In celebration of the spooky season, we asked staff at the Library to share some eerie, mysterious and spine-chilling tales from their years, and sometimes decades, walking its historic halls.

From after-dark apparitions, to haunted bats and unexplainable movements, their stories will have you looking over your shoulder the next time you visit Australia’s oldest public library.

Beware: only read ahead if you like your blood to run cold… or if you’d like a giggle. How much you believe is up to you…

‘I recall being told by several ex-staff who worked in the stacks of the Arts Library, today the new refurbished Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, that two ghosts occupied the area. A cold spot near the old piano was one area. Another, elsewhere in the stacks.

Strange things happened…. music tapes playing when no one around, books falling, lights going out at odd times etc. Security were very wary working night shifts in the area. ‘

Terri Rolfe, Library Officer

One night, a Library guard told me he wasn’t patrolling the Ian Potter Queen’s Hall as he had felt a presence there of late. He refused. So I thought (and probably not rightly so) that I would do the patrol for him if he sat in the control room.

So it’s about 2am. I do the regular route through the Library and get to Ian Potter Queen’s Hall. Not afraid as I thought the whole thing was ridiculous, I’m walking around and then I see ‘Her’. A transparent figure standing in the piano room on the mezzanine floor of the Queens Hall. Hair flowing with a long gown, holding the hand of a young boy. There was no breeze in the building as it was a still night, but her hair and garments were flowing.

I felt hot all over and fell to my knees as she continued to stare at me. I didn’t feel anything but sadness from this figure. It is hard to explain. She walked off into the wall and disappeared. I will never forget her and the sadness in her face. I was to later find out that there were ghost sightings near that piano room, but I hadn’t had the preconceived notion before entering the room and the recollections were of a female form. To this day I have not been able to find out who she was.

Hellena Lozanovski, Senior Library Technician

‘When I started at SLV in 1999 I worked in the Arts Library, now known as the Ian Potter Queen’s Hall.

My first night shift, I was told not to turn off all the lights before closing because some security guards were afraid of the ghost there.

I never noticed anything supernatural myself.

Anonymous

‘A co-worker observed the chairs in the Herald and Weekly Times Newspaper Reading Room would sometimes ‘flip’ by themselves.

The unimaginative insisted it was simply because patrons had lent to far back and the spring loaded backs had jammed, then released some hours later.

But he recalled that the Melbourne Museum preparators used to strip whale carcasses in the space (when it was a courtyard open to the sky), and he felt sure the whale ghosts were flexing on us.’

Stephen Morrissey, Senior Processing Technician

‘There was the rubber bat which hung for many years at a particular spot in the book stacks (saw it with my own eyes).

This apparently was in memory of an actual bat which somehow got into the dome and never found its way out, and was found years later in a mummified condition. It set off the security alarms each time it moved. It took ages to work out it was a bat.’

Gerard Hayes, Library Acquisition and Description

‘Many years ago, before any of the redevelopments, there was a kind of annexe to the stack galleries around the domed reading room, which are now the Dome Galleries.  This annexe had original 19th century metal walkways and stairs, and was used to store bound serials: very steampunk.  When you worked a night shift in those days, it often involved going up into the dimly lit stacks, looking for hard-to-find items. 

One night I had to go into this annexe, and I suddenly felt I didn’t want to stay in there a moment longer than I had to. I later learned that this was where the Library kept its stock of the 19th century spiritualist magazine, The harbinger of light.

Anonymous

‘Sadly, in 43 years at the Library I’ve never met a ghost or poltergeist. I have found things misfiled, but I assume humans not paying attention was the cause.

I may have caused people to think there had been a ghost when a volume I was updating fell off the balcony and landed on the floor in the La Trobe Reading Room with a resounding bang. I had to go all the way down and retrieve it. I may add this was prior to opening times. A startled staff member spotted me on the balcony and asked if it was me – yes I replied I’ll be down to collect the volume. I got the impression I had scared them.’

Linda Notley, Senior Library Technician

This article has 2 comments

  1. Back in the 1990s,a librarian was in the Arts Reading Room (now the Ian Potter Queens Hall) one evening, and noticed a man in nineteenth century clothing looking down from the balcony.

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