Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Book House: A Tale of a Haunting



A History of Distribution and Sales

Ever since Johannes Gutenburg's invention of the mechanical printing press in 1440 and Anthony Koburger's introduction to the art of printing in 1470, the world of language has forever been changed. For millenia, myths, legends, and ghost stories had primarily been preserved through oral traditions, many times around a campfire. But now the masses could enjoy the written word, preserving their family traditions with a physical hard copy. 

Moving 300 years to the colonial days, some of the first publications were aimed at informing the public about the events and news of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Early on, though, the challenges of the publishing industry were simply finding folks to read their newspapers and pamphlets. The intended audience was very small, usually those in the elite status, due to the fact that not a lot of Americans were able to read. Those who could decipher the literary ambitions of writers were in for a real treat. For the first time in history people could read about happenings all over the country from the comfort of their own home or wherever they chose to take time to read.

As the world evolved and became more literate, newsstands and bookstores began popping up all over the country. Access to your favorite genres, magazines, and newspapers could be found on nearly every street corner. For paranormal enthusiasts this meant an opportunity to read up on all the the supernatural events that may have been rumored over in local communities like the Salem witchcraft trials or the Bell Witch of Tennessee. 

It really isn't until about 1950 when we begin to see a surge in the American paranormal fiction and non-fiction book market. Perhaps it was a loosening of the Christian ideals that sparked this shift or maybe just simple curiosity in attempting to understand the vast realm of the supernatural. Now today, thousands of books have been written about every aspect of the paranormal. Nearly every haunted location on the planet either has a book written about it or it is mentioned within a story collective. It is truly amazing to learn just how prevalent paranormal activity has been documented throughout the globe and to see the many parallels among those who experience the phenomena. 


The Victorian House

A few summers ago, my wife and I were out looking for book stores to visit in our area. Unfortunately, many bookstores have closed their doors (like Borders) and there are only a scant few left, now that the world of book distribution has primarily gone digital. We, however, are old school and love the feel and smell of a good book. We kept noticing an old Victorian house that was set back off of the main thoroughfare that advertised selling new, used, and rare books. We had to stop and check it out, and so one day we did.

As we walked inside The Book House, right away we could feel the comfort of the atmosphere. From floor to ceiling were tens of thousands of books from every genre imaginable. A typical bookstore, you might say. As we ventured through the maze of bookshelves, we made our way back to a huge, old wooden desk and a lady seated behind it. Very quickly we learned her name was Michelle and, after just talking with her for a few minutes, we could sense the passion she had for her store. Lining the walls and bookcases behind her desk were her oldest collections. And boy, were they some beauties, many of them dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. This was our kind of bookstore and we were excited about exploring the entire building.

Michelle, of course, has a section devoted to the paranormal and all of its literary and investigative tangents. She has a uniqueness in her collection that sets her apart from all other bookstores. Rather than just a limited compilation of publications on crystals, astrology, and guidebooks by television mediums - hers is a more in-depth and serious collection of the paranormal realm.You will find many books on local hauntings written by authors within the Missouri area. Documented ghost accounts and even popular ghost hunters will grace the shelves of her store. And if you're not so much into the non-fiction aspect of the supernatural, well, she has a nice collection of spectral fiction and paranormal romance also.

Now, I've introduced you to The Book House for a couple of reasons. First of all, as I mentioned earlier, her small local bookstore, like many others, continues to be under the threat of closure. I'll share that tragic, yet blessing-in-disguise story later. What I am excited to focus on is the final paranormal investigation that took place on this property back in the summer of 2013. It changed my life, and I want to share it with you.

The Union Screaming House

If any of you have read my older posts on the extreme haunting in Union, Missouri, then you will be familiar with author, radio host, and paranormal investigator Steven LaChance. A day or two before The Book House closed its doors, Steve decided to do a night of investigation which was open to professional teams and individuals as well. Thankfully the group of individuals was small, so the night was quite intimate. The goal was to make contact with the spirit of a little girl, Valerie, who Michelle says lives on the property. It is believed she is either tied to the land and/or with her family, since they have lived there since childhood. The circumstances are unknown. Ultimately though, once we made contact with Valerie, we were to assure her that we meant no harm and, in fact, were there to help her cross over the veil between life and death. Steve and Michelle meant to set this girl's soul free to the light and we were going to help them accomplish this noble deed.

Night of the Investigation


When we arrived in the parking lot around 7 p.m. we noticed several cars had already arrived. Steve had invited his investigation team with him on this quest to contact Valerie. We weren't really sure what to expect, nor did we have any idea of Steve's personality, as this was the first time my wife and I were to meet him. I had read some of his biography and a couple pieces of his story, but little did we realize the intensity of his presence. Steve is well over 6 feet tall, but once you get to know him, he is truly a good man. Curious to move forward with our night, we walked inside and began our love of book perusing.

Initially, we searched through some of The Book House's classical literature like Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, and James Joyce and then proceeded to the basement. This is where Michelle keeps all of her discount books. Down in the low-ceiling rooms we found boxes stacked on top of boxes filled with old and mysterious books. These are the places that stir excitement in my heart and get it pumping. Down here we met one of the members from the Lemp Mansion investigation team who was equipped with audio recorders and a high-quality camera to capture any ghosts or apparitions. This night was shaping up nicely. After chatting awhile, we headed upstairs on the main floor for Steven's book signing. 


Courtesy of missourighosts.net
After the book signings were finished, Steve went into great detail about the insane amount of paranormal activity he and his family experienced in this house in Union, Missouri.(click here to read a quick synopsis) Full-bodied apparitions, black smoky entities, rotten flesh odors, a possessed woman threatens to shoot Steve in the head, deadly attacks on his children, fully manifested demons, and Steve's own borderline possession were just some of the stories he related to us. 

After his dialogue he placed a voice recorder on the table and the investigation session began. A series of questions was asked by all of us, but no audible responses were heard We did notice that throughout the session and his previous dialogue that we kept hearing a tapping and knocking that continuously sounded close to Steve's left shoulder. At one point he stopped talking and and had one of his team members took a look to see if anyone was there. Nothing. Was it a spirit or demon attached to him, brought from the nightmare of the Union house? Could it have been Valerie, attempting to let us know she was there? Either way, we all were creeped out.

After Steve wrapped up his initial investigation, we began a second floor session. During our time upstairs, we were unable to make any kind of contact with spirits, if there were any present. Digital photos were snapped and the gentleman whom we met in the basement earlier had a flashlight set up for an entity to click on and off as he asked questions. For nearly 2 hours we watched and waited with no response. Finally we headed back to the main floor where Steve was waiting for us with his investigation team. 


Courtesy suburban-ghost-hunter.blogspot.com
An Awesome Capture

Once all of us were back downstairs, we saw several pieces of equipment were set up. A green laser grid was set up just inside the front door and it was shining upon the staircase at the end of the hall at the back of the store. It was a wooden spiral staircase that led to the upstairs book area. After watching the light beams for a while and asking questions, finally we saw movement. At first it looked like someone was peering around the stairway a few steps from the bottom. Then we watched as the dark figure moved down the steps. Rather suddenly, we think the entity recognized that we were able to see it, and it quickly moved out of the grid zone. Never before had my wife and I experienced the laser grid, but it was absolutely fascinating and a very effective tool for ghost tracking. 

Wrapping Up the Evening

After we had finished with our investigation inside Michelle's book house, we all gathered together in a circle and held hands for a final prayer. In the prayer, led by Steve, we all bonded in spirit and asked the Lord to release the trapped soul of Valerie. We asked that she be comforted with this decision and that she would be able to peacefully cross over the spiritual veil and head towards the loving light. It was necessary that we try to bring closure for her because The Book House and the surrounding property were slated to be torn down.


Here again the interests of a larger corporate America are leaving their harmful mark on the book distribution industry. Michelle fought hard to work with the landlord to purchase the property or do whatever it took to save her store. To no avail - big money was talking, and the owner had made an agreement to sell the property to a company who was going to build commercial storage units. The old Book House closed its doors in September 2013. It was a truly sad moment, but, it actually worked in Michelle's favor.

Michelle and her family were able to relocate to the nearby town of Maplewood, a pretty vibrant area. After an immense struggle for months, her new store has been up and running for about a year and a half and now boasts over 350,000 books which can be purchased online as well. Steve did another book signing in May, but no investigation of the new building. It was quite a pleasure to see him again and get a signed copy of his new book Blessed Are The Wicked.


Courtesy of stlmag.com
Michelle has done well enough to make the payments for the daily running and upkeep of her new store. However, she has fallen back on some hard times. Michelle is incredibly active in the community and the community has been coming together with fundraisers and events to help her out. The response has been amazing, but much more needs to be done. If you or anyone you know would like to make a contribution of any kind, in whatever way you can, I'm sure Michelle would love to hear from you and thank you immensely. I am trying to do what I can with this article. Michelle and her family are truly wonderful people and The Book Store is one of the last standing small independent book sellers left in America.

                                                 The Book House
                                                 7352 Manchester Road
                                                 St. Louis, Missouri 63143
                                                 (314) 968-4491
                                      Her website: www.bookhousestl.com
                                

Work Cited

http://www.bookstoreguide.org/2008/11/top-5-oldest-bookstores-on-continent.html