Paranormal is paramount at library

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Mark Rivera

Julius Grice saw a ghost.

At least, he thought he did.

“I was at home one night, up really late in my basement. I knew everyone in my house was asleep, but I thought I heard walking upstairs. When I went up to check, I could have sworn I saw someone sitting on the couch,” said the junior in LAS.

Cases like this may be few and far between, but there is a place on campus where the paranormal is paramount, and it’s not one you’d expect.

Through the month of August, the Main Library is home to an exhibit on the paranormal and occult sciences. According to the exhibit’s Web site, the occult collection contains more than 16,000 items relating to occult sciences and parapsychology and was originally endowed by Merten J. Mandeville in 1966, a retiring professor of commerce.

Not all the items that are part of the exhibit today were around when the collection started, but it continues to grow.

“(The exhibit) is everything ‘X-Files,'” said JoAnn Jacoby, former selector for the Merten J. Mandeville collection. “It includes works on paranormal phenomena, werewolves, the possibility for occult powers, witchcraft, astrology and 19th century spiritualism,” she said.

And, as with cases in the “X-Files,” items in the exhibit can be taken very seriously.

In fact, the endowment for the occult works was intended by Mandeville to promote serious, scholarly research and study of the occult sciences, Jacoby said.

With all of the items available, there are ample subjects to study. The exhibit’s Web site lists 17 unique areas into which eager students may delve.

Yet, the library has had these occult materials for some time. The exhibit simply draws attention to them, Jacoby said.

“A lot of people use the items (in the collection) for fun, but they can be invaluable for people serious about the occult sciences,” she said.

Still, the exhibit can go beyond being an aid to true occult believers in their quest for knowledge. It can also help social scholars.

“The exhibit is helpful for scholars who want to study what people were thinking at a particular time,” said Michelle Chronister, graduate assistant in the Education and Social Sciences Library.

“It adds a different perspective and showcases a collection that not many people know the library has,” she said.

“I think (the paranormal) is interesting as hell,” said Jason Solfisburg, junior in Engineering. “This stuff could explain hauntings.”

But, whether you’re a true believer in the occult or just an interested passer-by, the Mandeville collection can capture the imagination while enriching your understanding of the past.

“The collection provides a window into popular culture and social history,” Jacoby said. “It’s great for learning about a particular time period.”