Made famous by the apparition of a lady in a grey gown, the historic Willard Library is now an iconic landmark in the town of Evansville. Nicknamed the “Grey Lady” or “Lady in Grey”, the poltergeist was first reported in 1937 by a custodian working on the coal furnace in the library’s basement. Over the years, staffs and visitors of Willard Library have reported similar sightings of the apparition in different areas of the library. However, the children’s department is said to be the most haunted spot.
On several occasions, the library’s CCTV captured the manifestation of the Grey Lady. On November 2002, the apparition was captured on tape moving along the study desks in the Research Room.
The presence of the Grey Lady is often accompanied by the overpowering scent of a musky perfume. Visitors have also claimed to be “touched” by an unseen force, and seeing chairs move on its own.
Librarians of Willard Library have also reported having face-to-face encounters with the Grey Lady. During the 1970s when the library was under renovation, former lead librarian Margaret Maier claimed that she had encountered the apparition while surveying the progress of the restoration project. Unknowingly, the apparition followed her home. On that night, her son witnessed a woman in a long grey dress vanish before his eyes on the second floor of their home.
It is believed that the Grey Lady is the spirit of Louise Carpenter, the daughter of Willard Carpenter, who is the founder of Willard Library. It is widely known that Carpenter had a strained relationship with his three children, Louise, Marcia, and Albert. In fact, Carpenter had written that Louise and her husband would receive nothing in his will. Instead, a majority of his wealth would be given to his businesses in Evansville as well as Willard Library.
Louise Carpenter is now said to haunt the library, determined to get back what she deserved.
For avid ghost hunters who are unable to visit Willard Library, the library have offered a live feed of “ghost cams” at six of the most active spots, namely the Children’s Room, the Basement Hall, the Research Room, the Stairway, the Children’s Story Room, and the Adult Services on the first floor. View the live feed here.
History of Willard Library
The history of Williard Library in Indiana dates back to 1885 when it was first opened. Constructed with funds donated by Williard Carpenter, the library was built to serve citizens of all classes, races and sexes, and at zero charge.
Williard Carpenter was a businessman from Vermont who came to Evansville in pursuit of a career. A charitable magnate and member of the city council, Carpenter played an instrumental role in the development of Evansville. Apart from donating generously to the local community, Carpenter sought to fulfil his dream of building Willard College, Evansville’s first institution of higher learning. However, in spite of the massive support from the local community, he lacked the funds to do so. Eventually, Carpenter was convinced by his peers to build the “cheaper” Willard Library, which remained in line with his aim of improving the educational environment of the Evansville community. Groundbreaking was held for the library on May 16, 1877.
After a prolonged hiatus, construction of the Willard Library was finally completed in 1884. However, Carpenter failed to see the completion of his library; he died on November 3, 1883, after suffering from a stroke.
Today, the Williard library is one of several public state libraries listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the oldest work public library in the state of Indiana.
The Dark Mass at Willard Library
Apart from the Grey Lady, a dark mass is said to haunt the Willard Library. While it is unknown if the dark mass is simply the manifestation of the Grey Lady in an ‘unappealing’ form, many believe that they are two separate entities.
One night, a dark figure was also captured on film walking up the stairwell to the second floor. The figure, which appears to be holding a book, is said to be Louise Carpenter ‘taking back’ what belonged to her.
Is Willard Library Open Today?
Looking to visit Willard Library and catch a glimpse of the Grey Lady or the Dark Mass? Make sure that you are aware of the following opening hours to avoid disappointment!
From Monday to Tuesday, the library opens from 9am to 8pm. From Wednesday to Friday, the library runs from 9am to 5:30pm. On Saturday, Willard Library is opened from 9am to 5pm. Last but not least, on Sunday, the library operates during the later half of the day from 1pm to 5pm.
Do take note that the historic Willard Library opened by Willard Carpenter is located at 21 First Avenue, Evansville, Indiana. It is not to be confused with the Willard Library at Battle Creek, Michigan.