Anyone who has ever read Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol” or watched any of the dozens of movie spinoffs knows that three ghosts were responsible for getting the miser Ebenezer Scrooge to see the error of his ways and embrace the true meaning of Christmas.
So, it’s not hard to imagine that ghosts might be trying to make their presence known to people working in a downtown Abilene building.
Dark shadows, cold spots and books flying off shelves are just a few of the unusual events which have occurred in the Case building located at 212 N. Broadway in downtown Abilene.
And during the 2009 Christmas season, the sound of unexplained “jingle bells” was heard.
Currently, three businesses are located in the building — Rivendell Book Store, Tomper’s Perk and Picture This Plus. Since they opened in March 2009, those working in the building have witnessed many unexplainable occurrences.
Once a topic of scorn, interest and belief in the paranormal — experiences that lie outside the range of normal or cannot be scientific explained — has increased significantly.
A 2005 Gallup poll indicated that about three out of four Americans have at least one paranormal belief, whether it be a belief in extrasensory perception, hauntings, or that ghosts of dead people can come back in certain situations and others.
As for the tenants in Abilene’s Case building having a haunted workplace was the farthest thing from their minds.
Mary Alice Baer, owner of Tomper’s Perk and Rivendell Book Store, said nothing unusual happened while the building was being remodeled in early 2009 before opening, but that quickly changed.
“After we opened, things started coming off the shelves. We’ve seen shadows and we heard what sounds like jingle bells last year (2009) at Christmas time,” Baer said.
One of the occurrences reported most often has been books falling off shelves as if they had been pushed.
“It’s almost like it wants us to look at it,” Baer said, explaining the book titles often seem to have a message.
One of the books was appropriately titled “Living with Ghosts.” It since has sold.
Rivendell Book Store isn’t the only place where books have inexplicably fallen off shelves when no one is present.
That lead the writers of this story to wonder if maybe staff at the Abilene Public Library had ever heard or experienced unusual events. Turns out they had, but more about that later.
Tea party causes activity
Several months ago, a tea party was held at the bookstore in the Case building. After closing, Baer was ironing linens in the basement when she saw a dark figure come through then go upstairs to the main level.
“It almost looked like a woman with a dress trailing behind her going up the steps,” Baer said.
Each month, the store plays host to a tarot card reader who believes the spirits in the building are those of a man and a woman from the Victorian era.
“She (tarot card reader) felt the woman’s name was Claire, but she didn’t get anything on what the man’s name might be,” Baer said. “But he’s wearing a top hat and she’s wearing a long feathery dress.”
Baer said the tarot card reader indicated the spirits may have been attached to clothing that was in The Fashion Museum, which occupied the building previously.
No one from the former Fashion Museum could be reached for their input. But before the Fashion Museum, the building was home to Hamburg’s -- a woman’s clothing store.
Hamburg’s owner Abilene resident Richard Walters said his family never experienced anything out of the ordinary during the decades they had the store, but was intrigued by the reports of activity.
Tomper’s Perk employee Deena Hazlett has had the most experiences. Most likely because she is the first employee in each day.
For instance, she has heard the sound of footsteps above the coffee shop in the mezzanine of the building.
“Right before Christmas last year they were ringing bells and I’ve heard voices. But they were never loud enough that I could hear what they were saying,” Hazlett said with a laugh. “And I’m not crazy.”
During one October morning, the noises were uncommonly loud and frequent, interrupting Hazlett’s morning prep work.
“I kept having to stop what I was doing and go look,” Hazlett said. “So I stomped my feet and told them ‘Enough! I’m busy. I don’t have time to do this today.’
“Then I didn’t hear anything for a long time,” she continued. “I thought I hurt their feelings.”
One experience which stands out in both women’s minds happened about this time last year.
“We were decorating for Christmas and a book fell,” Baer recalled. “I picked it up and we both felt a breeze go by.
“The hair on my arms was standing up,” she added.
Although Hazlett and Baer have had the most experiences, they aren’t the only ones to witness unusual events. Case Building co-owners Shari Strauss and Marilyn Thurlow also have noticed “a few odd things,” Strauss said. But none of the activity was threatening.
“They seem to be gentle in nature,” Strauss said. “There’s never been anything malicious.”
As for those working in the Case building, most said they never believed in ghosts -- until now.
“At first it made me uneasy then I sort of got used to it,” Hazlett said. “Now I don’t usually think about it.”
In recent weeks, however, Hazlett said that paranormal activity in the Case building seems to have quieted down considerably.
“I haven’t noticed a thing,” she said last week.
Since books seem to be a big attraction for the Case building spirits one wonders if the library also has paranormal activity.
Interestingly enough, while working on this story, one of the writers told a family member what was happening at Rivendell Book Store with books falling off shelves with no one nearby.
A few days later this person was doing research on an upper floor in the Abilene Public Library when a book fell off a shelf where no one had been for hours.
As it turns out, interesting activity has also been reported over the years at the library.
Brenda Finn-Bowers, who worked at the library before the renovation, reported that she had a couple unusual experiences while there.
One occurred as she was closing the library following the end of an art show honoring the work of Abilene artist Arch Davis. The show was held in the rotunda area of the original Carnegie library.
“I was checking to make sure everything was locked up because all these paintings were on loan,” Finn-Bowers explained.
“I was turning off the lights when I saw a reflection of a man in white pants and workboots in the double glass doors at the top of the stairs,” she said. “I could just see white painters’ pants from the waist down.
Surprised, she turned the lights back on for a closer look and found no one was there.
“It was just so odd,” she recalled.
During her time at the library, Finn-Bowers said she often worked alone in the attic area of the original library.
“I never felt like I was alone — never,” she said. “But I never felt it was creepy.”
Calls to other people who reportedly have had experiences in the library were not returned, but Finn-Bowers said she is not the only one who has had experiences.
“I know people who say the elevator will come upstairs after hours when no one is in the building,” she said.
Although no one knows what is occurring at either the Case building or the library, the reports are intriguing if nothing else.
As for the activity in the Case building, Baer said it’s changed her way of thinking.
“Before I came in here I didn’t know if I believed in ghosts or not,” she said. “Now I do.”