Founded in 1857 and originally a teacher’s college, Illinois State University is currently home to around 23,000 students and faculty, as well as one tenacious ghost. This ghost is said to be that of Angeline V. Milner, or Ange for short, a librarian who remained with her books long after she passed from this world. As head librarian for 37 years, she was so beloved by the school that Illinois State University named its library after her.
Angeline Vernon Milner was born on April 9, 1856 in Bloomington. By all accounts, she seemed to be destined for the work which would become her legacy. According to Charles W. Perry, who assisted the famed librarian for several years and wrote her biography, she learned how to read before she was four-years-old. Ange began her fated job at the university library on February 1, 1890, and the Normal School Board was so impressed with her skill and dedication that they appointed her as the sole and head librarian in the fall of that same year.
“Aunt Ange,” as the students called her, died in 1928. According to legend, she collapsed while organising a section of biology books. She was buried in Bloomington’s Evergreen Cemetery, but for whatever reason did not have a headstone until a short time ago. In April 2006, former Governor Rod Blagojevich, along with Mayor Chris Koos of Normal, issued dual proclamations declaring April 10th “Angie Milner Day.”
In 1917, the university moved its library from the Old Main Building to North Hall, where Miss Milner worked until she died. North Hall served as the library until 1940, when a new building was constructed and christened “Milner Library” to honour Normal University’s beloved Aunt Ange. In 1976, the old Milner Library became known as Williams Hall and most of the university’s books were moved into the new Milner Library, located on the north side of campus. Many of the older books, still with call numbers hand written on the binding by Ange Milner herself, remained on the third floor of Williams Hall.
Since at least the 1980s, staff members working in the Williams Hall archives have reported encounters with what they believe is the ghost of Ange Milner. Employees have reported eerie feelings, sightings of mist or fog, and even discovered books that inexplicably fell from the shelves. A psychic even claimed to see a “purple column of light.”
In 2004, a former employee named Joan Winters told the Daily Vidette that she had witnessed a full-torso apparition of the former librarian while working in the archive in 1995. She described it as “a five-foot tall elderly woman in a floor length dress wearing her hair in a bun.” The fact that Miss Milner never set foot in Williams Hall has led observers to conclude that her ghost haunts her books, not a particular location.
The haunted books have recently been moved again, to a brand new storage facility much better suited for their preservation. Has Ange Milner’s ghost followed them to their new location, or has she finally found peace? Only time will tell.
Read more about college ghost stories in Michael Kleen’s new book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges & Universities!
At schools across Illinois, students tell ghostly tales, from beloved librarians who refuse to go home, to sad spectres suffering from a broken heart. Join Michael Kleen as he explores the history and mystery behind haunted college dorms, libraries, classrooms, theatres, and more. In this one-of-a-kind book, current and former students and faculty tell their tales of mysterious encounters at their beloved alma maters. Kleen scours every source to bring these stories to light in the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore. Why do ghost stories continue to have such an appeal on college campuses? What are the scariest stories from universities in Illinois? Is there any truth to the tales? These questions and more will be answered.