culp’s Hill (among other places). The visitor centers, cemeteries, and museums are really engaging too. Probably the most notable thing about this battlefield is the documentation of the battle and the National Park’s efforts to restore the battlefield to how it looked those three fateful days in 1863. In the years since I’ve been to Gettysburg, they’ve removed trees where there were none and planted trees and orchards where they once stood. Something about the atmosphere and the terrible amounts of men who met their untimely demise on the field of battle in Gettysburg calls to the dead– though the official park stance on the paranormal is that they have no stance on the paranormal.
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150th Annviersary of the Battle of Gettysburg

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Gettysburg Battlefield

51,000 men. That’s the number of American soldiers who were missing, wounded, and those met their demise on the battlefield in Gettysburg, PA on July 1-3, 1863. By today’s standards, these losses are the equivalent of 6 million men in three days. Confederate General Robert E. Lee lost one-third of his army during this battle. It was a grueling and iconic battle of the American Civil War for it marked the turning of the war in favor of the Union armies. It was also one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and probably the most hallowed and, dare I say, haunted ground in the country.

Today marks the beginning of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. What better way to honor the brave men who fought at Gettysburg than sharing stories from the battle?

The first day of the battle did not go well for the Union troops. A minor skirmish started in the northwest of Gettysburg around 10 am. Major General John F. Reynolds and his troops attempted to hold the Confederates at bay, but Reynolds was struck and killed. (Read “Star-Crossed Loves of Gettysburg” for more of Reynolds’ tragic story.) By 4 pm, the Federal troops were retreating through Gettysburg towards Cemetery Hill. Several troops were cut off from their units and killed in the retreat. One of those soldiers was the source of a battlefield mystery of a Union soldier who died during the retreat.
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American Murder House: General Wayne Inn – Merion Station, PA

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Historic photo of the General Wayne Inn.

The General Wayne Inn was opened in 1704 and operated under various names, such as the William Penn Inn, the Wayside Inn and Streepers Tavern, before being renamed in 1793 in honor of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a local Revolutionary War and Indian War hero. Mad Anthony wasn’t the only Revolutionary War celebrity who had stayed or dined in the Inn.  George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette also supped there during the war. But the General Wayne Inn wasn’t just a restaurant and inn, it also served as a post office, a general store and a coach stop for many, many years. Continue reading