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Posted on Friday, October 21 - 2005

"Sharon Helfrich never thought the stories she'd heard about unexplained occurrences at the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library in Bellevue were anything more than the product of some fertile imaginations. But then she took over as the library's director in 1998. "People talked about it being ..."

Sharon Helfrich never thought the stories she'd heard about unexplained occurrences at the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library in Bellevue were anything more than the product of some fertile imaginations. But then she took over as the library's director in 1998. "People talked about it being haunted, but I just thought, 'Right, it's a big old Victorian house, so people automatically think it must have spirits living in it,'" said Helfrich, 45. "But then I saw some pretty strange things happening." The numerous accounts of lights and ceiling fans turning on and off automatically, numbers appearing randomly on computer screens, fleeting shadows moving through the halls androoms and the gauzy image of a woman dressed in Victorian era clothing appearing caught the attention of writer Jeff Belanger, who devoted a chapter about the library in his new book "The World's Most Haunted Places." The library is in a three-story house built on 4 acres in 1875 and bequeathed to the borough for use as a park and library by its owner, Amanda Bayne Balph, who died in 1912.

A portrait of Bayne hangs above one of the library's marble fireplaces. In her will, Balph stipulated that no trees be removed from the property. But in 1998, Dutch elm disease claimed the "Lone Sentinel," a more than 300-year-old tree on the estate that was recognized in 1983 as the largest American elm in the state by the Pennsylvania Big Tree Committee. Many believe the tree's removal markedthe start of increased paranormal activity in the library -- possibly the result of Bayne's displeasure at losing the tree. Helfrich's most recent "encounter" -- and among the most startling -- occurred during the past several weeks. "We had workers cleaning in here after the library was closed and after they were done they called me at home at about 11 p.m. to come in and reset the burglar alarm," said Helfrich. "But when I tried to open the door to the basement, The knob wouldn't turn at all. That was pretty strange since there is no lock on that door. There was no reason for me not to be able to open it. I remember saying out loud, 'Come on, Amanda, it's late and I want to go home, stop playing games.'" When Helfrich arrived at the library the next morning,s...


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