It was the summer of 2010 and I was in my final few months of my MA in Librarianship at the University of Sheffield, spending my days grappling with research methods and data analysis as I wrote up my dissertation, and my evenings working as a shelver in the Western Bank Library there. This had been the main research library before the fancy Information Commons was built, and had a lovely spacious sunny reading room, along with several floors of old-fashioned windowless basement stacks, tightly packed with shelves of journals. Part of my role as the library closed for the night was to go downstairs and switch off all the lights and lock up the doors on the little staircases between the basement floors. It was quiet and very dark down there with all the lights off - you had to take your phone with you to use as a torch - and neither I nor the other shelver liked doing this, so we would take a floor each and try to get it done and over with as quickly as possible.
One night I had
switched off the main lights, and there was only one dim light in the
middle of the shelves left to go. I was walking down the aisle towards
the yellowish glow, when I noticed the book trolley sitting at the end
of it. It was oh so gently gliding from side to side, back and forth,
the creaking of the wheels audible in the otherwise silent room. There
was no one else around.
I was seized with a sudden urge to run, and
without any further thought I left the light and turned and legged it up
the aisle towards the exit, with an overwhelming expectation that
something was going to reach out from the shelves and grab me. But
nothing got in my way and I made it out and upstairs to the evening
No one else I've spoken to since has experienced anything
like that down there. I don't know if I believe in ghosts. There may
well be a rational explanation for the moving trolley, and that would
demonstrate the amazing power and complexity of the human mind - that I
was certain that something was wrong and that I was in danger. That
tapping into human fear, that writers and filmmakers who create horror
Whatever it was, I haven't ever forgotten it.