323 West Aspen Avenue
Built atop the ruins of Emerson Elementary School, the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library has long been a staple of this picturesque mountain town, providing multiple services for the cultural enhancement of the city and its residents.
But the story of the library and the path it took to get where it is today is far from simple, and a closer look at its unusual history shows exactly why it’s been listed among the greatest haunts of the American Old West.
But what is it about this seemingly harmless institution that has built its reputation for strange and unusual activity?
A haunted library may sound like something out of a scary movie, but the reality of what goes on in the basement of the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library is no piece of fiction, and has been causing a stir since the day they moved into their current location.
While the ghosts of the past may come from a time when the building was still the site of Emerson Elementary, the impact it has left on the library can still be felt, not just in rumors and local folklore, but in the unusual activity that has plagued it.
With years of reputable claims and recorded activity, it is clear that in a city of haunted history, the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library stands out among the best, but what is the source of the activity, and how did it come about?
Long before 300 W Aspen became home to the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library, it was the site of the city’s first elementary school, originally opened in the fall of 1883 under the name Emerson School and moved to Aspen Avenue in 1895.
Emerson School would stand for nearly a hundred years, serving the community until it was eventually condemned and torn down in 1980, making way for the construction of the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library, which it had housed during points of its history.
While the school was demolished, it would seem that the supernatural lore that had been attached to it has held on, most notably in the basement, which was not filled in during the demolition and still serves as the library’s basement to this day.
Students and teachers alike once whispered about strange occurrences in the basement, as well as a malicious spirit that sat at the heart of it, but none of them could have ever guessed that even after the school was gone, the haunting would continue.
This particular ghost, whose legend has been passed down by Emerson School students and employees for decades, was said to be a former custodian of the school, a man who was so unsettling to be around, even in life, that most people chose to keep their distance.
As the story goes, it would seem that their distaste for the man was well-founded, as the true extent of his despicable ways would make itself known when he brutally murdered his wife and children.
How these horrific murders came about, no one knows for certain, because the custodian himself was not long for this world, fleeing to the basement of the Emerson School and taking his own life rather than face punishment for his terrible deeds.
For years after, the students and faculty of Emerson School were subjected to strange and unusual activity around the building, especially in the basement where ghostly apparitions were seen and a diverse list of paranormal activity had been reported.
And now, with the original building torn down and the basement inherited by the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library, the custodian is still making his presence known, plaguing employees of the library and striking fear into the hearts of visitors.
In 1890, long before there was the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library, there was a public reading room in the Methodist-Episcopal Church parsonage on Leroux Street in downtown Flagstaff where donated books were offered through a membership subscription program.
Shortly after, a new library association was formed and the reading room was relocated to Leroux Street, where the infamous Weatherford Hotel now stands. In fact, it would move several times in the early years before landing at the Tourist Hotel where, unfortunately, it would burn to the ground in a disastrous fire.
Not a single book would survive, and it would be many years before the task of rebuilding the public library would be undertaken, but it did eventually happen in 1900 when the new library was combined with a popular lunch counter that also happened to fund it.
The library would change hands and locations numerous times over the next century, taking up rooms at schools and hotels, as well as enjoying its own space. By 1975, parts of the library moved to Emerson School, and after its closing in 1985, the building was demolished and rebuilt as a permanent home for the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library.
Today, the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library is a staple of downtown Flagstaff, not only providing a safe and inclusive place for people to enjoy the wonders of reading, but providing numerous community engagement programs that make this cozy mountain town all the more welcoming.
Take a look for yourself at 300 W Aspen Ave in downtown Flagstaff—just make sure to steer clear of the basement.