While print is far from dead, it’s still a tough time to be an independent bookstore. Fortunately, the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, knows a thing or two about staying power. The store has been open since 1745. That 275-year running streak makes it the oldest bookstore in America, and as The Guardian reports, possibly the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the entire world.
Scotland’s John Smith & Son used to claim those titles (it reportedly opened in 1751), but it closed in 2000. The Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon, Portugal, also may have a claim to the record, but the store, which opened in 1732, is no longer in its original location, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755.
The Moravian Book Shop has also seen some location (and name) changes in its time. It went by the name Bethelhemer Bücher Shop for a while and moved to Philadelphia for two years in 1856. The shop returned to Bethlehem in 1858, and first occupied its current location in 1867, then adopted its current name in 1905.
In addition to having a lot of things bigger bookstores do not (like a curated gift shop and indie press titles), the Moravian also reportedly has a resident ghost. The shop’s employees have reported seeing the specter, and they hold annual ghost tours, featuring several spooky landmarks in the historic town. Other local sites like a pre-Revolutionary War cemetery called God’s Acre, the Sun Inn, and the Hotel Bethlehem have all reported hauntings throughout the years, too.
Moravian Book Shop employee Jane Clugston relayed the following story to The Guardian on the store’s live-in spirit:
She told me that one night, while closing the store with a fellow employee, she saw a dark figure in a back hallway of the store, going into the kitchen. She and the coworker followed the figure back. Then, she says she realized the back kitchen stove was on, as well as the fan. “I don’t know why this person, ghost, spirit drew us back there, but I guess to turn off those appliances,” says Clugston. “I’d never thought of it until I told someone else and they said a ghost led you back there. But in that back hallway a lot of people have said that they’ve felt things and they’ve seen things.”
[h/t The Guardian]