Lost Item, Never Returned
Inspired by true events
The library has a secret. Ok, maybe secret is too strong of a word, it’s just something we don’t talk about, and for a librarian that’s a big deal. But due to an experience I had last Wednesday night; I can no longer stay silent. People must know, before someone gets hurt.
The library has a ghost.
That’s right folks, a transparent, walks through walls, thing that goes bump in the night, ghost. Oh, I can hear you laughing; the skeptical side of your brain telling you “there’s no such thing as ghosts.” But you’re wrong, and I know this because I saw her Wednesday night.
Before Wednesday, I too, was a skeptic. I’d heard many a tale from co-workers, claiming to hear moans and mysterious noises. I brushed it off as air conditioning and other mechanical noises that happen in buildings as the sun goes down. The elevators will go up and down, even when they’re shut off. Not trusting the elevators anyway, I always assumed it was a mechanical glitch. They are breaking down all the time. That’s why I always use the nice, reliable, no possibility of getting trapped, stairs.
One staff member even swears the ghost locked her in the bathroom. She tried desperately to get out, but the door would not budge. I couldn’t help but think of the children’s bathroom door and how it sticks all the time. Could this “bad carpentry” be the actual bathroom trapping spirit? And let’s not forget how incredibly cold the library gets; there are nights it feels like a meat locker.
Now on occasion I’ve seen someone standing on the bridge either out of the corner of my eye, or in the reflection of the big east windows, but when I turn and look there’s no one there. I’ve always put it off as my eyes playing tricks on me. That is until Wednesday.
Wednesday started off as any other day. There were books to shelve and patrons to help. My dinner hour came and went, more patrons, more shelving. Around 8:30 pm the reference librarian called me to say she had heard something heavy fall in the upstairs office. She couldn’t leave the reference desk unattended and our local and family history librarian was swamped with people trying to print off their latest genealogical finds, so she wondered if I would go up and make sure kids weren’t horsing around.
Of course, I said yes and made my way to the office in question. The door was slightly ajar, so I pushed it open and using my best librarian voice bellowed, “This room is not open to the public.”
Switching on the light, I saw nothing. I scanned the room, my eyes falling on an open closet. “Ah ha,” I thought, “the culprits are hiding in there.”
The little hairs on my arm began to prickle, and I briefly considered calling a co-worker for some back-up, but pushed the thought away. I was being silly. I walked to the closet, again switching on the light, bracing myself to see some kids hunkered in the corner. Nothing. There was no one there. But a box of donated books laid scattered along the floor.
“Ok,” I thought, chuckling to myself. “The kids knocked it over and fled before I got up here.”
I sighed and began picking up the books. That’s when I noticed the small open door. I prayed the kids hadn’t crawled into the storage space. I got down on all fours and peered into the tiny space, feeling around for a light switch. Not finding one, I pulled out my cell phone and used the light to scan the room. There were piles and piles of books.
One particular book caught my eye, a very popular book that I was searching for earlier that day. I flipped the book over and scanned the UPC sticker. The number was the same, this was the lost book. I held the cell phone higher, trying to see how far back the storage closet went, wondering if they were all lost books, when the light went out. I fumbled for a button as a white mist began to form. I froze in fright, cradling the book against my chest, when I heard a faint, “Mine.”
The mist grew thicker. I couldn’t move, my brain was telling me to run away, scream, do anything but sit there like a dummy. But I couldn’t.
“Mine,” the mist said louder.
All of a sudden it advanced toward me, forming the shape of a woman. Her face was twisted in anger. She was pointing at me, pointing at the book. “MINE!” she screamed.
Finally, my body caught up with my brain and I threw the book at the ghost and flung myself backwards out of the crawl space, slamming the door shut with my foot. I swallowed a scream as I sat there panting, waiting for the ghost woman to come through the wall. Waiting for her to gobble me up.
But she didn’t come. She had what she wanted.
So the next time you’re in the library and you see a shadow out of the corner of your eye or the air feels a little too cold, you know what’s going on. And if she wants a book you’re currently responsible for, trust me just let her have it.