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And the answer is...Tilt as suggested by @lucasw. It turns out the bracket holding the LIDAR had been very slightly bent downward. Once we bent it back level, the problem went away. The weird thing is (and it's what confused us the most), is that the downward tilt did not cause a constant reading from the floor a certain distance out from the robot. Instead, it only produced the "phantom wall" under very specific conditions, namely, when the view ahead included a narrowing at a certain distance, like two pillar supports of a wall jutting into the floor space. Move the robot a little forward or backward and the fake wall would go away.

Anyway, problem solved.