All ghost stories begin predictably enough: You start off by walking into an unfamiliar place, knowing full well you have no business being there. All your senses have become amplified, and at this moment you feel that something is not quite right with the air around you. Your mind, realizing the drowning fear that is about to overcome your body, tries its best to rationalize the situation. In a last attempt at logic, you tell yourself that your eyes are playing tricks on you and that the dark, moving silhouette you spotted in your peripheral was just a figment of your imagination.
Unfortunately, having a wild imagination becomes the least of your worries and you realize you’ve just experienced what countless people refer to as a “ghostly encounter.”
Ghost stories are not uncommon on college campuses. Many campuses feature stories of ghosts haunting walkways and dorms, presumably cursed to wander aimlessly in the realm of the living. What many USF students may not know, however, is that USF has its own story of a ghostly library inhabitant. Her last name was Gottlieb, and she has become affectionately known as the “Phantom of the Fourth Floor.”
According to USF librarian Paul E. Camp of the Special Collections Department, Gottlieb was an English major who used to work on the fourth floor of the USF library. She was a student assistant and was often seen reading and studying by the book stacks, catching up on English literature. Friends and relatives described her as someone with a “wonderfully upbeat personality.”
Tragedy struck in the fall of 1976 when Gottlieb was discovered hanging from an oak tree outside of her apartment in what is now Oak Ramble. The unfortunate incident came as a surprise to many, and fellow students questioned whether Gottlieb was capable of taking her own life or if foul play was involved.
Odd, unexplainable events started to happen in the library soon after her death. Book trucks would move by themselves and automatic doors would open without anyone triggering them. During after hours the library would echo with sounds of doors closing, even though the floors were cleared of all students. The most chilling of these incidents were reports from students who claimed to have seen a young woman with a green backpack mysteriously disappear.
“From what I’ve been told, she used to wear a distinct bright green backpack prior to her death, which was unique at the time,” Camp said. “Backpacks back then weren’t as common, and most students usually had backpacks in the style of military surplus.”
According to some students, the ghost of Gottlieb was seen walking through the book stacks in the fourth floor but when students turned around the corner she had vanished.
In recent years, the strange occurrences on the fourth floor of the library have nearly ceased. Every once in a while the automatic doors that open to the Special Collections Department will behave unnaturally. It is said that ghosts sometimes have a hard time letting go and they attach themselves to a physical object if the person had an emotional connection with it.
Curiously enough, the English literature books that were once located on the fourth floor have been relocated.