Retold by Dennis Adams, Information Services Coordinator (Retired), written for the Beaufort County Library website in 2007 and re-posted with minimal editing by Beaufort District Collection Manager, Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA on 29 October 2016.
Beaufort County has its own rich store of folklore, including ghost tales, a few even here in our own Beaufort County Library, though ours includes gremlins, not ghosts.
Library “gremlins” — like library cats — have long been a part of bookshelf folklore. The most notorious library gremlin was the frightful spook in the 1984 movie, Ghostbusters, who scattered catalog cards like dead leaves in a windstorm and shrieked like a banshee through the “quiet reading areas!” More typical are the gremlins who keep out of sight and haunt the stacks only at night or in the least busy parts of the library. Apart from some minor mischief and good-natured pranks, library gremlins are harmless and even likeable little sprites. We even suspect they love to read!
Here is former circulation representative Michael L. Broam‘s tale from October 1999 about the library gremlin haunting the Children’s Department of the Beaufort Branch Library located at 311 Scott Street:
“I have been working at the Library since the fall of 1995. I quickly realized that in this job you dealt with a lot of chaos. It seemed that in just a few minutes the shelves that I had just straightened were once more out of order and quite messy. Several staff members including myself often joke about the presence of “gremlins”.
Of all of the events that I have seen or experienced, a few stand out as exceptionally unusual. Around 1997-1998, I was spending an increased amount of time shelving in the Children’s Library. The Children’s Library is built within the foundation and structure of the old Library (completed in 1964 at 710 Craven Street).
At certain exits we have several alarm systems designed to limit the theft of library materials. These systems operate using an system to interact with a device placed in our materials. When activated, the electromagnetic frequency system emits a piercing alarm that can not be ignored.
During this time, the alarm in the Children’s Library began to go off without any apparent reason, a phenomenon known as “ghosting”. This persisted for some months, not happening every day, occurring primarily in the evenings. It did not occur every day, but a week did not go by without it happening. It was quite unnerving to be focusing on putting the books in order in a quiet room — and to have this alarm suddenly ring out.
This was not the only unusual event to have taken place in the Children’s Library. Several times while shelving alone in the room, I heard noises that I normally associate as being made by another person. These usually were quiet noises; a cough, what sounded like the shuffling of feet, or a sniffling sound. Although I often tried to attribute such noises to the building settling, or some other natural cause, I was not able to always convince myself of their “naturalness”.
In 1998, I took on duties that now focused more on public service than on shelving books. On Saturday mornings, I would usually arrive at around 8:00 a.m. to prepare the Library for opening. This left me working alone for about twenty minutes, and I quickly came to realize that this is a very noisy place, filled with the many sounds that a building can generate. The creaking and popping of the building settling, the quiet sighs of the ventilation system, and the chatter of computer hard drives all contribute to a background noise level.
But occasionally there would be a sound; a sound as if made by another being, never very loud but very distinctive that would usually give me quite a startle.”
Darlene Flynn Bauer, former Children’s Programmer at Beaufort Branch, related her story to Dennis Adams in October 1999:
“I, too have experienced some strange and hair-raising events. The Children’s Department is built within the old Craven Street library building, where I began my service for Beaufort County in 1986. It was after the new addition was built that I began to hear strange noises that left me with a chill. Once – when I was hurrying to the restroom – the stall door stopped me cold. It was locked from inside. I said, “Excuse me,” but not a soul answered. “Hello? Hello?” – but nothing, so I quickly left. This was strange, since the children and the general public never used this restroom.
But the strangest events not once, but several times in a row. I was walking past a connector door that had been propped open with a doorstop, when it slammed shut right behind me! Scared stiff, I ran to the Children’s Room, then turned to meet my “intruder” face to face. But nobody was there! Cautiously, I walked back, checking all doors, the kitchen, and the restroom. Nobody!
A few days later, it all happened again, and once more I went through the same routine, checking and watching – but I saw nobody. Then I heard laughter.
We think the connector door may be triggered by a loose floorboard, after all. The old building was always a very noisy place to work. Now I just say to whatever the cause may be, “Stop playing tricks on me!”, and I smile.
Judge for yourself from this “gremlin report.” Believe it — or not!
Learn more about the specters of Beaufort County by reading other posts to this blog or by visiting our Research Room and perusing our vertical files. Please check the Library system’s homepage for current hours of operation and locations.
For more ghost stories of Beaufort County (SC):