Locked doors opening on their own. Feelings of being watched. Strangers that no one else saw. A row of toilets flushing in an otherwise empty bathroom.
Last year, Megan Bell, an adult reference librarian at the Allen County Public Library's Main Branch, asked her coworkers if they had had any spooky experiences at the library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Bell worried no one would have anything to share.
That was not the case.
In fact, she received enough responses that she created the Haunted Library Tour. The fun Halloween event invites adults to dive into the history of the library, learn about the hauntings, and decide if the happenings were the results of restless spirits.
Last year’s tour went so well, Bell organized another this year. Fort Wayne must love a good spooky story because all three tour times this year had a waiting list!
Shannon Auker, the library's security supervisor, says she once passed a construction worker on these stairs in the library. She greeted him, but he kept his head down and back stiff, hurrying past her. She saw him again and said, "I'm going to make him say hi to me," but he ignored her a second time. She told the foreman how rude he was and described his hardhat and clothing. "The foreman said we have no one in the building dressed like that."
This year’s tour included investigators with the Northeast Indiana Paranormal Investigation Team, who attended the tours, took readings with an electromagnetic field reader—or "EMF reader"—and explained the importance of these sorts of investigations.
The group’s goal isn’t just to debunk stories of supposed hauntings or establish an event’s validity. For example, what else could cause all the toilets in the men’s restroom downstairs to flush one after another while a security guard was washing his hands? Is it the plumbing?
“[How do these occurrences] affect people who live and work in the area?” said Mel Cormican, founder of the investigation team. “If people feel fear, what can we do to diminish fear?”
Ghosts of the old library
When Bell reviewed the stories from her colleagues, at least three centered around the library’s northeast corner. A coworker in The Genealogy Center suggested Bell look up the Brackenridge House, which once stood on the same ground as the northeast corner of the current library.
The house saw its share of tragedy:
- In 1891, patriarch Judge Joseph Brackenridge died in the house of natural causes.
- In 1893, son Robert Brackenridge went into the property’s barn to shoot rats. His brother found him the next morning with a gunshot wound to his right temple.
- In 1895, Robert’s grandmother collapsed on the stairs and died.
In 1898, matriarch Eliza Brackenridge sold the house to the city, who would later use the space for the new Fort Wayne Public Library, which had been previously housed in City Hall. Crews tore down the house in the mid-1960s and constructed the oldest part of the existing library building in the late-1960s—right over where the Brackenridge House had stood.
Five years ago, Dori Grahan, a former children's librarian at the Allen County Public Library, stayed after hours with some coworkers to finish a project. She remembers standing at a printer in Readers’ Services—she hadn’t bothered to flip the light on—and hearing the door to stairway open. She called, “Hey!”
“No one answered,” Grahan said. “I froze and tried not to breathe.”
She called again, “Hello?” and there was no answer, but she did hear footsteps, and the door opened again.
“That door requires an employee badge,” she said, “and it beeps when you swipe the badge.”
There hadn’t been any beeps.
Haunted Fort Wayne
The Allen County Public Library is by no means the only space in Fort Wayne believed to be haunted. Haunted Rooms America has a list of the Top 12 Most Haunted Places in Fort Wayne, listing the Wells Street Bridge (on north Wells Street) as No. 1. Its supposed ghost is a dog.
“Over the years, many people who have ridden their bikes across the bridge at night during the winter are believed to see and hear him barking at them,” according to the website.
Creepy Ghost Stories lists a variety of haunts in the city, including another library—at the University of Saint Francis—and a number of high schools. One of its creepiest stories includes Jehl Park (1801 Kendowa Drive), where it’s said that you might get a little extra help on the swings.
“Apparently if you go into Jehl Park after dark and swing on the swing, you will be pushed to the point where you will fall off,” according to the website.
Looking for more Fort Wayne ghost stories? Check out our blog post about the friendly ghost at the Embassy Theatre!