The Ghost in the Waterdown Library

Now I don’t believe in ghosts, but I can tell you there are a lot of people who won’t use that elevator.”

Mrs. Lorraine Eastwood, Head Librarian, Waterdown.1

One of the thrills experiences by many visitors to the Waterdown Library, is a chance to see the Waterdown Library Ghost at work! Yes, Waterdown does have its very own ghost, a friendly, mischievous and very knowing phantom, who is the source of several incidents that appear to defy explanation. So this Heritage Paper will be looking at stories and events that have occurred since the former East Flamborough Township Hall was renovated and became the new home of the Waterdown Library, and the Library Ghost.

In 1978, the former East Flamborough Township Hall on Mill Street North underwent extensive renovations. During this work to the interior, an elevator was installed to enable wheelchairs and senior citizens to visit the second floor. Ever since the installation, the elevator has taken unexplained trips on its own. In the beginning, the Library staff thought there was something wrong, so the elevator company who had been responsible for the installation was requested to examine the machinery. But both the manufacturers and the inspectors reported that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the wiring or mechanics of the elevator and “it shouldn’t behave in such a strange way”2. According to Mrs. Lorraine Eastwood, the elevator didn’t perform for the repairman, and it didn’t perform for the representatives of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the provincial ministry which regulates elevators.

He sat there for 2½ hours waiting for it to do something and it did nothing. As soon as he was out of the door and away, it went up and down three times as if it was sticking its tongue out at him.”3

Library staff have looked for common denominators among the phantom elevator trips, including the precise times of the trips. No links have been found. Over the years, Mrs. Eastwood has noticed that the elevator makes more “trips when the Library is not open, but there are strangers in the building”4. Gradually the librarians have become so familiar with the ghostly travels of their elevator that they are no longer even the least surprised or startled when it mysteriously starts on its own. Frequently when the door opens, there’s nobody inside!

Many adults react skeptically to the stories that just because an elevator appears to move completely on its own is no reason to consider it haunted, but a series of strange coincidences surrounding the library elevator and the two tombstones5 mounted on the wall right next to the elevator doors have convinced many people to say that the Library is haunted.

Almost certainly the most widely publicized performance by the Library Ghost occurred in February 1985 during a special taping by the Burlington Cablenet television. Prior to the Library Opening on Thursday, 7 February 1985, the Library had been turned into a T.V. studio for taping interviews with Mrs. Eastwood and Flamborough Review publisher, John Bosveld – these tapings were for future programs about Waterdown.

According to the article6 that appeared in the Flamborough Review the following week, Mrs. Eastwood explained the history of the Waterdown Library, including the various locations that the library has had over the years. She then explained how the library came to be at its present location and how the two tombstones came to be mounted on the wall. The elevator suddenly engaged and allowed an “invisible audience” to exit which cause considerable amusement to the camera crew.

Mr. John Boseveld then joined Ms. Maureen Dawson of Cablenet, and the two began a discussion prior to their interview. While outlining some of the interesting stories the Review had covered over the years, Mr. Bosveld mentioned the story surrounding the discovery of the gravestones. Again, as if on cue, the ghostly rider descended to hear the story of the tombstones. Taping of the actual interview began, and eventually turned to the story of the tombstone’s discovery. As soon as that part of the interview ended, the elevator quietly opened, closed, and ascended mysteriously to the second floor. To Mrs. Eastwood, this was the most obvious demonstration by the phantom, as every time the tombstones were mentioned, the elevator reacted.

Later on the same day, Mr. Ken Bosveld, the Editor of the Review, came to the library and interviewed Mrs. Eastwood about the elevator’s strange behaviour. Within seconds of focusing his camera on the tombstones, the door mysteriously opened and remained so, long enough for two photographs to be taken.

Whether the Waterdown Library is haunted by a phantom, or the string of unexplained actions by the elevator are pure coincidence, the ghost is now part of the Library’s history. It certainly no longer startles the Library staff, and to the many patrons of the Library who have seen it in operation, it is just another library patron who calls the building home.

  1. “Life has its ups and downs” Tony Hamill, The Spectator, 3 February 1983.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “A Haunted Library” Flamborough Review 13 February, 1985.
  5. The tombstones commemorate Alexander Brown (1776-1852) and his wife Merren Grierson (1779-1863), the first settlers in the Waterdown area. The purchase by Alexander Brown of 800 acres of land circa 1806, stretching from the Waterdown area down to the shore of present day Burlington Bay marked the beginning of settlement in this area. The story of the discovery of these Library Tombstones will be the topic of the next Heritage Paper.
  6. “A Haunted Library” Flamborough Review 13 February, 1985.

Originally published in Heritage Happenings, June-July-August (Summer) 1987.

© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1987, 2021.

Editor’s Note:

The Waterdown branch of the Hamilton Public Library officially closed November of 2015 in preparation for the opening of the new community complex opened in Waterdown. The 15,000 square foot facility includes the Waterdown branch of the Hamilton Public Library, a Senior Centre, the City’s Municipal Service Centre, Flamborough Archives, and Flamborough Information & Community Services, on the former site of the Municipal Office.

When plans were being drawn up for the new Waterdown Library on Dundas Street, there was never any hesitation—the Brown tombstones had to move with the Library. As the Flamborough Archives was being included as a partner in the building, it was felt that the best place for them to be housed was within the Archives.

The old location of the Waterdown Library, formerly the East Flamborough Township Hall, went up for sale. The building was bought by brothers Andrew, Nathan and Nick Brown in November of 2016 and restored to be the home of Brown Lawyers and Brown Financial Security.

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