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PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MARIE SICOLA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY STEVE WATKINS
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
The noises at Read All Over Books in downtown Fredericksburg started a year ago.
Two employees heard the same thing at different times and on different days.
Chloe Lafollette and Austin Echelberger each turned off the lights upstairs at the end of their shifts. Each returned downstairs at 307 William St. to continue switching off lights and shutting down the store.
And each heard footsteps walking from the front left corner of the store--above their heads on the second floor--over to the top of the stairs. The footsteps were so distinct that Echelberger hurried back upstairs, assuming he'd turned the lights off on a customer. But the room was empty.
They shrugged it off at first. Maybe they'd imagined it. Maybe it was just creaking, settling sounds of a pre-Civil War building. But it happened again. And again.
Echelberger, who has since left Read All Over and moved to Charlottesville, finally told bookstore owner Paul Cymrot. Echelberger said he felt he was being watched from the top of the stairs. It became so regular that he would say hello and go on with his business.
Lafollette got so freaked out that any time she had to close the store she would run upstairs, hit the lights, then run back down.
She, too, went to Cymrot.
"The odd thing was that neither of them had corroborated their stories first with one another," Cymrot said. "Yet what they reported to me was almost exactly the same."
Built in 1830 near the intersection of what are now William and Princess Anne streets, 307 William has been a grocery, tin shop, high-end knickknack emporium, day spa, and now a used bookstore.
There have been so many unusual occurrences since the noises began--and questions from patrons--that Cymrot posted a sign that says, in all caps: "Keep calm. This bookstore is probably not haunted."
A first-time customer recently came in, walked around and stopped in front of the sign. Lafollette was working.
"He said, 'I guess that explains why I just saw a book flying off one of your shelves,'" she recalled.
THE GHOST UPSTAIRS
Skeptical at first, Cymrot eventually had to concede that something strange was going on at Read All Over.