Time Machine

Cedar Rapids ghost stories: The time Hazel McGrew's ghost was spotted in the library

The photo from the 1970s shows the interior of the Cedar Rapids Public Library when the library was at the corner of Thi
The photo from the 1970s shows the interior of the Cedar Rapids Public Library when the library was at the corner of Third Avenue and Fifth Street SE. Three library employees said they saw a woman in the building in October 1962 the day after she’d died in a fire. (The History Center)
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One of the more popular ghost stories in Linn County concerns Hazel McGrew.

The story goes that Hazel’s ghost appeared the morning of Oct. 10, 1962, in the Cedar Rapids Public Library, which was then at the corner of Third Avenue and Fifth Street SE.

Three library employees saw Hazel, a regular visitor to the library, when they came down from the balcony where newspapers were stored. It wasn’t until the afternoon newspaper arrived that they learned Hazel had died in a fire the evening before.

According to the paranormal community, this kind of one-time apparition is called a “crisis apparition.”

Hazel died of smoke inhalation the evening of Oct. 9 in a fire at the three-story, 14-unit Mitchell apartment house at 511 A Ave. NE. The fire started when someone tossed a cigarette into the trash by the back door.

By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze was so hot it prevented them from entering the building, and people had to rescued from exterior windows. The flames never reached Hazel’s bedroom, but the smoke did.

Hazel Bryan McGrew was 66 when she died and had lived in Cedar Rapids for 25 years. She was preceded in death by her husband, Guy Alexander McGrew, and survived by two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren. She is buried at Linwood Cemetery.

Tara Templeman is curator at The History Center. Comments: curator@historycenter.org

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