Is Willard Library Haunted?

Willard Library

A ‘lady in grey’ supposedly haunts the halls of Evansville, Indiana’s Willard Library

Paranormal Activity at
Willard Library

  • The Grey Lady is said to haunt the building and occasionally appear to staff and visitors
  • The Grey Lady is also known to turn water faucets on and off
  • She is known to cause cold spots and sudden smells of perfume
  • Disembodied voices have been heard in the library
  • Books and furniture reportedly move around the building without explanation
  • The Grey Lady is sometimes said to reach out and touch visitors
  • Police responding to burglar alarms have reportedly seen the Grey Lady watching them from second floor windows

A History of Education at
Willard Library

Looking equal parts like an imposing mansion and a studious school building, the Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana, is a true crown jewel of the community.

Surrounded by a lush green park that bears its name, the red brick exterior and detailed American Gothic architecture of the Willard Library invites all in the community to come and educate themselves under its towered roof.

The interior, with its ornately-carved hardwood structure, brass gas-replica chandeliers, and expansive stacks, allows any interested reader to feel like an old-world scholar while studying in the Willard’s walls.

But, some say Willard Library keeps more than just books in its historic halls. Local legend has it the library is haunted by one easily noticeable entity.

Timeline of Willard Library's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Willard Library through the years


The vision of a man named Willard Carpenter, the Willard Library started out as a concept for a full college in Evansville. Carpenter, inspired by a visit to the Emma Willard School in New York, hoped to found an educational institution with the name ‘Willard. This was not to honor himself, but to continue the work of the Emma Willard School.

Alas, he couldn’t complete the project with his own money, and failed to drum up community support. He did have money for one thing though: a library. Work began on this scaled down vision in 1876.


Work started slowly on Willard Library, and soon stopped completely. In the fall of 1877, economic downturns spooked trustees, and construction came to a near halt. Over the course of five years, very little work was completed on the building.

In 1882, with work still going on the base foundation, locals feared the project had been abandoned. But Carpenter, now almost 80, soon pressured his board of trustees to quicken the pace. He even took to doing some of the construction work himself.


Despite his desire to see his library opened in his lifetime, Willard Carpenter did not live to see its completion. He died following a stroke on November 3, 1883. After his death, Carpenter left almost his entire estate to the support of the library and its trustees.

While this surely angered his widow and children, it gave the project the boost it needed to reach the finish line. After almost a decade of planning and construction, Willard Library finally opened for the first time on March 28, 1885.


Since its opening, Willard Library has remained the local library for Evansville, Indiana and is a sought after community resource to this day. In recognition of its great cultural and historic value, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

While restorations and additions have been done as-needed, much of the building looks how it did not long after the doors opened for the first time. And along with remaining a beloved local library, Willard Library is also said to be one of Evansville’s most haunted spots!

The Grey Lady of Willard Library

The ghostly tales of Willard Library begin on a quiet night in 1937. On that night, a janitor on the graveyard shift went to the basement to stoke the coals in the furnace. But, when he hit the basement, he spotted something that made him drop his flashlight: A woman, clad all in gray, staring right back at him.

While they stared each other down, the woman dissolved into the darkness, disappearing completely.

The janitor quit shortly after, or so the story goes. The tale of this ghostly encounter remains popular to this day, with many people visiting the library both to read books and get a glimpse of the now famed Grey Lady.

The Grey Lady’s Mysterious Mischief

Over time, the Grey Lady has become the scapegoat spirit for numerous experiences and encounters throughout the library. Aside from the few who have seen her spectral image, many visitors have attributed odd cold spots and sudden smells of perfume to her presence.

People have also reported that the Grey Lady will move books around tables and shelves. Furniture has also been moved, with chairs in certain rooms being pulled out from their tables by unseen forces. Other small objects have reportedly been tossed across rooms.

Listen for The Grey Lady’s Voice

The Grey Lady is also said to turn water faucets on and off at random times, and sometimes reach out and touch library patrons. Some people have also claimed to hear the Grey Lady’s voice echoing through the library in certain areas. Most often, she is heard calling, ‘hello’ to visitors.

In the past, police officers responding to burglar alarms have also spotted her apparition in second floor windows. But they would go in and investigate only to find no one in the building.

Who is The Grey Lady?

No one is truly certain of the Grey Lady’s identity, but there is one strong theory. When old Willard Carpenter left his daughter, Louise, out of his will in favor of the library, she sued in hopes of getting it overturned.

But, Louise failed, and the library kept its founder’s fortune. Now, some say the Grey Lady of Willard Library is the ghost of Louise Carpenter herself. Perhaps, she’s trying to get her money’s worth out of the library, even in the afterlife.

Willard Library & The Ghost Cam

Willard Library’s Grey Lady has a reputation that reaches further than the library itself in some circles. Ghost hunters and researchers often visit the Willard Library hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous phantom. The building was even once featured on an episode of Syfy’s Ghost Hunters.

But, perhaps the best known aspect of the building’s hauntings comes from a series of cameras installed by the library staff. The cameras all broadcast a live feed of the library’s interior spaces, labeled as a ‘Ghost Cam’ to watch 24/7 for signs and manifestations of the Grey Lady.

The cameras have been operational since 1999, and though the Grey Lady hasn’t had a confirmed sighting since 2010, they continue to keep a watchful eye out for her.

So even if you’re far from Evansville, Indiana, or if you’re too frightened to take a ghost tour in person, you can still hunt for the ghosts of the Willard Library from your own home. Just keep your eyes peeled, lest the Grey Lady disappear too fast for you to spot her.