Haunted Evansville library featured in TV movie

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Evansville - A local writer who grew up hearing about the legend of a shadowy "Grey Lady" said to haunt an Evansville library used that tale as the inspiration for a screenplay that's been turned into a new television movie.

Rod Spence's "The Good Witch," a two-hour movie set in a small town, premiered Saturday night on the Hallmark Channel. It will air again January 25 and January 31.

Spence graduated from Evansville's North High School in 1972 and has made his living as a freelance mechanical designer, drawing and laying out designs for structural steel platforms, catwalks, conveyor lines and other structures.

But he's also a longtime writer who wrote his first screenplay in high school. Since then he estimates he's written 30 screenplays.

"The Good Witch" is the first movie that carries his writing credits. It follows the suspicion and curiosity of small town residents after a mysterious young woman moves into an old home - the Grey House - that locals believe is haunted.

The inspiration for the story was the shadowy "Grey Lady" that some Evansville residents believe haunts the city's Willard Library.

"I used the legend of the Grey Lady of Willard Library, only I made her the Grey Lady of Grey House," Spence said.

He said Hallmark's head of programming wanted to buy the screenplay for "The Good Witch" three years ago, but couldn't get the project green-lighted until this year.

"It's a very lighthearted, fun movie for the whole family," Spence said. "It has a great message of tolerance and not just judging a person by outward appearances - that's kind of the theme of the show."

After years of struggling to interest studios in his work, Spence said he hopes having a writer's credit on a produced movie will help him land future projects, or perhaps sell some of the 15 or so screenplays he has to offer now.

Spence said that in 2002 Paramount Studios bought an option for a feature film screenplay that never made it to production, but that deal got him into the Writers Guild of America.

"Some years I would become frustrated and give up on it for a while, but I always went back," he said. "In 2000 I decided I should get serious. I'd had enough positive feedback over the years to believe I could do this."

Spence has already hosted his own "Good Witch" premiere party, watching an advance screener DVD of the film with friends.

But for Saturday night's network premiere, he said he'll probably just have one guest - his mother, who doesn't have cable.

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