ghosts, The Unexplained

Revisiting Amityville 45 years later…

Happy Halloween! This month’s blog post is coming a little earlier in order to celebrate this unholy holiday.

Last year I read Jay Anson’s Amityville Horror: A True Story around Halloween. I listened to the audiobook during my commute, because I thought it would be the perfect story to get me in the holiday season.  At the time, I wasn’t crazy about it. I thought the writing was a little stilted, and the plot was far too outlandish to be within the realm of possibility.  However, I’d had no idea of the context in which this book was published. I’d had no idea that this book was originally marketed as a literally “true” story…

There has been intense debate over the last 30 years as to whether or not the Amityville horror is a hoax or the most prolific and notorious haunting that the world has ever seen.  Most of the information I have about the case comes from a riveting documentary called “The Real Amityville Horror”. It’s a 2005 documentary by Nobles Gate Production.  They interview many of the people involved, which adds an authentic personal touch.  I highly recommend watching it.  It’s spooky and informative and not a bad way to spend a cool autumn evening.


Continue reading “Revisiting Amityville 45 years later…”

Shelf of books
ghosts, Haunted Bookstores

The Haunting of Browse Awhile Books: Ghost Book Club or Something Less Sinister?

Browse Awhile Books boasts enough ghosts that they could start their own book club.  And from the sound of it, they would be a rowdy, chatty, and somewhat vindictive group. So, it would be just like your typical book club.

Built in 1872, Browse Awhile Books is located in Tipp City, Ohio.  It’s found nestled in the Historic District among fifty antique and arts shops.  The bookstore is 4000 square feet and houses over 150,000 books (Browse Awhile Books).  But you’re not here to learn about the quaint area or to get tips on where to go if you want to go antiquing next weekend.  You’re here to learn about the spirits haunting this building, so I’m going to jump right in!

Browse Awhile Books Storefront

Numerous paranormal investigation groups have explored this bookstore for their TV shows and YouTube channels.  Haunted Collector, Doorways Investigation Group (DIG), My Ghost Story, and Paranormal Answers Research Team (PART) have all had their piece of the pie.  I would take a dig at the hilarious acronyms that these groups choose, but I won’t, because that’s not the part I wish to play in this story.  Instead, I’m going to talk a little bit about their alleged findings.

There have been countless paranormal incidences in this building over the years, including people being literally punched in the face (is it “literally” if no fist is actually involved?), poked, scratched, and yelled at.  One woman was slapped in the face, and it was later discovered that she’d been trying to steal a book (Doorways Investigation Group).  Books often fly off the shelves.  The toys that are left out for children move, and people often see “shadows playing peek-a-boo” (Leslie, 2014, p. 94).  Upon reading this, I suspected that a child is haunting the bookstore.  According to Leslie (2014) who cited a source that is not available online (get your shit together, Toronto Star), the child’s ghost is named “Caleb”.  An article in Huffpost comments on video footage filmed by Haunted Collector, reporting that it captures the voice of a child saying “No”.  The link to the video is dead (there’s a pun here, I’m sure of it)—but if you have a live link, please put it in the comments!

You’d think that would be the end of it. A child can cause a lot of havoc, and it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that one ghost was biting, scratching, and overall exasperating staff and customers. But apparently there are at least fifteen ghosts currently residing in Browse Awhile Books.  And many of them have names.  Charlie, Sam, Virgil, James, Erika, Becky, Sue, Mike, and Ellen.

Screen Shot 10-03-18 at 12.31 PM

Brian & Josh of DIG speak with the ghost of Erika

The fact that the ghosts have communicated their names to paranormal investigators gives me pause. I’ve read stories about a lot of ghosts, and it’s rare that the investigators can pinpoint a name for the spirit. But this many spirits? How likely is it that they were able to name 10 out of 15 ghosts? Something’s rotten in the state of Ohio.  Either there is a very strong medium living in Tipp City, some of the facts have gotten misconstrued somewhere along the way and these names are actually pet names for the ghosts, not “real” names… or someone’s lying.  I’ll let you decide which is your truth.

It has been suggested that Caleb, along with many of the other ghosts, came to the bookstore attached to a book.  This is very interesting to me, because that was a theory I postulated when looking into the haunting of Rivendell Books.

That said, if all the ghosts came to the bookstore attached to haunted books, then would that explain why a lot of bookstores are allegedly “haunted”?  Or is there something about the nature of bookstores that makes people think they’re haunted? Is it the fact that books are becoming less and less common, they’re artifacts of the past, which makes people feel nostalgic and spooky?  Or do bookstores just attract the spirits of bookworms?  Or is there something about the location of Browse Awhile Books that makes the spirits that are inevitably attached to many books more powerful, more able to interact with our realm? Or is it possible that something is inexplicably, malevolently, magically drawing these haunted items into the heart of Tipp City?  Hey, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk–I have an idea for where you should set the next season of American Horror Story!

So what do you think? It seems to me that the stories surrounding this haunting are vague and lack details. If you want to compare this to the story of the Rivendell Books hauntings, where they provided the names of witnesses who wouldn’t benefit financially from the bookstore becoming an internet sensation.  While the videos provided by paranormal investigators are intriguing, I wouldn’t say that they’re trustworthy, given their origins.  Browse Awhile Books apparently holds bookable tours where they tell tourists about the ghosts.  This financial incentive makes anything that employees at this bookstore have to say about the spirits less reliable. They have something to gain from keeping up the charade.  Again, I find it irritating that while there are apparently so many ghosts haunting this bookstore, I cannot substantiate any of these claims from primary sources. The online resources claiming this place is haunted come from lists of haunted bookstores and paranormal investigations.  I want to find a blog created by someone who isn’t, as I said, financially benefiting from their stories.

So, if you’re out there, and you see a ghost, please post about it online, whether you see the ghost in a bookstore or in your shower! I want to read what you have to say!

In the summer of 2016, the bakery in Browse Awhile Books suffered a devastating fire, during which they lost over 40% of their inventory. After this fire, I’m curious to find out if the building is still haunted. Are some of the souls gone because of what happened to the books they were attached to? Or, is it possible that one of these stronger-than-usual spirits lit the fire in hopes to escape an eternity trapped in an over-crowded, evil bookstore?

Browse Awhile Books Sign


Sources of Images:

Browse Awhile Books Storefront image taken from

Browse Awhile Books sign image taken from


wreck of the titanic
Curses, Mysterious Books

Cursed or Coincidence? The Great Omar Book

It’s been a while since I last posted, because I’ve been busy gallivanting across Canada for work.  One of the places I went to was Halifax, which inspired this month’s blog post.

At the turn of the twentieth century, bookbinding was an art, not just an automated process to create generic, identical books to sell at dirt-cheap prices.  Books were commissioned by bookbinders, who created masterpieces that were works of art. Some were even inlaid with precious stones and various fabrics and materials.  These books  took months, even sometimes years to create. With all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making a book like this, it makes sense that the most infamous one of all of them might be cursed…

The Great Omar

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Ambrose Bierce
Conspiracies, The Unexplained, writer

Ambrose Bierce and the Crystal Skull

Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce with a not-crystal skull

Ambrose Bierce was an American short story writer and journalist at the turn of the century. According to Times Magazine, he’s most famous for his short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”.  His book “The Devil’s Dictionary” was dubbed one of the “100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature”.  He was said to have had a “morbid fascination with horror and death”. (Who here can relate?) (Time Magazine). A civil war veteran, Ambrose Bierce accomplished a lot in his 71 + years of life.  But it’s his disappearance and presumed death that has had everyone speculating and theorizing over the last hundred years.

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ghosts, Haunted Libraries

Spirits on Strike: The Hauntings of Carnegie at Homestead

From 1883 to 1929, Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish businessman and philanthropist, gifted 2509 public and university libraries to cities around the world.  In the US, the third oldest of these libraries that’s still in operation today is the Carnegie Library at Homestead in Pennsylvania.  Opening in 1898, the Carnegie of Homestead features a library, a music hall, and an athletic centre.  Many have already heard of Andrew Carnegie’s infamous generosity, but did you know that this generosity may have been fueled by guilt?  Guilt that may have resulted in Andrew Carnegie choosing to haunt this library as a ghost?  And it isn’t just claims of Andrew Carnegie haunting the Library at Homestead.  There have been reports of many ghosts in this building, ghosts who just may be the spirits of those Andrew Carnegie indirectly killed.

Carnegie Library of Homestead
Carnegie Library of Homestead

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Shelf of old books
Curses, The Unexplained

Kiss Me, I’m Irish: The Good (and Bad) Luck of the Blarney Stone

Everyone knows that kissing the Blarney Stone gives you good luck. But where does all that good luck come from?  Did you know that there’s a lesser known legend surrounding the Blarney stone… and its curse? Could the “good luck” associated with kissing the Blarney stone be leached from the victims of this curse?

Continue reading “Kiss Me, I’m Irish: The Good (and Bad) Luck of the Blarney Stone”

Books on a desk
ghosts, haunted museums

A Gallery of Ghosts: The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Various Hauntings

Museums house artifacts of historical, artistic and cultural significance, providing visitors a unique opportunity to catch glimpses into the past.  The Cleveland Museum of Art, however, allows you to catch a literal glimpse into the past.  It stands to reason that a museum filled with treasured items would be haunted.  But the Cleveland Museum of Art has taken this to an extreme.  It is allegedly home to several spirits, and has been dubbed one of the US’s most haunted museums.

This week’s topic isn’t a library or a bookstore or directly related to books, but museums share many of the same values as libraries—primarily the preservation and sharing of information.  This information doesn’t have to come in the form of books.  Art, artifacts, memorabilia—all these items provide invaluable insights into the past, present, and even the future.

Now that I’ve justified talking about a museum, I can dive into the nitty gritty of the haunting.  Or should I say, hauntings.

If you stand in front of an artwork that was beautifully painted by an Impressionist, you might feel captivated, at a loss for words, and have an overwhelming desire to escape into that world of pastel shades and blurred reality. But what if it were possible that the subjects of these paintings could come to life?  No, I’m not describing The Night at the Museum, but what many visitors and employees claimed to have experienced while roaming the halls of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Continue reading “A Gallery of Ghosts: The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Various Hauntings”

Picture of books on Voynich
Conspiracies, Mysterious Books, The Unexplained

The Voynich Manuscript: Decrypting a Mystery

The Voynich Manuscript is one of history’s greatest mysteries.  Written in Central Europe in the 15th or early 16th century, this 240-page document is inscribed in a language or code that has not yet been deciphered, despite decades of cryptologists, historians, and mathematicians attempting to interpret it. Even the famous cryptographers from the Bletchley Park, who decoded the Nazi’s Enigma codes in WWII, have taken a crack at it, but all to no avail.Picture of books on voynich

Take a look at the Voynich Manuscript and see the strange language for yourself.

Named after Wilfrid Voynich, the Polish book dealer who purchased this manuscript back in 1912, this document is unusual in a number of ways.  First off, it appears to be a magical or scientific text, with many vivid images of herbs and plants that to this date have not all been identified.  It includes astronomical and astrological drawings, and lists of what appears to be recipes.  It even includes images of what might be alchemical processes; however, the images are original and odd and do not correlate to the scientific processes of the time this manuscript would have been created.

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Picture of books on Hammett & Hellman
ghosts, writer

They left their hearts in San Francisco: The Ghost Stories of Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman

Tony Bennett once sang “I left my heart in San Francisco”.  It looks like he wasn’t the only one…

Dashiell Hammett, author of noir classics such as The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, was an infamous womanizer during the prohibition era. It wasn’t long before he set his sights on Lillian Hellman, a lively fledgling playwright with great talent and feminine wiles.  The two had an on-again, off-again relationship that spanned over three decades.

The Thin Man movie image
The cast of “The Thin Man”. Hammett loosely based the character of Nora Charles on Hellman.

The accounts about the nature of Lillian and Dash’s relationship vary greatly. Some sources say that they were “friends with benefits”, which was rather progressive for the time (Vercillo, 2007).  Neither Dash nor Lillian wanted to be tied down, and they enjoyed their time together, but were never in a committed relationship.  Other sources say that their relationship was volatile, filled with passion and, sometimes, violence.  Dash couldn’t stay faithful, which led Lillian to cheat out of vengeance.  It is entirely possible that these accounts are false, and that Lillian was painted this way because the thought of a liberated woman was, at the time, unpalatable.  Lillian was said to proposition men half her age, but these stories aren’t told in the same way that they would be were it a man to have been the one doing the wooing.  It’s a double standard, but it reveals how history is shaped by those who tell it.  A dual biography written by Joan Hellen paints the lovers as anything but idyllic.  Dash might have even been violent towards Lillian.  While I haven’t had the chance to read the entirety of this book, it has a tabloid-like feel to it, and it can be difficult to determine just how much is based in fact, and how much true. Especially when both parties involved are now dead.

Continue reading “They left their hearts in San Francisco: The Ghost Stories of Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman”

Book shelf
ghosts, Haunted Bookstores

A Haunting Read at Rivendell Books

Rivendell Books, a used, rare, and out-of-print book store in Barrie, Ontario is home to a history buff who spends his days and nights pacing the aisle that shelves books on WWI and WWII.  He reads and obsesses about the Great War, often removing books from the shelves and sorting them into piles.  But he isn’t an employee that needs to be given direction, and he isn’t a loyal, yet irritating customer.  He’s a ghost.

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