Among the landmarks that figure prominently on an Indiana ghost-tracker’s map is the Willard Library. The stately brick edifice in downtown Evansville has such a reputation for paranormal activity that the library, in partnership with the Evansville Courier and Press, has installed surveillance cameras or “ghost cams” in the reportedly haunted rooms.
Opened in 1885 to serve patrons of all classes, races and sexes, the Willard is the oldest public library building in the state. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gothic structure was built with funds donated by Willard Carpenter. The nineteenth-century Evansville philanthropist had come to the city from his native Vermont to work in his brother’s dry-goods business. Making a fortune in real estate, Carpenter supported local churches and homes for the poor, and invested extensive personal funds to bring the railroad to Vanderburgh County. An influential Democrat, Carpenter served on the city council for 30 years.
Carpenter passed away in 1883, having designated a substantial portion of his estate as an endowment for the library. One early winter morning more than fifty years later, a janitor showing up to stoke the furnace claimed to see an apparition of a lady in a grey gown. Since then, subsequent sightings have been reported—especially in the Children’s Room—of a lady in Victorian attire, accompanied by a strong scent of perfume or the sudden gushing of the bathroom faucet.
Many believers suspect that the Grey Lady is the restless spirit of Willard’s estranged daughter Louise Carpenter, indignant about having been left out of her father’s will. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the Grey Lady—whether or not she is Louise—can take a virtual peek into the library’s interior any time of day, or night, at www.libraryghost.com.