April 2024

      Welcome to the series of Haunted Libraries (and Bookshops) Around the World. In which I will highlight a library (or bookshop) and its stories of ghostly apparitions, and maybe suggest a book along with it.

      Moravian Book Shop is currently located in Bethlehem, PA and boasts the title of being the oldest and possibly first bookstore opened in America. I’ll spare you most of the history, but to say that the bookstore itself has changed its location and name many times. So this little ghost tale probably doesn’t have anything to do with the original owners.

      The staff have felt like they were being watched in the basement and just generally don’t like being there1, but more spectacular was when the ghost led the store manager back to the kitchens, where she had discovered the stove was still on.

      Jane Clugston, who sells children’s books and has been with the store for almost 30 years, can corroborate. She told me that one night, while closing the store with a fellow employee, she saw a dark figure in a back hallway of the store, going into the kitchen. She and the coworker followed the figure back. Then, she says she realized the back kitchen stove was on, as well as the fan.

      “I don’t know why this person, ghost, spirit drew us back there, but I guess to turn off those appliances,” says Clugston. “I’d never thought of it until I told someone else and they said a ghost led you back there. But in that back hallway a lot of people have said that they’ve felt things and they’ve seen things.” It’s like something out of a book.2

      Besides then general sightings of thinking there may be patrons waiting is a story of how another manager saw a woman sprinting from one room to the other and had assumed that she was a shoplifter. He went to go investigate and discovered that he was the only person to have seen her.1

1:Haunted Places
2:The Guardian

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And yet for one reason or another these volumes were banished to the silted depths of obscurity. But these books breathe. They hold thoughts, knowledge and humour otherwise long gone. Their stories – and to a degree, their authors – are alive upon opening them, undiminished by the violence of time.

The Madman’s Library: The Greatest Curiosities of Literature by Edward Brooke-Hitching
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      They decided to go camping near the lake instead of the woods, where the trees canopy wasn’t so thick overhead that you couldn’t see the stars. Though now that it was getting darker, she wished she hadn’t ignored the niggling fear that was now quickly building to dread.

      She thought it had something to do with the water and how black the surface was. You wouldn’t be able to see your hand just below the surface.

      The ghost stories they shared earlier around the campfire hadn’t helped her nerves either. Her imagination was turning every snap of a twig into some terrible being coming to get her.

      She lay there in her sleeping bag, alone in her tent, unable to sleep. There were footsteps outside her tent shuffling past, then a splash in the water. She unzipped her tent, and although she didn’t know how to swim herself, thought she would sit on the dock and join whoever from her party was out in the water now. The moonlight was bright and in the water she could see her friend bobbing just above the surface. Then in the next moment it looked as if her friend were pulled under.

      She waited a few heartbeats, wanting to see if her friend would resurface, and when she didn’t, started to cry for help. Their other friends, bleary-eyed, came running from their own tents, one tripping over their fire pit. She explained what happened, and they both went running into the water.

      After several minutes, they pulled her friend onto the shore and began CPR. Her friend began to cough up water, and with a speediness surely not normal, stood up and started to walk away. She caught up to her and grabbed her arm.

      “What are you doing? Come back, we will get the fire going.” Her friend, the one she had known since grade school, ignored her. As she watched her friend walk down the dark path towards the main road, she felt as if somehow that wasn’t actually her in there. She walked back to the water’s edge and in the moonlight she could have sworn she saw her friends face just below the surface.     


      There are stories all over the world of ghostly beings that drown those foolish enough to swim in their waters. The story above was inspired by the myth of the Shui Gui. The Shui Gui is a ghost from Chinese folklore. They are the result of a person drowning and will free themselves only when they drown another. The stories I read through vary on what happens. The victim takes the place of the Shui Gui, but the freed spirit either takes over the body or moves on.1


      Another similar story is of a spirit that tries to drag it’s victims to the depths of the pond at House of the Binns, Linlithgow, West Lothian. Though I couldn’t really find any stories regarding these spirits, they were overshadowed by the General who lived there and his card games with the devil.2

      Next we travel to Blackwater, Florida. There is a local legend of a woman who is deathly pale, and smells of rotten flesh. 3

By Tim Ross – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3075595

      As part of the Blackwater River State Park, Blackwater River State Forest is a favorite outdoor recreation spot. But if you’re tubing, swimming, boating or fishing in the river, make sure to leave the water before the sun sets.
Otherwise a woman in the water will drag you to the bottom with her.
      One of the least known ghosts in the area, the woman in the water, has been described as a deathly pale woman with long jet-black hair.
      The few people who managed to escape her clutches first smelled rotten flesh right before she re-surfaced and tried dragging them to their deaths.
      One account says that the ghost of Blackwater River isn’t limited to the river. Apparently, she grabbed a man’s ankle from within a puddle as he ran away from her.
      He was lucky. You may not be. So, stay safe at the Blackwater River State Forest.4

  1. Uncovering Chinese Mythology: A Beginner’s Guide Into the World of Chinese Myths, Enchanting Tales, Folklore, Legendary Heroes, Gods, Divine Beings, and Mythical Creatures by Lucas Russo
  2. This Haunted Isle by Peter Underwood
  3. https://www.rd.com/list/haunted-bodies-of-water/
  4. https://backpackerverse.com/forests-in-florida/#6_Blackwater_River_State_Forest_Milton
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      Omg. How can she scare me, make me comforted, and then break my heart?
Likes:

      Well it’s T. Kingfisher and she is one of my favorite authors. I will love and support her work whenever it comes out.

      The characters, especially Hester. I enjoyed her character and point of view the most. I have a friend that reminded me a lot of Hester, and so was able to envision her. Let me just tell you, it was like having my friend I haven’t seen for years besides me for a few days.

      Penelope Green – ugh! She seems like an old-school cool type person that I know I will never be, but have tried many times to emulate.

      Lady Strauss – just an all around defender of her friends. I love it.

      Willard and Alice. Dependable, good-natured people to be surrounded by.

      Finally, the bad guys! They are actually bad, you know? Like there is no redemption for them, and they were terrifying. For example, being made obedient, and just watching your mother use your body as a puppet… The opening description of being made to sit still in a church pew, unable to move, as a fly walks across your hand. Feeling the individual hairs of the fly’s foot pierce the skin, the idea, makes me feel a little icky. Look, here’s a picture of a fly’s foot. No, thank you.

      Ok, enough about flies. I know they are mostly harmless, but I would definitely have sent that fly flying.

      The amazing thing about T. Kingfisher’s writing here is that all the characters are flawed, but it isn’t portrayed negatively. I have never cared for books where the main character is flawless, beautiful, and perfect. I have never met anyone like that in real life, and it all feels so fake. I mean, I get that fiction is usually a suspension of disbelief, but I want to be able to relate to most of the characters I am reading about.
Dislikes:

      The pacing. I adore novella’s and T. Kingfisher writes the best of them. So when I saw that this was over 300 pages, I was a bit surprised, and this might be why I felt that it got a little slow to the action.

      The romance. Reader, it might not even be fair to write this. I was not in the mood for a romantic tale. I found Hester’s reasoning’s to be selfish and frustrating. Also, when I talk about flawed characters, this was the one spot where I was the most disappointed. Every single time she talked about how old she was and how undeserving she was for love, it made me roll my eyes.

      Anyway, this is a 4.5 star book for me. I loved it. I wish T. Kingfisher would actually hire me as a beta reader and email me every day with her newest writings. I think it would be a win-win, really. She would get my undying loyalty (which I mean she already has), and I in turn would get awesome things to read without having to wait.

      Which actually brings me to the last bit of my review. As I don’t have an in with T. Kingfisher, I’d like to give my thanks to the awesome people over at Netgalley and Tor who approve my requests for her books. THANK YOU!


 Chapter 8 — Page: 68
“None whatsoever,” said Hester dryly. “Otherwise people might get on them.” She turned to Doom. “There was a terrible murder in Little Haw, you see, and your daughter was overset by the thought that she might know the victims.”
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 Chapter 8 — Page: 69
Doom’s glance was quick and cold. Hester smiled comfortably and adjusted her shawl.
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 Chapter 10 — Page: 82
“Walk,” she ordered finally. “To the far wall and back.” Cordelia obeyed, trying not to stumble. She wasn’t used to thinking about how she walked, and suddenly the whole concept of walking seemed completely absurd. You fell forward and put out a foot to catch yourself before you sprawled on the ground. And then you did it again? And this was normal?
It’s like thinking about blinking. The moment you think about it, you start to worry that you aren’t blinking often enough, or too often and now I’m thinking about blinking, oh dear . . .
Still, her feet took care of themselves while she was worried about blinking too much, so that was a small mercy.
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 Chapter 17 — Page: 154
“The student has, I think, outshone the master.”
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 Chapter 20 — Page: 180
She let her mouth witter on, hoping that her brain would come up with something brilliant in the interim. It declined to do so.
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 Chapter 28 — Page: 244
and dogs made of bones.
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 Chapter 28 — Page: 247
Willard
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 Chapter 29 — Page: 248
Worse than the eyestrain was the fear that she would miss something vital. She would often find herself halfway down a page with no memory of what she had just read, and would be forced to start again.
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Published by: Tor Publishing Group
Pub Date: 06 Aug 2024
Genre: Novellas & Short Stories | Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pages: 208
Date Read: 14 Mar 2024
Rating: ★★★★☆

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