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.
Wendy Cahill, owner of Rivendell Books, isn’t the only person who’s encountered this neurotic ghost. She claims that many customers have seen him, and he is described as an “elderly, grey-haired man in old-fashioned clothing” (Sutherland, 2016, p.6). He often prowls the history section, and not only has he been known to acknowledge and wave at customers, but he occasionally touches them before disappearing into thin air.
One night, a woman who was waiting for her prescription to be filled at the nearby pharmacy was standing outside while smoking a cigarette. She saw a man who appeared to be agitated and trying to get into the clearly closed bookstore. He paced back and forth several times before striding through the glass window. I’m inclined to ask what kind of prescription she was waiting to fill, and whether or not she was late on filling it, but that question ruins the haunting effect of this anecdote.
While the gentleman has been seen numerous times, Cahill doesn’t think he’s dangerous. However, my next story might make you change your mind. One day Cahill was working in the back of the bookstore when she heard a loud thump. She raced toward the source of the sound and found a biography of Charles Manson lying on the floor. His dead eyes stared up at her. She stood frozen in terror as books flew off the shelves all around her. They were caught up in an invisible wind that whipped them through the air and flung them at her feet. Is it believable that this ghost would do this? This seems to be a giant stretch from what this spirit had been seen doing previously. And why the Charles Manson book when he was obsessed with the World Wars? Was he looking to branch out in his reading and he didn’t like what he learned? Did the content upset him? I don’t blame him; Charles Manson was pretty sick. Still, that’s no excuse to throw a tantrum.
The final anecdote related to Rivendell Books is the most disturbing, so I’ve saved it for last. Back in 2009, a man named Derek Ellis decided to go to Rivendell Books and find a good book to collect dust on his nightstand. He took home a tome about World War I. Not long after buying this new used book, he awoke in the middle of the night to an older man standing over his bed. The figure was dressed in old-fashioned clothing, but Ellis observed a new detail that was missed by Cahill and her customers. He had a rope tied around his waist. The man waved at a dumbfounded Ellis, then vanished.
Similar events continued the nights following this. One night, Ellis awoke to the overpowering scent of flowers, even though he didn’t have any flowers anywhere in the room. Another night, he awoke to the sound of the ghost flipping through the pages of his book. On one of the last nights, he awoke to see a bright red curtain hanging over his closet door, which disappeared shortly afterwards. (Insidious, anyone? At least it wasn’t a red door.)
Desperate for answers, Ellis consulted a priest who suggested that he return the book to where he’d gotten it. He brought it back to Rivendell Books. He told Wendy Cahill about what had happened, and she validated his beliefs by telling him what she’d seen over the years.
This story brings up so many questions that cannot be answered. What is the red door? Did it lead to another world? Why didn’t Derek go through it? I’m just kidding with that last question, because it would have been pretty reckless to do that. Although, at least we’d have answers. If he came back.
How much of what he saw is “real”, and how much can be attributed to dreaming? After the first ghost sighting, Ellis probably wasn’t sleeping well. Maybe the scent of flowers or the sight of the door was a part of a dream? But the fact that he saw what so many others have seen makes the story much more credible.
This story seems to point to the idea that it is the book itself that is haunted. Why did the ghost follow Ellis home? What is so special about this specific book? Who was its previous owner? How did Rivendell Books come to sell it? Were there any sightings of the ghost at Rivendell Books during the weeks that Ellis owned the book? Is the spirit attached to the book itself, or was he making nighttime field trips to find his favourite read?
There aren’t many sources available on this specific ghost, but they all state that the spirit dresses in “old-fashioned clothing”. But from what era? What decade? For me, old-fashioned would be WWII and earlier, but it’s an entirely subjective term. A fashionista might consider 2016 to be “old-fashioned”. But my key question is–if he is haunting this book about WWI, what decade would he have died in? And what is the significance of the rope tied around his waist? There are so many questions that cannot be answered.
As I mentioned before, the elderly gentleman has been known to touch customers. The records aren’t specific as to how he touches them, but I’m sure exorcists, psychics, and the whole shebang would be climbing over each other to get to the bookstore if people felt at all endangered or affronted by this spirit’s touching. That said, “Ghost Girls of Simcoe County” explored the bookstore for one of their episodes for Rogers TV. Unfortunately, I was unable to find much information about the TV show online, let alone the actual episode. If any of you kind readers find a link, please put it in the comments!
So, sadly, I must report from a second-hand source on what they found. (The librarian in me is cringing.) They claimed that there were many ghosts in Rivendell books, and that it was the “scariest place” they’d ever been (Leslie, 2014). There was another, possibly malevolent spirit in the back room, which sent their equipment haywire. I don’t know if this is entirely credible information, as I haven’t seen the show or been able to find any information on them online. But if this were the case, wouldn’t there be some supernatural activity observed in the back room? None of the anecdotes shared by Cahill or others take place in that area. Unless they’re keeping those stories under wraps, because it would be bad for business if there were an actually dangerous spirit haunting the stacks. Although, maybe it’s this dark spirit who threw the tantrum with the Manson book. It would make more sense for it to have done this than the gentleman with the world war obsession.
As I said before, this story brings up many questions, but I’m going to give you a few more to ponder about as you eagerly await my next blog post. Is it possible that the ghost is haunting the book because of its contents? Because of what it does or doesn’t say about him, personally? Was he a forgotten war hero who is only mentioned in this one specific book? Is the ghost haunting one of the last copies, hopeful that his legacy won’t be forgotten?
Rivendell Books’ website states that it is a “bibliophile’s paradise”. Perhaps this ghost got confused after death, thinking he’d already made it to heaven. There are worse places to spend an eternity than a bookstore.