Monday, December 16, 2013

Shushing rumors—Albertville Public Library

Albertville Public Library
200 Jackson Street
Albertville, Alabama

One of the classic images from libraries is the bespectacled librarian shushing anyone making noise within the solemn and sacrosanct confines of the library. In the case of the librarian at the public library in the small, north Alabama town of Albertville, she’s trying to shush rumors of the library being haunted.

“I find the whole thing embarrassing,” she told a local reporter in 2007. It seems the story started as a joke a few years previous but took on a life of its own. I even covered it in an entry called “Some Alabama Hauntings, Briefly Noted,” from January 16th of this year. The library entry has since been replaced with a link here. This is what I wrote:

Should my spirit remain on this plane after my death, it’s my sincere wish that I would remain in a library. The public library in Albertville, a small town in the north east part of the state, is typical of small town libraries throughout the country, but on one account is not so typical: it may be haunted. Built in 1964, the building replaced a much older home. Local legend indicates that spirits from that home may have taken residence in the library building. Apparently harmless, the spirits make their presence known by turning faucets on and playing on the elevator.

In 2010, Albertville was devastated by an EF3 tornado which damaged the library. I can find no word if the spirit remained after repairs.

I have discovered that ghost stories are like a garden, they must be regularly tended. They are forever evolving. More information is uncovered and released, though that information may not always be widely available. While digging around through newspaper archives, I uncovered a few articles about the library’s ghost.

Of course it’s a bit disappointing to find that there’s little behind the legend, though I’m happy to be able to post a correction. The story also serves as a case study into how some folklore is created. According to the librarian, the rumors started when a local television news station ran a story about local businesses and institutions celebrating Halloween. “We were dressed up for Halloween and during the interview some of the girls up front started joking around about the library being haunted. Saying any time a book fell the ghost did it. Just joking around,” the library director continued.

From that local interview, the story has grown legs and made its way throughout the internet. The listing of the library on the haunted places list on the infamous site, Shadowlands, has most certainly helped give movement and credence to the rumor. The problem with Shadowlands is that the site is almost entirely user submitted with none of the information being properly vetted before it’s posted. While there is some truth to some of the entries, many of them are a chaotic jumble of fact and fiction or just pure fiction. I’ve seen Shadowlands credited in everything from blog posts to books and it’s given rise to many haunted legends.

Possibly using Shadowlands as a source, the library was listed in a 2006 article in the Sand Mountain Reporter, the local paper. The article, by Charlotte Christopher lists a number of haunted locations throughout north Alabama. An article detailing the fact that the library is haunted appeared in the same paper in 2007.

In 2008, the library was listed as part of an entry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica Blog listing haunted libraries throughout the United States. With the name as respected as the Encyclopedia Brittanica behind the listing, it must be true, right?

The story was picked up on by Jessica Penot in her excellent Haunted North Alabama, published in 2010. Just after the book’s publication, an article appeared in the Sand Mountain Reporter discussing the library’s inclusion in the book and quoting both Penot and the librarian. “With all ghost stories, there is the possibility they are as much legend as fact,” Penot says in the article.

One of the issues she encountered in researching the library was the large tornado that struck the town in 2010. The damaged library was closed for repairs and she couldn’t find a proper contact to confirm the legends.

She continues in the article, “The fact that a legend surrounds a location like the library only underlines its importance in the community. Places that are central to communities are often the first to have ghost stories spread about them. Because people love these places, the stories spread more quickly.”

Sources
Albertville, Alabama. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     16 January 2013.
Christopher, Charlotte. “Haunted sightings in Northern Alabama.”
     Sand Mountain Reporter. 26 October 2006.
Eberhart, George. “Library Ghosts: Southern U.S.” Encyclopedia
     Britanica Blog. 29 Oct 2008.
Green, Lionel. “Albertville Public Library earns chapter in new book
     about haunted locations.” Sand Mountain Reporter. 1 October 2010.
Haunted Places in Alabama. Shadowlands. Accessed 15 December
     2013.
Leak, Clay. “A ghost in the library? Perish the thought.” Sand Mountain
     Reporter. 31 March 2007.
Penot, Jessica. Haunted North Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2010.

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