The public library in Harvey, N.D., is home to books and periodicals, and maybe something else.

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Ask Marlene Ripplinger about the latter and the library director gets a little, well, spooked.

"It just seemed that whenever people would talk about it, things started happening. It's like, we don't talk about this in October," Ripplinger said.

After a little coaxing, however, she began talking about books and keys that disappear and reappear as if by magic.

And lights that sometimes flicker for no apparent reason, something that began soon after the library was built about 20 years ago.

"When it all started, I felt there had to be an explanation: it's a new building, it might be the wiring," Ripplinger said.

"As time went on, it seemed like there wasn't an explanation," she said. "We got careful about talking about these incidents, especially around October, because that was the month Sophie was bludgeoned to death."

Gruesome demise

"Sophie" is Sophia Eberlein, a resident of Harvey who was murdered in 1931 by her second husband in the bedroom of their house, which was on the spot where the library now stands.

Electricians have never solved the mystery of the library's fluttering lights, and Ripplinger said the anomaly, and other strange occurrences, make library workers wonder if the place isn't home to a bookworm from the beyond.

"For weekly story time, I had a certain book that I would use," Ripplinger said, embarking on a tale. "It's very colorful, and I always put it on the shelf in the same spot."

One day, the book was gone and Ripplinger could not find it to save her soul.

"We were looking for it for weeks. We took everything off the shelves," she said.

Finally, Ripplinger wrote it off, figuring the book was lost, or someone threw it away.

Then as she entered the library one day to start work, Ripplinger saw something that stopped her in her tracks.

"It was right there," Ripplinger said, recalling how she spotted her favorite story-time book sitting in plain sight in an area she passes every time she walks to her office.

Manifest mischief

When things like that happen, Sophie usually gets the credit, or more often, the blame.

"Sometimes, I think she messes with our minds," Ripplinger said.

"We have issues when we're ready to go home and suddenly keys are not there," she said.

"You backtrack. You look and you look. Finally, you just say, 'OK, Sophie, I need to get home now.' And all of a sudden, there are the keys. You just thank the Lord and you take off," Ripplinger said.

Plain-old absentmindedness? Or a disturbance in the astral plain?

For William Jackson, feeling is believing.

Jackson, the author of several books that focus on mysteries and oddities around North Dakota, traveled to Harvey to talk to library workers and research Sophie's story.

He said he experienced something there he can't explain.

"I gave her (Sophie) a challenge," Jackson recalled.

"I said, 'Sophie, if you exist, make my right foot cold.'

"I felt her presence, and it was just like an air of cold," Jackson said.

He said a chill that started in his right hand crept up his arm and then down his side to his foot.

The sensation lasted a while, he said.

"On the way home, I stopped at a café in Anamoose. I knew a fella there," Jackson said.

Jackson asked his friend to feel his left shoulder and his right shoulder. He said the man confirmed that his right shoulder was cold to the touch.

"It's not just in my mind. This was cold, physically," said Jackson, adding that the episode changed him.

"I knew there was a spiritual world," he said.

Ripplinger said it wasn't the only time a visitor to the library left with goose bumps.

'Go to the light'

About four years ago, she said, a woman walked into the library with a stash of family heirlooms.

The woman stated the items were connected with the family of her first husband, who came from the Harvey area, and she wanted to donate the items to the city in case they were historically significant.

Library workers were intrigued when they learned the woman's first husband was Sophia Eberlein's grandson.

The visitor said her husband's family never talked about the murder and when the woman found out strange things had been happening at the library, she was eager to hear more, Ripplinger said.

She said at that point the woman's current husband, who had been fueling up the family van, walked into the library.

Ripplinger said the man's face took on a strange expression and he stated there was a presence in the library that didn't like men.

"He had a short-sleeved shirt on, and the hair on his right arm was standing up," Ripplinger said.

The man told Ripplinger he had received some spiritual training from an herbalist and he said he sensed a spirit that wanted to be released.

The man told Ripplinger that if she wanted to free the spirit, he could suggest a plan.

He advised her to enter the library alone some night and, using "clear herbs" attached to the end of a flashlight, encourage the entity to leave through an open window by repeating: "Go to the light. Go to the light," Ripplinger recalled.

"I could just envision myself floating out the window," Ripplinger laughed. "I'm not going to do it."

She said, however, that if someone knows of a way to free the library of patrons who may have checked out of this world but are still loitering, they are welcome to give it a try.

"They can do what they want," she said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.