I love thinking about hauntings at libraries and bookstores. It makes sense that ghosts would gravitate towards books, right? After all, books are a peek back in time. They’re memories and ideas that have been recorded and will live on for eternity. You could even say that books are ghosts, in their own way. So if you see ghosts hanging out at bookstores and libraries, they’re probably just trying to chill with their peers.
You know that scene in the beginning of Ghostbusters where there’s a ghost librarian at the New York City Public Library? There’s a reason a library ghost is the first kind of ghost the busters encounter before officially getting their ghost-hunting business underway. The ghost at the library, shushing other patrons who are getting between her and her peaceful reading time? Iconic. If I have to be a ghost when I die, I want to be a ghost with books.
And it seems like a lot of ghosts feel the same, because ghosts are haunting libraries and bookstores all over the world. If you’re in search of a tour around the world of haunted literary locations, read on. These are some of the most haunted bookstores and libraries.
Moravian Book Shop — Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
The Moravian Book Shop has been open since 1745 and is the oldest bookstore in America, so of course it’s haunted. A few years ago, the bookstore’s manager thought he saw a shoplifter trying to steal something. But you guessed it. It was a ghost. And apparently no one else saw her. Another very helpful ghost of a man in a dark cloak led staff members back to the kitchen to warn them when a stove was left on. Many other staff members have claimed that they get the sensation that they’re being watched while they’re in the store.
The Book House — St. Louis, Missouri
The Book House is an early Gothic-revival farmhouse that is said to be home to many ghosts, including one named Valerie. Valerie is a little redhead girl who apparently lived in the house in the early 1880s. It’s believed that Valerie drowned in a well on the property, and no one can say whether the death was an accident or murder. Employees of the bookstore have often heard the little girl’s laughter and the sounds of her frolicking on the roof. She also likes to turn the lights off and on. Some have even seen Valerie walking past the window.
Then there’s The Dark Man, a ghost who isn’t seen as often as Valerie, but is quite sinister. He’s usually seen in the basement of the bookstore late at night and brings with him a feeling of cold and fear.
And did you know that ghosts can attach themselves to books? Because that’s what happened with the Smoking Man, a third ghost who showed up with a stack of donated books. The Smoking Man can be seen throughout the store smoking his pipe.
Wicked Good Books — Salem, Massachusetts
Surprising no one, Wicked Good Books, a bookstore in the witchiest town in America, has its fair share of hauntings. There has been some poltergeist activity reported at the bookstore: books flying off of shelves, shadow figures and apparitions appearing. During renovations, a tunnel system was discovered underneath the building, and there was evidence of human remains found there. The New England Ghost Project investigated the store and the underground system and paranormal investigators felt a benign presence there. Another investigator said that he felt a “warm welcoming presence” that later shifted, and then the investigator felt hands around his neck.
Browse Awhile Books — Tippled City, Ohio
Browse Awhile Books is the host of at least 15 ghosts, and many of them have names: Charlie, Sam, Virgil, James, Erika, Becky, Sue, Mike, and Ellen. People have reported being literally attacked by the ghosts. These spirits have poked, punched, slapped, and yelled at people in the store. There have also been reports of objects moving around the store: books pulled off of shelves, children’s toys moving around the store. As with The Book House, it’s suspected that some of the ghosts who currently haunt Browse Awhile Books came into the store attached to used books.
Attic Books — London, Ontario
The staff and owner of Attic books will all tell you that this bookstore is haunted, specifically the basement. The staff will often smell cigar smoke coming from the basement, and books fall off of shelves. Everyone at the store is so sure of the haunting at Attic Books that they all have agreed to give an offering to the ghost at night so that they are less likely to disturb the store. And it seems to have worked! Since the staff started putting out offerings of books to the ghost, fewer books have been pulled off of shelves randomly. See? Ghosts really do like their books.
Rivendell Books — Barrie, Ontario
Customers and employees of Rivendell Books have encountered a very strange ghost in the store: a history buff who paces the aisle that shelves books on WWI and WWII. The ghost will pull books about this period of history from the shelves and stack them into piles. Those who have seen this history-loving ghost describe him as an “elderly, grey-haired man in old-fashioned clothing.” Some customers claim the ghost has even touched them.
The Cairo Public Library — Cairo, Illinois
The Cairo Public Library has been a part of the culture of Cairo, Illinois, since widow Mrs. Alfred Safford presented this building to the town in 1884 in remembrance of her late husband. Oh, and also a ghost named Toby haunts this place. A librarian named Louise Ogg claims she first saw Toby on her very first day of work. On her lunch break, she heard the sound of a rocking chair rocking back and forth in the reading room. When she went to investigate the sound, it stopped. But as soon as she turned back around, the rocking started back again. Library director Monica Smith claims that Toby would go through the library and turn lights on after she’d turn them off. She also heard Toby’s footsteps upstairs even though she knew she was the only one in the building. Librarians assume that Toby is a former book-loving patron who simply can’t stand the thought of leaving the library now.
The Willard Library — Evansville, Indiana
The Willard Library’s ghostly claim to fame is the ghost of The Grey Lady. Employees and patrons of the library have claimed to smell the scent of perfume, sense a strange cold feeling, and feel a light touch on their hair and earrings. The Grey Lady wanders freely about the library, walking around the basement, making her way onto the elevator, and passing time in the upstairs section of the library. During a visit to the library, a group of lecturers from the University of Southern Indiana claim they saw the Grey Lady peering into water. A group of policeman claim to have seen two ghosts in an upstairs window.
Scottsdale Public Library — Scottsdale, Arizona
The Scottsdale Public Library has reported hauntings at two of its branches: the main branch and the Arabian branch. There have been multiple accounts of books flying off shelves and strange voices. In 2010, the Sonoran Paranormal Investigations team went in to investigate the hauntings. Voices were recorded, including one that was fully audible without the assistance of recording devices. In the children’s reading room, investigators notices the voices responded when they read “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The video camera that was being used to record the activity was knocked over.
Blackheath Library — St. John’s Park, London
The Blackheath Library in St. John’s Park is a former vicarage that is now inhabited by the ghost of Elsie Marshall. There have been reports of lights turning on even when the building is empty, and patrons have said they’ve felt someone brushing past them when they’re at the door.
Africana Library — Kimberly, Northern Cape, South Africa
The Africana Library is one of South Africa’s premier reference libraries, housed in the old Kimberley Public Library. It’s also said to be haunted. People have reported hearing teacups rattling in the kitchen and footsteps in the room when no one is there. It’s believed that the spirit walking around the library is Bertram Dyer, the first qualified librarian in the country. He died by suicide after he was caught defrauding the library. Now apparently he lurks within the library for all of eternity.
State Library of Victoria — Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne’s State Library of Victoria was established in 1856 and is the home of many ghosts. Some of them are quite helpful! For instance, one ghost of a librarian named Grace has taken charge of the children’s books in the Arts Collection. Meanwhile, a ghost with a mustache looks after the music stacks and piano. A lot of the encounters with ghosts have happened after hours when the security guards are there on their own. People have also reported poltergeist phenomena in the newspaper room and glowing balls of light on the stairs.
Are you terrified yet? Or are you planning your next literary ghost-hunting trip? Either way, if you’re looking for even more haunted literary locales, check out even more haunted libraries here!
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