So the Rundel library in downtown Rochester is haunted.
Deal with it.
In case you missed it, the Syfy Channel aired an hour-long episode of its popular Ghost Hunters television program Wednesday night devoted to an investigation of claims that the Rundel Memorial Building on South Avenue is populated by otherworldly beings.
The TV ghost hunters were summoned by the Rochester Public Library itself after years of reports from staff members of things going bump in the night – shadowy figures appearing in the stacks after hours, odd sounds in supposedly unoccupied rooms, doors opening and closing for no apparent reason. A surveillance camera caught a heavy wooden door opening unaided by human hands in the dark of one night.
“It’s not a hoax. None of this was made up. We been hearing these stories for years,” said Christine Ridarsky, the Rochester city historian who works in the Rundel building and had a star turn as library spokeswoman in the Ghost Hunters episode. “As the historian, people would sometimes come to me and say ‘Do you know anything about people who died in this building, because we keep seeing things.’”
So with tounges only partly in cheeks, library officials contacted the spectral watchdogs and invited them to poke around. The crew, including six on-air investigators, spent two nights at the 76-year-old building on South Clinton Avenue this August.
The ensuing episode –”Due Date with Death,” they called it — debuted Wednesday evening and proved longer on drama than anything else. There was a lot of creeping around dark rooms with low-light cameras and startled hunters whispering to each other things like “Whoa, did you hear that?”
Hokum? Some would think so. But not everybody, judging by the popularity of the show.
As the episode progressed, there was considerable discussion of two people whose deaths were connected to the library. One was a former long-time librarian, Frank, who died shortly after suffering a heart attack in the building. The other was a woman named Laura Young, whose body was found one morning in 1902 in the mill race atop which the library was later built. Her death may have been an accident, a suicide — or a murder. (The fine Rochester Subway blog offers an account of that case.)
The theory was that Frank returns to Rundel in spirit form at night to walk the stacks and reshelve books. As for Mrs. Young, she could be “reaching out to us to help solve her case after all these years,” as Ridarsky put it.
The hunters spent a fair amount of time in the library calling out for Frank and Mrs. Young. Alas, neither responded.
As they went, the crew seemed to debunk the unaided door-opening by demonstrating that wind coming through an open window can blow the door open. And they suggested that ghostly shadows in the first floor may be caused by patrons of the ever-busy Dinosaur Bar-B-Que just across the street.
But the intrepid hunters did capture on video what they claimed was a shadowy torso peeking around a corner in the basement stacks, and got footage of a door closing without a human seeming to touch it. They also made several audio recordings of mysterious noises, including a voice seeming to utter a phrase.
“I couldn’t make it out,” said Ridarsky, who reviewed the team’s findings on camera at the end of the episode. “But it clearly was a voice. Did it come from a ghost or someone outside at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que yelling loudly. Who knows?”
Ridarsky, who’s a former Democrat and Chronicle reporter, said she’s a skeptic about these things. But still … she found the door closing by itself kind of hard to explain, and also noted that when the library surveillance camera caught that other door opening, the windows in question were closed.
In their wrap-up, the hunters said there did appear to be unexplained apparitions in Rundel but they didn’t appear to be malicious. So, the suggestion was, just keep your eyes open and enjoy the supernatural ride.
That’s just what the folks at Rundel intend to do. The Syfy crew left open the possibility that they’ll return for more sleuthing but, as Ridarsky noted, there are home-grown ghost hunters as well.
“We’re thinking we might invite some local folks in and do some more investigating,” she said. (Local paranormal probers are invited to contact library system assistant director Sally Snow if they’re interested.)
Rundel also will be getting a tape of the episode and may do a public viewing of “Due Date with Death” in the library itself. “And who knows? Maybe at some point we’ll have lock-ins,” Ridarsky said.
Perhaps there’s some money in it for the public library — say, a fee for anyone who wants to spend a night looking for spooks in the stacks – but even if not, Ridarsky said the Ghost Hunters episode is a good thing for Rundel.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” she said. “I love that the whole community is buzzing about our library.”