Monday, May 23, 2011

Trans-Allegheny Bookstore, Parkersburg

Today, the Trans-Allegheny Bookstore is home to the largest used bookstore in West Virginia.  However, it started off as a library.  Built in 1905 with a $34,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie, the structure served as the Carnegie Library until 1976.

Plans to turn the structure into a restaurant fell through, and the building was auctioned off in 1978.  Dr. Mel Okeon purchased the building, and successfully applied for, and received National Register status for the building.

Over its 100+ years, the building has also picked up a reputation for being haunted.  Books have been observed flying off shelves, disembodied footsteps are often heard, shadows lurk around corners, and the lighting is only describable as erratic.  The lights on the second floor are especially known for their erratic flickering, and overhead lamps throughout the mezzanine are known to sway and blink.

However, the most exciting ghost legends come from the actual apparitions that are seen, no less than five according to several sources.  The first of these apparitions is that of a little girl wearing a white bonnet.  The little girl, who appears to be about eight years old, is often seen either sitting on the third step of the wooden staircase between the first and second floors, or playing on the same staircase.  More than one witness has embarrassingly tripped over what they describe as a small child sitting on the stair.

Another ghost seems to be that of an older gentleman.  His dress, which consists of a derby hat and brown jacket, is described by witnesses as dapper.  He's seen around the second story of the building, psychics have come up with the name Henry for him.

A third ghost may or may not be the same person.  A middle aged man is often seen in the World History section, searching the shelves as if looking for a book.

Perhaps the most disturbing apparition is that of a local newspaper reporter by the name of Betty Samuels.  Ms. Samuels was murdered in her home in 1989 by Janice Diers.  Diers, who was dating Samuels' son, Hunter, became angry with her over interference with her relationship, and admitted to stabbing Samuels three times.  Samuels, who lived a few blocks away from the library, often spent much of her time there.  In November of 2012, I received a rather lengthy email from a friend of the family who gave a statement to police, insisting that Janice Diers had no motive in this case, and that she was not distraught over Betty's alleged interference in the relationship.  At this point, I will not publish the full details of that email, and instead, I've chosen to go ahead and cite the actual verdict of the case, which is linked above.  As much as I strive to maintain historical accuracy on this site, in this case, the focus is NOT a motive, or lack thereof, but rather the tragic loss of a much-loved citizen, and the reports of her apparition being seen in the library.

Lastly, the building has its own ghost cat, or perhaps three.  A black cat, and two tabbies have been known to slink around shelves, only to disappear when approached, or looked at full on.

UPDATE 2010:  It looks like Trans-Allegheny Bookstore will be closing.  The fate of the building is uncertain.  However, prior to these developments, the location could be rented out for private ghost hunts for a fee of $250.

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