ghosts, Haunted Libraries

Spirits on Strike: The Hauntings of Carnegie at Homestead

From 1883 to 1929, Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish businessman and philanthropist, gifted 2509 public and university libraries to cities around the world.  In the US, the third oldest of these libraries that’s still in operation today is the Carnegie Library at Homestead in Pennsylvania.  Opening in 1898, the Carnegie of Homestead features a library, a music hall, and an athletic centre.  Many have already heard of Andrew Carnegie’s infamous generosity, but did you know that this generosity may have been fueled by guilt?  Guilt that may have resulted in Andrew Carnegie choosing to haunt this library as a ghost?  And it isn’t just claims of Andrew Carnegie haunting the Library at Homestead.  There have been reports of many ghosts in this building, ghosts who just may be the spirits of those Andrew Carnegie indirectly killed.

Carnegie Library of Homestead
Carnegie Library of Homestead

The History

Andrew Carnegie was a true businessman with many enterprises, one of which was a steel mill in Homestead, Pennsylvania.  Back in 1881, Andrew Carnegie hired Henry Clay Frick to run this steel mill.  The workers at the mill were members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steelworkers (AA), which fought for member rights on several occasions, once in 1882 and again in 1889. However, it was when workers went on strike in 1892 that things went horribly wrong.

While Carnegie supported the workers’ right to be in a union, Frick, on the other hand, thought that unions reduced the efficiency and productivity of the steel mill.  He was determined to break it down.  I won’t go into excruciating detail about the strike itself, but at one point, Frick placed barbed-wire fences around the steel mill to lock the workers out. The steel mill was consequently called “Fort Frick”, a name which is either terrifying or hilarious (I’ll let you decide which it is).  Despite Frick’s best efforts, the steelworkers took control of the mill shortly afterward.  Rather than conceding defeat, Frick hired non-union workers to replace these ones, but in order to get them working, he had to gain access to the mill. He recruited three hundred guards from the Pinkerton Detective Agency to win back the mill.  Aware of these plans, there were thousands of strikers, some of which were armed, waiting upon their arrival.  What followed is known as the Homestead Massacre, and while numbers differ between sources, somewhere between 12 and 16 strikers and guards died.  After the battle, Frick managed to convince the Pennsylvania governor to send militia men to take over the mill.  It was fully operational with non-union workers less than a few weeks later.

Homestead Strike Image
The Homestead Strike: workers fighting Pinkerton guards

Carnegie was mortified about what happened at Homestead. In 1912 he said, “No grief in my life approaches that of Homestead” (Rees, 1997, p. 529).  Many say that the reason why he donated so much to charity was because of this battle.  If this is the case, and Carnegie at Homestead was built out of guilt or remorse, this might explain not only why Carnegie would be haunting it, but why the deceased steelworkers and Pinkerton guards would be as well…

The Hauntings

The accounts of the hauntings at Carnegie of Homestead are inconsistent at best.  Not only is the library apparently haunted, but the music hall and the men’s locker room have had multiple sightings. Employees and guests have experienced various hauntings – from shadows to transparent figures to the sounds of doors slamming and people talking or laughing.

I had the pleasure of watching a Ghost Hunters episode where they investigated the hauntings.  While I believe that their findings are weak at best, there’s a creepy woman’s laugh that they heard in the men’s locker room. It’s a girlish giggle that sounds kind of like the sound any of us would make if we found ourselves accidentally going into the wrong locker room.  I recommend watching the episode if only for that spine-chilling segment.

The Carnegie Library of Homestead was featured in another TV show on Biography called “My Ghost Story”.  This show features firsthand accounts of ghost encounters. The producers interviewed an employee named Lynne Cochrane, who had recruited TJ Porfeli, a local paranormal investigator, to look into the alleged hauntings.  The video and audio footage he and his associate recorded is a lot more promising than that of Ghost Hunters.  At one point the two investigators sat at a table in the library, and one of them said he was going to put the book he was reading back, and there’s a clear voice on the recording that says “Don’t put the book back.” The ghost probably knew that they would put it back in the wrong place. Maybe it’s the spirit of an annoyed librarian.  The investigators later set up video cameras, and when no one was around, you can see a book on the shelf clearly move.  It’s chilling.  Afterwards, TJ checked out the shelves and confirmed they had solid backs, so there was no mischievous librarian hiding in the other aisle poking books to put on a good show.

In the music hall, TJ recorded a woman saying “relax” and later heard a woman scream. The investigators determined that the occurrences were caused by “residual spirits” – ghosts of people who came to the music hall a lot during their life and wanted to return to somewhere they were happy.  I’m not sure how I feel about this theory.  The scream in the audio recording didn’t sound like the type you’d hear a teenager make when they see Justin Bieber.  It sounded a little more sinister.

Image of librarians in reading room in 1900
Librarians in the reading room circa 1900

The wide variety of types of hauntings is one of the reasons why it could be the steelworkers haunting the building.  But were women fighting in the Homestead Battle? If so, did any of them die? As I said earlier, many report hearing a woman talking, and I myself heard the woman giggle, and another (or the same?) woman say “relax”.  There are certain things that just don’t add up.  I’d be curious to see someone compare the audio recordings found from Ghost Hunters and the investigators from My Ghost Story.  The voices on Ghost Hunters were a lot less distinct than those on the other show.  Does this mean that the producers of a relatively popular TV show have poorer equipment or techniques than local hobbyists?  Hmmm…

Andrew Carnegie’s Ghost

Andrew Carnegie book pileThere’s little evidence that it is Andrew Carnegie haunting the library.  In the Ghost Hunters episode, a cataloguer named Victoria Ramey had an interesting anecdote to share.  One day, she’d been in the adult reading room and saw an Andrew Carnegie impersonator giving a tour.  She’d said “Wouldn’t it be funny if the real Andrew Carnegie showed up?” Immediately after she said this a book flew off the shelf.  The Ghost Hunters crew looked into the stability of the bookshelves in this area, and it doesn’t seem likely that a book that was precariously placed would have fallen like that, even if someone had slammed a door.  Is this enough proof that—if there is a spirit—it’s Andrew Carnegie? Or maybe just the sound of his name sent one of the steelworkers’ ghosts into a frenzy?  Either way, I researched Victoria Ramsey, and not only has she not shared her story online, but I was unable to find evidence of her existence.  Victoria, if you’re reading this now, please share your experience(s) in the comments!

Another death in the building

There’s one other person who could be responsible for at least one of the hauntings. In 1899, Robert Peebles was found dead under “mysterious circumstances” in the swimming pool.  Was he murdered?  Did he drown?  Some have said that they’ve heard splashing and sounds of people crying for help from the swimming area. I really hope they checked it out instead of assuming it was a ghost.  Otherwise they might end up having yet another spirit on their hands…

Conclusions

There are many websites that provide vague mention of hauntings.  Some sources refer to “the man in the balcony”, stating that other sources talk about them, but I was unable to find the original article describing him.  There are a lot of secondhand stories without references or any indication as to where the information came from.  Did you watch it on a local news TV show? Did you hear about it from a friend of a friend? Or is that friend actually you?  If so, why are you spending so much time in the men’s locker room? I suppose this uncertainty is the nature of ghost stories, but I want some evidence!

What do you think?  Did you watch the Ghost Hunters episode?  Were you utterly unimpressed with their idea to use the laser grid and then they “forgot” to make sure it was visible on their camera? (I was very unimpressed.)  Were you engaged by the My Ghost Story episode?  Do you think it’s Andrew Carnegie or the steelworkers or both haunting this century-old building? Or do you think it could be someone–or something–else entirely?

Holding pile of books on this topic


References

 

Carnegie library a paranormal playground? (2012, January 19). Retrieved from http://lisnews.org/carnegie_library_paranormal_playground

Ghost of Carnegie. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.syfy.com/ghosthunters/episodes/season/7/episode/15/ghost-of-carnegie

Ieraci, R. (2011, November 4). Homestead Carnegie Library. Retrieved from http://hauntsandhistory.blogspot.com/2011/11/homestead-carnegie-library.html

Meet the ghost of Andrew Carnegie at the haunted library & music Hall. (2016, April 4). Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ghosts-haunted-andrew-carnegie-free-library-music-hall-sherri-granato/

Neighborhood notes: Homestead – “Spirits in the Carnegie Library of Homestead.” (2015, March 6). Retrieved from http://popularpittsburgh.com/neighborhood-notes-homestead-spirits-carnegie-library-homestead/

Rees, J. (1997). Homestead in context: Andrew Carnegie and the decline of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers. Pennsylvania History, 25, 509-533. Retrieved from https://journals.psu.edu/phj/article/viewFile/25439/25208

The Carnegie Library. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.munhallpa.us/munhall-pa-community/carnegie-library 

The Carnegie of Homestead. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://carnegieofhomestead.com/

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