The Haunted Bookshop
This hidden gem, full of “teetering piles of second-hand poetry” is discovered by EMILIE FERRIS.
At first glance, The Haunted Bookshop is unobtrusive; dustily tucked away in one of Cambridge’s many tightly cramped alleyways- St Edward’s Passage just off Trumpington Street . A fire-engine red exterior might sound difficult to miss, but the Haunted Bookshop could be easily overlooked in favour of the popular Indigo cafe next door.
Neglected and disorganised though it may seem, everything about this higgledy-piggledy alcove of literature has its place. There are two floors. The first is devoted to teetering piles of second-hand poetry; kickable columns of prose. The second, accessed by a creaking red-carpeted staircase, displays what the store owners have termed “juvenile fiction”. Its cave-like interior houses a treasure trove of long-lost Milly Molly Mandys and Enid Blytons, and the walls are lined with occasional faded posters and placards. It feels like a nod to the wartime generation that we may only have heard wistfully whispered of by our grandparents.
The store-owner explained to me that the inspiration for the shop’s name was the legend of the White Lady, a ghostly woman swathed all in white and smelling faintly of violets who is said to prowl the stairs. She has been sighted at least twice in the last fifteen years. It has been suggested that these sightings have something to do with the shop’s history as an alehouse: perhaps she is a drunken reveller’s wife, still coming to call him home after all these years.
The shop has a whole wall of ghost stories and legends, probably targeted at the endless stream of tourists dropped off at the Haunted Bookshop during their ghost tour of Cambridge.
Prices vary, with window exhibits ranging from a battered Just William at just £8, to first edition leather bound tomes with gold embossed lettering for £1000. The prices of first editions depend on the author, but most of the second hand fiction is at a reasonable price, and the beautifully presented and bound poetry books offer a fantastic gift for a literary friend for around £5. Various pamphlets, postcards and old newspapers are also available, of interest to collectors and amateurs alike.
The Haunted Bookshop does not welcome crowds. This is not a place for Harry Potter; you will not find any garishly bound Breakfast Clubs or Jacqueline Wilsons here. It is in small places like these that rare books are housed, with many of the items contributed from dealers’ own homes. It is a sleepy collection of the gems of bygone ages thrown together, and a charming place of escape in the otherwise hectic Cambridge world where reading is so ruthlessly systematic and purpose- orientated. Visit for a browse to be reminded what reading can be like.
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm.
Photography by Will Seymour.