The Alexander Library Janitor aka Wee Man (and his door!)
When I was a third-year undergraduate student at Douglass College, I had an encounter with a very strange little man and his strange little door on the fourth floor of the Alexander Library on College Avenue in New Brunswick.
As an English major, I spent a great deal of time at Alexander Library, losing not only a great deal of my money at the photocopiers, but also clearly losing a little bit of my sanity as this very bizarre account will demonstrate. It was the summer session and I had very stupidly enrolled in four summer English classes. As poor as I was, there was no way I was going to shell out hundreds of dollars for books for a few six-week classes that I’m sure I would have little if any recollection of by the next semester. Hence, many of those beautiful summer hours of my youth were spent photocopying the likes of “The Female Quixote: Or, the Adventures of Arabella”. Anyhow, I also spent a lot of time on the fourth floor, where the “K”-“P/QR” stacks were located. The fourth floor is like all other floors at Alexander library, eerily quiet when the semester is in full tilt, absolutely ghostly silent during the summer. But one of the most scary things about the library is the way you can walk through many, many rows of books and still seem to be in the same spot. The main core of the building is a square in the center of all the floors, surrounded by the dozens of rows of books, and it contains the elevator, stairwell, restrooms and maybe an office. I am not a big fan of elevators, so I always come out from the stairwell and circle around the stacks, find my books and circle back around to the stairs. Well, on one fine summer day I came out of the stairwell, into the stacks, began looking for my books and heard a little noise. It was like the pitter-patter of little feet. Was there a child on the floor? I peered down my row of books and saw no one. I resumed searching for my books, and again I heard the some light footsteps, and this time a jingle of keys. I looked down my row again, curious as to whether there were any similarly geeky-minded students like myself at the library on such a beautiful summer day. I saw no one, but I kept hearing little scurrying noises. I quickly headed towards the bathroom in the main core, and when I came out of the rows of books and into full view of the main core, I froze, because facing me was a very small man – he seemed waist-high- maybe three and half feet? – in a custodial type of green uniform (coveralls ??). He was a white guy, I don’t know if he had hair (he had a hat on) and he had a tiny, little-featured, but clearly adult face and body. He looked at me disinterestedly and turned to go into a tiny doorway that I never noticed before, somewhere between the bathroom and stairwell.
The doorway probably never caught my notice before because it wasn’t an actual doorway so much as a rough, rectangular cut-out into the wall, that looked like it had been done with a utility knife, and was maybe three and a half feet tall and a foot and a half wide. It was almost perfectly cut to the wee little man’s specifications. If I ever saw it before, I would have never thought it served any purpose for any human being, being so small and out of the way. It was also pitch dark inside and I can only imagine that maybe it was some type of service entry or crawlspace to the elevator shaft? Anyway, the little guy seemed to be trundling into it, and clearly he belonged there or at least he jingled his keys like he did, so I started to walk away, back up a row of books toward my destination, kind of in shock that such a little person was employed in the library in such a manner. Then I heard the pitter patter of little feet again, but in a corresponding row to mine. I tried to peer through the books but I didn’t see him. I heard the pitter-patter sped up and it sounded very close. I just couldn’t see him, but I could definitely hear the jingle-jangle of his keys.
I don’t know why, but I became frightened and I tried to run towards the stairs, but I got confused and turned the wrong way. All I know is that for what seemed like an eternity, I charged down row after row of books (they seemed never-ending) until I abruptly hit chairs, tables and a wall in a back corner of the room. It was an empty study area. I stopped, listened, heard nothing and tried to calm down. I got my bearings and forced myself to walk to the stairs.
I walked down the three flights of stairs to the main level and sort of jogged out to the main foyer of the library where the bored desk clerk in check-out and a few idle people by the computers looked at me in a surprised manner. I was gasping a little and I can’t imagine the strange look on my face. I never heard or saw the wee man on my way out. I have no idea who he was or if he did actually work there. I don’t know why I was running or why I got so scared. All I know is that I didn’t hallucinate him and I know he was able to walk in and out of the little door that was cut in the wall for him at Alexander Library.
The images of the doorway were taken recently. It appears as though the wee man has not graced Alexander Library with his presence for quite some time. However, there is clear evidence of the door itself, which was covered with a coat of green paint. The width of the door can be seen where the panel is missing at its base. The height of the door can be scaled against the trash receptacle in the same picture. The light reflection is also different over the region where the door once was, indicating that the space behind is hollow. It would be very interesting to uncover the mystery of what is behind door number one – a wee living space, a wee collection of ancient books, a wee body left to rot? This is another one that may go unsolved, but the clues are there. There is no doubt that Rutgers Rarities will investigate this feature story further.