About the Haunted Bookshop

Established in 1978, The Haunted Bookshop carries over 50,000 titles in more than 80 different sections ranging from Iowa interest to poetry, children's books to sociology, travelogues to history 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

The StarletNierme 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. (We ask that you respect her desire not to be picked up.) She can be a little shy when approached quickly or with a loud voice, but she also likes to cuddle 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 picked us out at the animal shelter. He is very affectionate and sometimes startles people by rubbing up against their legs without warning or headbutting them gently, which is a plea for a good fur-ruffling. There isn't a box or a bag he doesn't find interesting, either. Sometimes he helps the buyer pick out new inventory.

A born stunt artist, he likes to show off for company by leaping to catch a paper ball in his mouth or posing if he hears a camera click. He also loves a good shoelace if you drag it across the floor just out of his reach, but be warned: when he pounces on it, he's lightning-fast!

Logan's favorite place to be rubbed is under his chin. (He, like Nierme, would rather that you did not touch his belly.)

He was born at the Iowa City Animal Shelter on 3 October 2006 and moved in with us the following January. The fact that he shares a name with Marvel Comics hero The Wolverine is not a coincidence. On the other hand, he also answers to Fuzzface, Crazypants, Squirrellycat, and Boo.

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.
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, we recommend that you leave your things by the counters or on the coat hooks in the foyer. We will keep an eye on 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.
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.
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.

The Humans

Nialle Sylvan bought the Haunted Bookshop 9 September 2004 and purchased Northside Book Market in 2008 and The Bookery in 2010 - and still owes copious gratitude to the volunteers who helped merge the three stores and move them to Gilbert Street in 2013. To those of you excited by the rumors, we are sorry to disappoint, but the pale figure visible through upstairs windows at night is probably just Nialle working late.

Jon Chown is the world's greatest literary genius. In his brief life thus far, he has held jobs as a boxer, fighter pilot, cage fighter, dancer and snake trainer. His family was discovered in an Egyptian tomb in the 1860s, and since then, they have become assimilated into the modern world, teaching in universities and breeding rancors on the family farm. His life expectancy is measured in ice ages. He went missing in the wilds of Oceania for a year, but returned suavely scathed.

Michael O'Hara was first detected in a polar ice core being studied by a collaborative team of scientists from two large German universities and a small Laotian sandwich shop, and was initially suspected to be a new species of nematode. Since then, O'Hara has demonstrated itself capable of self-description, if not reflection, and as such, is working on a memoir. Their poems have appeared in FANZINE, LEFT, and in higher quality bathroom stalls across the Midwest.
Emily Schulz

Ghosts Emeriti

Anna Hurley began work with the bookshop in the fall of 2008, including the move to its current location, and became chief engineer and master of event co-coordination. She moved away in 2012 but, for all intents and purposes, remains family.

Sydney Smith came in during a rainstorm, stayed to volunteer, and eventually started getting paid. Some of the things she did included shelving books, helping people find books, and puppeteering. She was often to be found half-buried in puppets, a process we liked to call "checking inventory," and while we shall admire her anywhere she goes and whatever she does, we miss her an awful lot.

Elias Gonzalez - It began as a simple ethnographic observation of this tribe of ghosts in the Fall of 2012. After several discussions regarding books, food and general geekery Eli was accepted as one of their own. He could be found shelving books, wheeling a great big blue TARDIS around the floor, and randomly behind the desk for no apparent reason. A transplant from Texas, Eli bemoaned life here on Hoth, but seems to have recovered nicely now that he is back in temperate climes.
Ali Geraets is a graduate of the University of Iowa, holding a BA in religious studies. Ali could be found behind the counter at the bookshop most days during the week, cleaning books, cracking jokes and unleashing useless trivia upon the unsuspecting masses, usually accompanied by two puppets for which she has great affinity: Kolya, the ferret, and Daniel, the little lion. We miss all three of them. And the alligator jokes.

Luke Allen worked at the Northside Book Market starting at age 12 from 2004 to 2008 and at the Haunted Bookshop from 2009-2014. Contrary to popular belief, he was not named after the biblical figure, but in fact after Luke Skywalker, prompting many an original thinker to proclaim themself his father.
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