Ghosts in the Lents Branch?

Boone County Public Library’s Lents Branch is special for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the generous donation made by Ralph V Lents to construct it.  Built in 1989 as BCPL’s second branch, Mr. Lents was very involved in the planning for the facility before his death in 1984.  It was very important to him that the people of Boone County have the chance to explore their interests, learn and grow.  His commitment to the project was fierce and unparalleled and seems to have continued even after his passing.

For years, staff and customers have reported strange activities inside the Lents Branch and on the property.  There are lights that flicker on and off.  Cell phones don’t always get great reception and electronics fail at a much higher rate than in other library branches.  Some people report feeling like someone is behind them or in the building with them on quiet nights.  Custodial staff have been touched or heard their names called when in the meeting room late at night. Still others claim to have seen ghosts or mists. Renowned ghost hunter Patti Starr claimed to have seen a little man in a brown suit standing in the corner of the meeting room.

These happenings have become so common that staff started to joke that it might be Mr. Lents.  But could it really be him?  Is he still checking on the library after all this time?  The only way to find out is to investigate!  On March 7th, a group of volunteers, PINK (Paranormal Investigators of Northern KY), worked with library staff to check the building for paranormal activity and the presence of spirits or ghosts.  A full range of diagnostic equipment was brought in to analyze and research the premises.

Video cameras were set up all over the building along with audio equipment and various devices intended to capture any movement, sound or image that might indicate a spiritual presence.  A medium came as well to try to make contact with any apparitions that might be lingering around the library.

In the meeting room, where much of the reported activity has occurred, the team had flashlights flicker in response to questions, cold spots and a spirit box would respond directly to questions. When the spirit was asked its name, the response was “Ralph”. When asked what road runs past the library, the box clearly said “North Bend”.

Later the team moved into the main portion of the library by the front desk. It was here that the medium felt the presence of a female who felt like she was “in charge”. Here too, flashlights would respond to questions and motion sensors would go on even though no one from the team was moving. Who could this be? Tillie Tanfani was the branch manager at Lents from 1989 to her death in 2004. Is Tillie watching over the library she so loved? Are Ralph Lents and Tillie Tanfani watching over the little branch in Hebron? If they are, they are most assuredly the library’s guardian angels.

PINK is currently analyzing the information they collected and will present a big reveal with their results when they are finished. Watch for a future blog post on this subject!


Bridget Striker, graduate of the University of Kentucky, has been with BCPL since 2001 where she uses her background in archaeology, historic preservation and GIS mapping to ferret out elusive bits of Boone County history as the Local History Coordinator. Bridget serves as Vice-Chair of the Boone County Historic Preservation Review Board and Executive Board Member of the Rabbit Hash Historical Society.

Who is that lady standing out in the cold in front of the Library?

Have you ever noticed the woman depicted in bronze in front of the Main Library? We get lots of questions and comments about her. The plaque by her feet reads Mary Draper Ingles.  Children often read her name and then come into the library and ask us if she’s from Little House on the Prairie.  We’ve also been asked, usually by older children, if she is the grim reaper.

Kids are really concerned about her in the winter. They worry about her bare feet being cold. A lot of them also comment on the size of her feet. They want to know if the real Mary Ingles had feet that big. Halloween 2014 four (1 of 1)-3Most often, however, people ask us who she is and then want to know if we have a book about her. Yes, we have books about her; the most popular is probably the historical novel, Follow the River by James Alexander Thom. If you are interested in her story, you might want to reserve the book in our catalog, in the meantime I’ll share the highlights of her story with you.

Mary Draper Ingles was a strong, courageous woman best-known for escaping from Indian captivity at Big Bone Lick in Boone County, Kentucky. Most of what is known about her comes from a narrative account of the Ingles family written by Mary’s son, Colonel John Ingles.

Mary lived with her husband in a place called Draper’s Meadows, a Halloween 2014 four (1 of 1)-2small settlement of ten people in August County, Virginia. On Wednesday, July 30, 1755, the Shawnee attacked Draper’s Meadow. Mary was taken prisoner along with her two sons, Thomas and George. Mary’s husband was away at the time and was not captured. The Shawnee headed for the Ohio River and the Shawnee town of Sonnontio. When they reached the town, the two boys were taken from Mary and adopted into the tribe. Mary was taken to Big Bone Lick, more than 100 miles further west, to help make salt.

Sometime in October, Mary decided to escape. Because the prisoners were allowed to roam the camp at will, Mary and another woman simply left camp taking with them two blankets and two tomahawks. After four or five days, the women reached the junction of the Ohio and Licking Rivers, near present-day Cincinnati. There they found an abandoned cabin, which contained a supply of corn. According to the narrative, when the corn ran out, they survived on “black walnuts, grapes, pawpaws, etc.” The women crossed at least 145 creeks and rivers and traveled five to six hundred miles. They separated near the end of the journey and Mary arrived home on or about December 1, 1755. She reunited with her husband and had four more children before she died in 1815 at the age of 83.

Halloween 2014 four (1 of 1)Mary Draper Ingles was chosen as the subject of the Library statue because part of her story took place in Boone County and because she was a strong heroic woman who never gave up. She endured great hardship to achieve her goal of returning home.

The Mary Draper Ingles sculpture was created by Matthew Scott Langford. Largely self-taught, Langford has been a professional sculptor since 1991. Born in Cincinnati, but raised and educated in Northern Kentucky, Matthew Langford lives in Union, with his wife and two daughters, in an antebellum log cabin, not far from the site of Mary Ingles’ escape.


Becky Kempf has been the Public Relations Coordinator at Boone County Public Library for the past eleven years. A graduate of Wright State University, she previously worked for Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana and the Association for the Advancement of Arts Education.