Monday, October 1, 2012

A Ghost's Reading List!

Buffalo Morning Express

Tuesday March 14, 1860

Page 2, Column 3




The Latest Ghost Story --- Astor Library

Haunted --- Librarian Coggswell has

Three interviews with this Spectre.


The New York Evening Post is responsible

for the following ghostly tale, published in its

editorial columns, and apparently written by the

poet editor himself.  It prefaces the story with

the remark that “as it has been solemnly

asserted before a mixed company of some twenty

persons, and afterwards retailed and repeated so

much as to be almost the town talk, we are

committing no impropriety, we trust, in stating

the circumstances, as far as we have been able

 to discover them:”


To understand the circumstances of this

remarkable apparition more fully, the reader

 should remember that Dr. Cogswell, the efficient

librarian has been some time engaged in the

compilation of a complete catalogue of the

library.  Although over a year since it was  

commenced, the work has only reached to the letter

P.  Dr. Cogswell is an unmarried man, and occupies

a sleeping apartment in the upper part of

the library, the janitor residing in the basement.

It is the rule of the Library to dismiss visitors at

sunset,  and during the evening and night no

individual beside the janitor and his family

remain in the building. 


Against the advice of his friends, Dr. Cogswell

devotes hours of the night that should be

given to repose, to the pursuance of his work on

the catalogue.


Some two weeks ago the Doctor was at

work as usual on the catalogue. It was about

eleven o’ clock at night, and having occasion to

refer to some books in a distant part of the

library, he left his desk, took candles, and as

he had often done before, pursued his course

among the winding passages towards the desired

spot.  But before reaching it, while in the alcove

in the southwest part of the older portion of the

building, he was startled by seeing a man,

respectably dressed in citizen’s clothes, surveying a

shelf of books.  The Doctor supposed it to be

a robber who had secreted himself for the purpose

 Of abstracting some of the valuable works

in the library; after stepping back behind a

Partition for a moment, he again moved cautiously

forward, to catch a glimpse of the individual’s

face, when to his surprise he recognized in the

supposed robbers features of a physician

(whose name we forebear giving) who had lived

in the immediate vicinity of the library, and who

had died some six weeks ago!  It should be

borne in mind that this deceased person was a

mere casual acquaintance of Dr. Cogswell, not

an intimate friend, and since his death Doctor

Cogswell had not thought of him.


But the apparition was in the presence of a

man not easily scared.  The librarian, so far

from fainting or shrieking as might reasonably

be expected, calmly addressed the ghost:

“Dr.______,” said he, “you seldom, if ever,

visited this library while living, why do you

trouble us now when dead?”

 Perhaps the ghost did not like the sound of

the human voice; anyway, it gave no answer,

but disappeared.


The next day Mr. Cogswell thought over the

matter, attributed it to some optical delusion, and

in the evening proceeded with his work as usual.

Again he wished to refer to some books, and

again he visited the south-western alcove.  There

again, as large as life, was the ghost, very calmly

and placidly surveying the shelves.  Mr. Cogswell

again spoke to it: 


“Dr. ______,” said he, “again I ask you why

you, who never visited us while living, trouble

us now when dead.”


Again the ghost vanished, and the undaunted

librarian pursued his task without interruption.

the next day he examined the shelves before

which the apparition had been seen standing, and

by a singular coincidence, found that they were

filled with books devoted to demonology,

 witchcraft, magic, spiritualism, etc.  Some of these

books are rare tomes , several centuries old,

written in Latin, illustrated with quaint diagrams,

and redolent in mysticism, while on the nest

shelves are their younger brethren, the neat,

spruce  works of modern spiritualists, of Brittan,

Davis, Edmonds and others.  The very titles on

these mystic books are suggestive.  There are

The Prophecies or Prognostications of Michael

Nostradamus, a folio published in London in

1672; Albamaser de Conjectibus; Kerner’s

Majikon; Godwins Lives of Necromancers;

Glanvil on Witches and Aparitions; Cornelius

Agrippa; Bodin’s Demonomania; Lilly’s Astrology,

and others, a perusal of any of which would

effectually murder the sleep of a person of

ordinary nerve for at least half a dozen nights.  It

was these volumes that appeared to attract the



The third night, Mr. Cogswell still determined

that the shade spirit, delusion, or effect of

indigestion – whatever it might be – should not

interfere with his duties, again visited the various

books to which he wished to refer to, and when

occasion demanded, did not fail to approach the

mystic alcove.  There again was the apparition,

dressed precisely as before, in a gentleman’s

usual costume, as natural as life, and with a hand

raised, as if about to take down a book.  Mr.

Cogswell again spoke—


“Dr. ______, “ he said boldly.  “This is the

third time I have met you.  Tell me if any of

this class of books disturbs you?  If they

do, I will have them removed.”


But the ungrateful ghost, without acknowledging

this accommodating spirit on the part

of this interrogator, disappeared.  Nor has it

been seen since, and the librarian has continued

his nightly researches since without interruption. 


A few days ago, at a dinner party at the house

of a well-known wealthy gentleman, Mr. Cogswell

related the circumstances as above recorded, as

nearly as we can learn. As some eighteen

or twenty people were present, the remarkable

story was of course soon spread about.  A number

of literary men, including an eminent historian

And others hears the recital, and though

they attribute Mr. Cogswell’s ghost seeing to the

strain and tension of his nerves during his too

protracted labors at the catalogue, they yet confess

That the story has its remarkable phases.

Both Mr. Cogswell and the deceased physician

were persons of a practical turn of mind, and

always treated the marvelous ghost stories  some-

times afloat with deserved contempt.  And,

as they were not at all intimate, it will be at

least a curious question for the psychologist to

determine, why the idea of this deceased

gentleman should come to Mr. Cogswell’s brain and

resolve itself into an apparition, when engaged

in dry, statistical labors, which should effectually?

Banish all thoughts of the marvelous.


Acting on the advice of several friends, Mr.

Cogswell is now absent on a short trip to

Charleston, to recuperate his energies.


In regard to the apparition we will make no

comments, but give the story as related by Dr.

Cogswell, as we are credibly informed, and as it

has already been talked about in various literary

and domestic circles in this city.

Original story from microfilm records at,
Buffalo & Erie County Public Library
Central Library
1 Lafayette Square
Buffalo, NY 14203


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