By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
A running joke between myself and library director Matt Parsons has been about the “library ghost.”
To be clear here, there is no documented instance of a ghost anywhere in the old Olive Hill High School – in the library or anyplace else in the building. At least, as far as I’m aware there isn’t.
But, when working alone in the building on Mondays, I’ve often thought – for just a second – that I might see someone standing in the back hallway.
There’s never anyone there when I look up, of course. But I knew something must be going on, even if it had a rational explanation. This couldn’t all be my imagination.
After several weeks of observing this, and trying to figure out just which trick of shadow and light was fooling me into thinking I spotted movement in the hallway, I noticed something. On this particular day, a pair of buzzards were swooping and looping through the air outside the window. A few times they passed pretty close to the windows. When they did this, they blocked the sunlight just for a second. And when they blocked the sunlight, I’d catch a darting shadow in the hallway. There were sunbeams, even if they were faint, very slightly illuminating the hallway through the exterior windows and the windows in the door to the hallway. Anything that interrupted those sunbeams – birds, clouds, swaying tree branches – could cause a play of shadows in the hall that might register as movement in your peripheral vision.
I was excited to finally figure out what I was seeing and, even though my logical mind already knew there were no ghosts, I also felt a sense of relief. Writing in the library on Mondays has become a regular part of my routine, and it would take more intense activity than darting shadows to scare me off. But it was good to know what it really was.
I told Matt I had figured out what the “ghost” was, and while his logical mind had also assumed it would end up being something mundane, he expressed some disappointment that we’d solved it so quickly. The way he figured it; every good library should have a ghost.
I didn’t disagree with him. I think ghost stories can add to the character of a building. They can help focus the visitor on the history of the place that they might not otherwise consider.
But we can’t make a place haunted when it isn’t.
So, while Matt and I both lamented the lack of legitimate spectral activity, the mystery was at last solved. And I could completely ignore any shadows or other illusions of movement that might distract me from my writing.
After having the ghost conversation with Matt, and packing up my bag for the day, I got home to realize I had left my charger behind in the library. I wasn’t going back for it that evening, but I did decide to go back the next day, outside regular library hours, to collect it. After getting my things together, and making a quick stop in the restroom, I was coming back into the hallway and shaking the water from my hands when I had something startle me.
Behind me I heard what I took, at first, to be a deep, guttural growling. At the same time, I was sure I saw something come rushing up behind me.
Sure, I’d debunked the hallway ghost already, but I’m not ashamed to admit this noise and shadow made me jump and set my heart to beating double-time. I spun around quickly to make sure I wasn’t pounced upon, but I saw nothing there behind me.
No growling black dog crouched there. No dogman stood slavering in the shadows. The room was empty and still.
So, what was this phantom hell-hound I heard behind me? What made the noise and cast the shadow?
It was the bathroom door. The doorstop had come loose just as I walked through the doorway. It let the door swing forward just a few inches – the shadow – and the vibration of the wooden wedge on the floor resonated up through the door – the growl – scaring the living daylights out of me.
Nothing strange. Nothing paranormal. Just a mundane slip of the door.
Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.