BY MARGARET COLEMAN
For the Record Gazette
The San Gorgonio Pass has quite a legacy of legends, folklore and ghost stories.
From ancient, supposedly haunted craggy oak trees that possess dark properties, to reports of a large humanoid creature that roams the hills between Cherry Valley and the Morongo Reservation, the Pass provides rich fodder for urban legends and ghost stories alike.
Behind its stately original Carnegie exterior, even the historic Beaumont Library has its own unique collection of ghostly tales to chill one's bones on a dark and windy October night.
The difference between these and the other local legends; the library tales have more witnesses and took place during recent times, within the last couple of decades.
Probably the most famous ghost story involves a late night incident when, while working, a library employee heard a knocking sound from inside a seldom used, locked storage area underneath the front stair entrance of the original Carnegie library, constructed in 1911.
Believing someone may be locked into the storage area, he called out, but no one answered, although the knocking continued and grew louder.
Alarmed, he called the Beaumont police, who sent three officers to investigate.
Linda Johnson, the children's librarian at the time, was also called, as she was apparently the only person in possession of the key to the lock enclosure.
When the officers slowly opened the door and illuminated the space, they found it to be empty — no one was there! They were met with dead silence; not so much as a rat scuttling in the storage space; no explanation for the loud pounding noise they had all heard.
It's interesting to note that this incident was recorded during a time when the old, Carnegie part of the library was undergoing remodeling and renovation.
Reportedly, spirits don't like to have their post-mortem domiciles altered. Change to their physical environment often means increased activity in purportedly haunted buildings.
In addition to the storage area incident, Ms. Johnson had her share of paranormal experiences during her 33 1/2 years of employment at the Beaumont Library. Apparently, one night she was upstairs in the children's section, chatting on the phone with her mother about the late Bob Long, a friendly "homeless man who was well-loved in the Beaumont/Cherry Valley and a regular library patron who had recently passed away.
While Ms. Smith was chatting about "Mr. Bob" on the phone she heard footsteps coming up the wooden stairs and watched in amazement while the little gate (installed to keep small children from falling down the stairs), unlatched itself and creaked partway open, apparently by itself.
There was no one there to open it - at least no one she could see! The children's librarian is convinced it was the spirit of Mr. Bob, who apparently heard his name and dropped in to say hello.
While it is widely believed that paranormal activity usually occurs at night, in the dark, the most vivid Beaumont Library ghost story occurred around 7:30 a.m., in broad daylight.
When a staff member arrived early to begin her shift, she was startled to find a bearded, elderly man sitting at a computer station, staring at the monitor.
The old gent looked over and glared at the employee, sending her running for help from another early bird employee.
When the two women returned to the spot where the old man had been sitting, he had vanished, and a thorough search of the building revealed nothing out of the ordinary.
All entry doors had been locked, accessible only to staff members with keys.
Why would spirits flock to a library, of all places?
One theory is that the dead return to a place where they had a strong emotional connection, be it positive or negative.
In the case of the library spirit(s), it seems like John loves returning to the place where he as welcome, appreciated, and happy, where he spent many pleasant hours reading and chatting with the staff and other patrons.
Was he also the spirit encountered at the computer station early one morning, and did he show up one night as an invisible entity mounting the stairs to the children's section to visit his old friend, Miss Johnson, the children's librarian?
We may never know the answer to these questions.
It is said, however, that a happy living person makes for a happy ghost, and it seems that whatever ethereal entity visits the library it is quite content!
Margaret Coleman is the Beaumont Library board president.