One hit a customer square in the back. Others from the museum gift shop’s rear bookshelves land up to 7 feet away — sometimes upright, as if someone set them there in a flash.
An invisible flash, that would be, because no one’s there to move them.
Jerry Franklin, the museum’s maintenance supervisor, said he was standing near the gift shop entrance one day when he saw a book shoot across an aisle and smack a woman in the back, right between the shoulder blades.
She spun around, saw no one there, then looked around the store until she made eye contact with Franklin. He shrugged.
This is the sort of eerie experience a team of ghost hunters will check out next weekend.
To workers who run the gift shop, this is common: “This happens all the time,” said Susan Ingram, the 1002 Victory Drive museum’s visitor service manager.
On average, a book shoots off the shelf every two weeks or so, sometimes more often, she said: “It kind of goes in cycles.”
An Alabama Paranormal Research Team led by Faith Serafin of Salem will conduct a seven-hour investigation in the museum after it closes. Serafin did not want to say exactly when, fearing pranksters might play ghosts.
“We bring in lots of different kinds of equipment, from video to audio, electromagnetic field detectors, and we have an abundance of software that will help us amplify sound or an image,” she said.
“We research all the reports very thoroughly. We kind of figure out whether or not there is a correlation between a story and evidence that we pick up, to determine whether or not we can actually say that this location has some type of abnormal or paranormal activity.”
Her group formed about two years ago, she said.
The book Franklin saw hit a woman in the back was a 10-by-10-inch hardback titled “The Confederate Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization 1861-1865.” Workers afterward discovered the book’s spine was broken and torn. Lane Palmer, a school teacher and museum volunteer, bought it.
Books aren’t the only gift-shop goods moving on their own: On the front counter, key rings, pins and whistles hang upon a square, black spindle. Workers say sometimes it spins without anyone touching it, and the motion is not spurred by a fan or air-conditioner.
Bruce Smith, the Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum’s executive director, would not go so far as to say the place is haunted:
“I am prepared to say that we have these continued unexplainable dumping of books on the floor. … We don’t know what the deal is. We’ve looked, and we can’t figure it out. We think we’ve got these things anchored pretty good, and the next thing we know, crash! And there’s nobody in the store.”