About the Haunted Bookshop

Established in 1978, The Haunted Bookshop carries over 45,000 titles in more than 80 different sections ranging from Iowa interest to poetry, children's books to ecology, Classical Studies to science fiction and more. The sections are divided topically, then arranged alphabetically by author or editor, in the ten rooms of our beautiful 1847 home.

Read on to find out more about where we are, whether we're hiring, what we offer... and who haunts the bookshop!

Haunted Bookshop

The Cats

Nierme the catNierme is a shorthaired tabby/peach calico mix who joined us in July 2006. She is gentle, remarkably intelligent, chatty, and loves music for solo piano, particularly Satie and Chopin.

Nothing pleases her better than being admired. She will sometimes jump up and sit with a quiet reader in one of the armchairs, and she loves to be rubbed behind the ears. (Respect her boundaries, though - she does not like to be picked up.) She likes to give tours - whenever she stops, you're invited to tell her, "Yes, that's yours" - and to play with crumpled paper balls, which she usually bats to left field.

Her birthday is observed on each anniversary of 7 November 2004. Her name is taken from a Sindarin word meaning "sorrow" because she lost a kitten at a young age. Since joining us at the bookshop, though, her saddest gazes have been reserved for empty treat dishes and departing ear-scratchers.

If you're looking for her, check the Military History section in Virginia's Room upstairs, the Linguistics section in Anna's Room, or in the sunny southwest room, near the piano, when a sunbeam falls right on the cushion of the big rocking chair.

Logan started at the Haunted in January 2007 and retired in 2019. His friends are always welcome to share pictures and stories to celebrate him! We'll see about setting up a visit when the pandemic is over.

Aeschylus (nicknamed Esk) is a ginger tabby with a big head and a bigger heart. If he is not actively bumping his forehead against your shin, it's only because somebody else is scratching his head, and he'll be along soon to make sure you get a "boop". He is a shelter rescue, likely born in April 2017, and his birthday is observed at Passover/Easter.

Sophocles is an exceptionally fluffy dilute tortie with the unusual ability to detect humans with empty laps. She can be shy, but once she knows you're gentle, Sophie is an absolute snuggle machine. You are welcome to request her brush at the front counter, or just rub her forehead; she will press her head up against your hand if she's in the mood for attention. She came to us from a nearby family via the local shelter, and it's really obvious that she has been raised to trust and love. Her birthday is observed on each anniversary of October 16, 2016.
Écaille Echo (eh-Kyle eh-Ko), affectionately nicknamed Poilu, Ghost, or OhHeckCatYouScaredMe, is a kindly spirit but often more quiet than people expect. Pictures will follow, when one of the eleventy people who have promised to email pictures actually sends them (wink!!!), but for now you'll just have to imagine based on the name, which is French for "Dilute", and the most used nickname (Poilu, pwa-loo), which means "Hairy".

Nialle Sylvan is not a cat but knows where most of the books are. Nialle's current favorite book is The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck (h/t Barbara for the recommendation). Nialle's favorite thing is learning something totally new from a newly arrived person or book; current least favorite thing is that faintly fuzzy finish on some new dustjackets.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Bookstore and Building

Is the shop really haunted?
We're named after The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley.
Are you hiring?
We are not presently hiring.
How long have you been here?
The Haunted Bookshop opened in 1978 and moved to this location in 2013. The present owner purchased the business in 2004.
You were somewhere else, then another place, now - what happened? Okay. The bookshop has lived at three previous locations (on South Johnson, East Washington, and North Linn), but moved to its own home at last at 219 N Gilbert Street. South Johnson was the yellow house with the red door, ca. 1978-1982; East Washington was the house with the big porch, ca. 1982-2008; we bought and merged with Northside Book Market in 2009 and moved to that store's location; we bought The Bookery in 2010 and merged it into the North Linn location; and when Murphy-Brookfield Books moved online in 2013, we bought their house at 219 N Gilbert. Why did we move? Well, when you see the house, you'll understand. It's on the national historic register, we can curate it for the future, and it has precisely cat-sized windowsills.
How old is this building?
The Wentz house was built in 1847 and is the foremost example of Greek Revival architecture remaining in Iowa City today.

Store Policies

How much are the books?
Nearly all our books have a price penciled on the first light-colored page, in the upper right corner. (If you can't find the price, just ask.) Generally, recent, in-print books are half or less than half of the original price.
Would you stock and sell my new book?
Congratulations on your authorship. We do not carry new books; please contact Iowa Book & Supply or Prairie Lights, both of which are independent new-books bookstores in Iowa City. Also, if you haven't visited bookshop.org yet, check it out. It's a network of independent stores and pays better than, you know, the leading brand.
Do you sell gift certificates?
Yes, we do! You can purchase one in person, by mail, or by phone, and we can mail it to you or the recipient.
Do I need to leave my bag at the counter?
If you have food in your bag or are allergic to cats, please leave your things by the counters or on the coat hooks in the foyer. We'll guard them for you. Thank you.
Can I study / hold my book group meeting / play board or card games here?
We have seating in several rooms, and we welcome you to make use of this space. All we ask is that you respect the comfort of our patrons, and for large or regularly meeting groups, please call 319-337-2996 to schedule your meeting so that we don't promise the space and time to someone else.

About Our Services

Do you buy books?
We do. For more information, see Sell Books. We also gratefully accept donations of books in good condition for our Benefit Sale for the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic.
Can I leave my books for sale and have you call me when you're done looking at them?
No. We go through the books while you wait; it doesn't take long.
Do you search for books?
We can show you where we would search for out-of-print books; if the book is in print, check with one of the local new-books stores or search on bookshop.org, where you can buy new books from a vast selection AND support independent bookstores at the same time!
Do you keep a list of books people want?
We do!
How much is my book worth?
We do not appraise books, though we know some people who do, and we can refer you to them. If you're asking because you want to sell it to us, we do need to see the book to make the offer.
Do you repair or bind books?
We do some small repairs - page and soft cover mending, mostly - but we do not have binding facilities at this time.
Do you sell bookcases?
We have some for sale, occasionally; do check our blog and events pages, which is where we post that information.