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The Old Birmingham Public Library Hauntings

Birmingham Library

The library was built in 1927 and was used up until 1984; this was when the new library was built across the street. The building is now know as the Linn-Henley Research Library and is used for archives and government documents.

Back in the 1950s, Fant Thornley was the director of the library. He was known as a tireless worker, a lover of rare books and thought to have been most comfortable when he was in his beloved library. Although Fant died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970, there are some people who believe his spirit still roams the halls of the old library.

There are well-publicized stories of Fant Thornley’s ghost, which began in the late 1970s. Marvin Whiting, the retired director of archives, was working late one night on the third floor, which is where the archives were once stored and known as an area named “The Stacks”. He was working late one night and was startled to hear the elevator coming up from the first floor; due to the fact that he was the only person in the building that evening, other then the security guard, who did not make it a habit to visit the third floor.

The elevator stopped and the doors opened; within a few seconds a door to his office swung open, but nobody was there. Before he could react the office door closed and the elevator doors reopened, closed and went back to the ground floor. Although he did not see a ghost, Marvin did smell cigarette smoke at the same time this activity occurred. Neither Marvin, nor the guard were smokers; however, Fant Thornley was known to smoke cigarettes in the library. Marvin raced downstairs to see if the guard was playing tricks on him. The guard was quite startled as well because there had been no late night visitors and they were the only ones in the building.

 Not much happened after this, until 1989 when an electrician was working on the third floor by “The Stacks”. He felt as though he was not alone and turned around to see an apparition of a man. The electrician ran downstairs and described to Marvin and a few others what he had just seen. After showing the electrician a few photos, he identified Fant Thornley as the man he had just seen.

We had the opportunity to speak with Jim Baggett, with the Birmingham Public Library. He was kind enough to relay the information of the occurrences throughout the years. He did let us know that there have been no reports of paranormal activity in well over ten years and the few staff members who reported such experiences have all retired.

The third floor, where the haunted occurrences were reported, is now used for public events. There is also an enclosed pedestrian bridge that connects the third floor of the old library to the third floor of the new library across the street.