Today Paranormal Muskegon visited the Hackley Public Library to find out more about its history as well as to see what we could find out about some of the stories that have circulated for years that the library is haunted by the ghost of its founder, philanthropist and lumbar baron, Charles Hackley. We spoke with Program and Marketing Coordinator, Mallory Metzger, who was kind enough to talk with us about its history and share some of the accounts of possible paranormal activity that a few have reported. Mr. Hackley was one of Muskegon's most prominent lumber barons of the day. As co-owner of a large lumber company started in Muskegon in the 1850's, he was also instrumental in the foundation of many of Muskegon’s other buildings and establishments; including a hospital, school administration building, and a city park and continues to be an iconic figure here.
The library, located Muskegon, Michigan was a gift to the city of Muskegon. It is owned by Muskegon Public Schools and is one of Muskegon's most recognizable and historic buildings in the city. Built 130 years ago, this impressive stone structure with its ornate woodworking and stained glass windows has been a cornerstone of knowledge and community since its opening in 1890. The library is listed on the Michigan register of Historic buildings and is supported by Friends of the Hackley Public Library as well as from funding from millage. Beginning in 2014 the library underwent a 1.2 million dollar interior renovation and restoration, which included building ramps for access, air conditioning system work, and energy efficiency improvements. The renovations focused on improving and restoring as well as preserving its historic features; in addition to making it more convenient for today’s library patrons. The lobby on the main floor is spacious and inviting, with the historic terra cotta fireplace and the original wood panels from the original circulation desk being used to keep its historic look prominent features. The magnificent stained glass windows, which are some of the most iconic and striking features of the interior; which Mallory told us were the likenesses of Mr. Hackley’s favorite authors, have been restored to their original brightness and now radiate the sunlight even more brightly than ever. Mallory related that they were built by Louis Millet, who was an industrial art school founder and interior designer, whose work was featured at the Paris World’s Fair in 1889. Another unique and iconic feature of the library is the glass floor in the second floor of the building. While some may feel a little disconcerted the first time they step onto the floor, it is made from six-inch glass and is perfectly safe and really quite interesting to walk on.
Their website states that they strive to promote knowledge, understanding and wisdom, combating ignorance, intolerance, and indifference as well as to promote the free exchange of ideas as well as to conserve our national and local culture heritage. Their mission is “to inform, inspire, and delight our diverse community by providing information, knowledge, literature, new technologies and traditional and innovative programs.” In this respect, they are doing an excellent job. Mallory related to us what the library has to offer patrons in addition to books. She said at one time the library had about 14,000 books but now has well over 140,000. In addition to books and other written material that are available, one can check out DVDs, CDs, including books on CD, as well as use the community computers. They also offer many learning programs and fun events and activities for the whole family, including musical concerts and other entertainment.
We asked Mallory what she had heard about the library being haunted. She related multiple instances of strange occurrences. Twice during classes, patrons had seen a book fly off the shelf, even though there was no one nearby. In another incident, a patron was standing and talking with a staff member when she saw a man in Victorian style clothing walk past, then disappeared. This of course surprised her and she asked the other person if she had seen this. Sometime at a later date, she had seen the painting of Mr. Hackley at another location, and recognized him as the same person she had seen at the library. In another incident a women saw the reflection of a man in similar clothing in one of the bathrooms; which since have been completely renovated. There also have been many incidents where people have heard voices and other sounds, with no obvious source. Mallory herself stated she has never seen or heard anything out of the ordinary in the three years she has worked there.
These incidents are quite intriguing from a paranormal point of view, but of course from an investigative aspect, have much to be desired. I asked Mallory if anyone has investigated using electronic instruments or has anyone with the ability to feel the energies of spirits come and investigated. She stated they have not, so it is difficult to pinpoint a source for these accounts. If these incidents are taken at face value; they are certainly intriguing and appear quite mysterious. Books flying off shelves and apparitions in Victorian clothing appearing and disappearing are definitely of the paranormal realm. The books flying off the shelves could have been a manifestation of either telekinesis or psychokinesis, which is the spontaneous movement of objects through the air without any physical intervention, instead being moved through paranormal means. Telekinesis and psychokinesis have been documented in many other cases. It is also possible that the books could have been fallen by themselves or accidentally pushed off the shelves unbeknownst to the people sitting at the table, although they state they flew across the room; which would only happen if someone threw it otherwise. Many old buildings have creaks and groans due to settling or old heating systems; and this could account for strange sounds being heard; hearing people talking when no one is around may just be due to sound carrying from the other floors or from areas that are closed off to the public, such as the stairwells that are known to be present within the building. So while these incidents may or may not have a mundane source; the others are more difficult to explain rationally. Seeing an apparition of a person walk by you dressed in the clothing of someone who lived 100 years ago who then disappears is obviously one that is inexplicable; as is the account of seeing the face of man dressed in similar clothing in a mirror, who again disappears into thin air. Both would be quite disconcerting if encountered. Apparitions can be either of a living person or a deceased one; with only a small number are visible, with most experiences being noises, unusual smells, extreme cold or heat or the displacement of objects; some of which have all been noted as having occurred; so it is possible there is some paranormal activity been encountered here, if we are to believe the people’s stories. Even so, if this is indeed Mr. Hackley who has made himself visible to patrons or staff on occasion; there is nothing to fear. In fact, from talking with Mallory, it does not appear that anyone has been frightened by these occurrences, just merely curious or a bit surprised at the time. There is no indication that if this is an apparition, he is malevolent in any manner and means no harm. On the contrary, it almost seems as if he just around on occasion to keep an eye on things. I find it a comforting thought that after all these years; he is still involved with making sure that people continue to enjoy what the library has to offer.
The library is located at 316 W Webster Ave, Muskegon MI 49440. Their phone number is 231-722-8000. Visit https://www.hackleylibrary.org/ for more information.