It’s nearing midnight. The Library looms over the nearly empty campus, palm trees rustling in the wind above the benches out front, the windows glowing in the dark. If the rumors are true, the Library is just as eerie as it looks.
Research and rumors — the two go hand in hand with the story of Gottlieb. In 1976, a mysterious girl, whose name is whispered through USF’s halls, died — or so the story goes. Rumor has it she killed herself by hanging from a tree at her apartment complex and allegedly haunts the fourth floor of USF’s Library, roaming the aisles with a green backpack.
As spooky as it sounds, there is no known evidence confirming her death, or even her existence.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t something there. Joe Bond, who works with the nonprofit Ghost Hunters of South Tampa, explained that ghost stories are merely what many use to confirm or make light of what they experience.
Curious and eager to investigate the legend of Gottlieb, Ana Maria Bohorquez, a freshman majoring in health science, decided to stake out the Special Collections room on the fourth floor of the library, where the majority of the stories are rooted.
“I felt the movement of someone almost bending down very close to me and mumble something in my left ear,” Bohorquez said. “Almost like someone whispering a secret.”
She spent two hours studying in one of the aisles on the fourth floor that night. However her experience was more spooky, than studious.
“It felt so real that I had honestly thought it was someone trying to tell me something, until I realized that no one else was around except for me,” Bohorquez said.
When it comes to ghosts, not everything is black and white. According to Bond, a ghost is a disembodied human spirit, someone no longer attached to his or her body, but still fully conscious and aware. Bond said that can mean anything from an orb to a full transparent figure.
“It depends on what the spirit can manifest,” Bond said. “If they have a lot of energy to pull off of, you’ll most likely see them as full body apparitions. They look like you or I, it’s just you can tell there’s a little something off.”
Will Jackson, a music studies major, was another freshmen who staked out the Library. While he didn’t experience anything directly, after being left alone on the floor, he said he could definitely see why the rumor of Gottlieb floats around.
“You just kind of feel like someone is watching you,” Jackson said.
And according to Bond, that’s probably more than a feeling; the ghost hunter explained that human vision is actually fairly trustworthy, but our minds convince us otherwise.
“As soon as you look at something, your brain tries to rationalize,” Bond said.
Bond said if you hear a creak, once you glance at the source, your brain needs an explanation right away. So, it becomes second nature to just brush off any mild disturbance as “the air conditioner” or “the door.” A new employee at the Library, Angela Crain, has just started working evening shifts, occasionally stopping by the fourth floor for restocking. And while nothing has happened yet, she said it doesn’t stop her suspicions.
“I grew up believing that stuff,” Crain said. “But from most reports I’ve heard, ghosts hang around where they died, not where they hung around most (in life).”
If that were the case, Gottlieb would not be at the Library, rather her apartment complex, Oak Ramble, where it is rumored she hanged herself.
There doesn’t seem to be any concrete evidence to confirm the rumor, and that’s not the only problem with the story.
Drew Smith, an assistant librarian at USF, was an undergraduate at Clemson University between 1974 and 1978, and said backpacks, even green ones, weren’t commonly used then. Smith recalled that the trend didn’t catch on at East Coast campuses until the 1980s.
Andy Huse, who works in Special Collections, spoke of doing his own research on the ghost story and came to the conclusion it was just that: a story. “No one bothers to do any research, so we never learn anything new,” Huse said.
The librarian said if there was more to go off of, there would be more to tell, but the dots simply don’t connect. Huse, who did research for the 50th anniversary of USF Homecoming, pointed out that, at the end of the day, people just like ghost stories, which Smith agreed with.
“As a lifelong skeptic, I find ghost stories amusing and entertaining, but no more believable than a Stephen King novel,” Smith said.