By Michelle Ann Kratts and Michelle Petrazzoulo Special to the Gazette
Niagara Gazette — It seems that there is much more than meets the eye at the LaSalle Library. Although a charming red brick building situated within the heart of the old village, it is impossible to ignore the sinister iron bars that lock the lower level windows. By day, the library staff serves books, movies and music to patrons. But with the approach of nightfall ... is it possible that the library has some other occupation?
Perhaps the most unusual library in the NIOGA Library System, the LaSalle Library contains four iron cells that had been used as holding chambers up until the early 1960s. Now, just ghosts of their former selves, the jail cells linger on as storage rooms, complete with peeling paint and creaking gates. However, they do leave quite a bit for the imagination ... especially on one particular cold, dark and rainy evening in October when a team of investigators from a local ghost-hunting group, Niagara Falls Paranormal, came for a visit.
Intent on a mission to conduct a paranormal sweep through area libraries and book shops, lead investigators Jimmy Silvaroli, his wife, Lisa, as well as a number of other investigators including Amy Wall, Joseph Morock, Mike Prokop, Carly Cerra and Frank Keitz burrowed in for the evening hoping to capture any hint of spirit activity that may linger within the historic building.
They came well-prepared and armed with the usual ghost-hunting equipment: Flashlights, recorders, cameras, EMF detectors, and a spirit box. There were rumors that there may be some restless souls lurking about the library.
In fact Sam Soro, a LaSalle library staff member, and Michelle Petrazzoulo, the Niagara Falls and LaSalle Library director, said there were rooms that gave them “awful vibes” and other locations that they could not stand to stay in for too long. In fact, one spot in the basement was especially frightening to both of them. And there was this incident in which a computer technician had noticed something strange on a security camera. He described what he saw as a “misty, strange and dark animal” type entity walking up and down the ramp.
The building in which the LaSalle Library now resides dates back to 1924. Throughout much of the location’s history the library inhabited two small rooms and shared the rest of the site with the post office and the police department. The post office was located in the area which now houses the library’s non-fiction section. The back end of the library was the police department. Remnants of the past survive to this day for the place is full of relics telling of a rich history. Soro pulled a handwritten sign off a door only to reveal a large black stencil that read: POLICE PRIVATE.
And then there was the basement ... Entering the basement was not unlike a trip back in time. One of the rooms, which had been designated as the area’s official “fallout shelter,” still contains Red Cross crates from World War II. Apparently these crates were full of supplies back in the 1980s, however, they have since disappeared.
Glancing through old newspapers one finds that the site was used for many different purposes over the years. Elections were held here, the village court held sessions in the upstairs chambers, and meetings and other important matters were also sorted out within the building located at 8728 Buffalo Ave. During the 1930s and 1940s the building served as a child health station.
But what about the ghosts? Niagara Falls Paranormal had set out to find if there was any truth to the possibility that this location is haunted. Strangely enough, the date of our visit happened to be the anniversary of the death of a very prominent soul attached to the library — Kitsch, the library cat. Kitsch lived an incredibly full life until his death on Oct. 17, 1996. A plaque with his photograph is hanging in the library and inscribed: Kitsch, whose name is the Lithuanian word for cat, lived at the LaSalle Library for 11 years and was a favorite with the patrons, attracting many of them to the library. Of course, cats are not allowed in libraries anymore, and Kitsch’s story is something of a fairy tale to the children who come to the library today.
Curious and intent on checking out the old police station first, we began the investigation in the holding cells. According to local lore, most of those held in these cells perhaps had had a little too much to drink. Some of the ghost hunters had an experience in one of those cells when a metal shelf vibrated at the same time their K2 meter reacted to some electromagnetic force that had suddenly entered the cell — all in response to questions they were asking of a presence that might be sharing the space with them. There were other instances in which various unusual readings spiked in the basement and in the attic. But probably the most dramatic experience was felt during Mike’s spirit box session. One of the rooms in the basement had some water coming in (because of the autumn storm that was raging outside) and the investigators had mentioned that falling water is often a good conductor of spirit activity — so it was decided that this particular spot would be perfect. Questions were asked and repeated ... questions such as: “Who are you? Do you want us to leave? Would you like us to help you?” At times there were responses, although it was often difficult to make them out. The most frightening part of the experience came about a week afterward — when the evidence was analyzed. Apparently, we were not alone, for other voices somehow had manifested within the recordings of the spirit box sessions. Voices clearly said things such as names (Melissa, Mathilda, Gary) and responded to questions. Mostly what can be heard is a female voice. Perhaps the most chilling EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) captured that evening was a woman’s voice saying: Stay here. Another time, in a different room, the same high pitched woman’s voice manifested itself on a recording and said merely: Hello. But they were both unmistakably the same sad and gossamer voice.
And so the question remains ... is the library haunted? Wall, one of the tried-and-true investigators said that she was not sure she would say that the LaSalle Library is “haunted” but “it had spirit activity when we really looked.”
Petrazzoulo said that the LaSalle Library has always been a second home to her since she was a young girl and she was sure that others in the past have felt the same, so she could understand if in the afterlife they decided to stick around for a while longer. She would enjoy their company.
If you would like to learn more about the investigation of the LaSalle Library and about some of LaSalle’s haunted history mark your calendars for the latest installment of Teresa Lasher-Winslow’s, Historic LaSalle Lecture series: LaSalle’s Haunted Legacies; Tragic Deaths and Ghost Sightings, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Everyday Gourmet, 502 Cayuga Drive in LaSalle. Contact Everyday Gourmet for details at 417-6576. The event costs $20 and includes dessert from Everyday Gourmet. All proceeds to benefit the History Committee of LaSalle Pride, Inc. Investigators from Niagara Falls Paranormal will be present and will discuss their findings and reveal any evidence that was gathered from the investigation.The following is a list of ghost related books and movies that are available at the Niagara Falls Public Library. Spooky Picture Books for Younger Readers "In A Dark, Dark Wood" by David Carter "The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam" by Angela Shelf Medearis Chapter Books: (ages 9-12) "Doll Bones" by Holly Black "Ghost of Crutchfield Hall" by Mary Downing Hahn "Dial-a-Ghost" by Eva Ibbotson "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," Alvin Schwartz Fiction Ghost Stories for Adults "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson "Ghost Story" by Peter Straub "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger "House of Echoes," by Barbara Erskine "Help for the Haunted" by John Searles Films "The Haunting" "The Shining" "Paranormal Activity" "The Others" "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir"