There are things, people and places that will haunt me for the rest of my life. The warm subtle Hawaiian breeze that kissed my face on Magic Island the second time I married my husband. The sound of my stepson’s childhood laugh. The tears of my stepdaughter’s adolescence. My family’s limited, and conditional love.
And never knowing what my very first borrowed book from the Hall Memorial Library was. As a book lover with somewhat an obsessive mind, this weighs on me; not unbearably so… but noticeably so.
Hall Memorial Library sits on a small hill, next to the elementary school I attended- Union Sanborn- in Northfield, N.H. I used to be afraid of going inside the library. There were stories, rumors if you will, that the gargoyle embedded in the mortar near the main door was alive and haunted the library. This would have been easy to believe since the library was always dark. Even the haunted whispering I swear I heard in corners of the children’s room, moaned in unbearable pain.
Was this just the result of playground talk and scare tactics among grammar school kids, or the mere musings of one child who happened to be obsessed with Satan and his minions? Did the demons my brother once informed me were living in our basement, drift towards the library? I had to know.
I called the library and spoke to Julie, the children’s librarian. Perfect. Maybe she could calm my curious mind; and perhaps there’s record of a six-year-old Rebekah’s first borrowed book?
Not so much. Their records only go back six years and is now all digital, to boot. Oh, well. It was worth a shot. Was it P.D. Eastman’s, Are You My Mother? I have specific memories tied to holding that book in my first grade classroom, madly in love with its book cover. I digress.
I learned the library is indeed haunted- but not by the gargoyle still wedged in the red brick of the building. That’d be too easy. Some believe the Hall Memorial Library is haunted by Mary Osgood; one of Hall Memorial’s librarians between the years of 1934-1971.
Mary was born in Franklin, N.H. and lived her entire life in Northfield. She often crossed the street to avoid human contact, and had been found numerous times sleeping at the Arch in Tilton, for days on end, when the Spring and Fall season got the best of her.
Until she brought her trash out for the last time. According to her obituary (buried deep within the files of the library’s history room) Mary fell into the Winnipesaukee River that runs behind the library, while throwing a small, brown paper bag of garbage into it.
I gotta ask: why, Mary? Why dump your trash in the river? Didn’t you have a wastebasket? Were you hiding something? Regardless, Mary, aged 73 at the time, fell in and drowned; powerless against the Winnipesaukee’s strong currents.
Her body was seen three-quarters of a mile, bobbing down the town river and subsequently scooped up by a local police officer in his canoe. Suffering a small scratch over her eye, bruises from going under the bridge and unfortunate sudden death, she was gone forever in June of 1983.
Why does any of this matter? Aren’t we talking about books?
It matters because some believe Mary haunts the bookshelves of the Hall Memorial Library, to this day. So much in fact, the New Hampshire Paranormal Society made an appearance to investigate. They spent the night and concluded the library was not haunted. Just as the library’s director, Jenna Davis, suspected.
However, some members of Hall Memorial Library’s staff feels it is haunted. “How else does one explain books leaping off the shelves and toilets flushing when the staff bathroom is vacant?” asks Brittany, the library’s head of Young Adult Services.
Good question. How do you explain books not simply falling, but unnaturally leaping off the shelves? Perhaps the New Hampshire Paranormal Society could schedule another sleepover and discover more conclusive findings.
Mary can be heard and felt during some of the library’s community events: the summer reading programs, ongoing book groups, chess matches and their hosted book readings twice a year. Hall Memorial, home to my romance with books, graciously extended the invitation to yours truly once my memoir: Train Gone, Escaping Armageddon, is released.
To be in the Hall Memorial Library- where my love of books was born, and grew into an untamable beast- privileged enough to read excerpts from my own published book… well that’s just unfathomably fitting.
I hope Mary Osgood stops by. Black coat, black pumps and all.