When I stumbled upon this location during one of many “haunted Philadelphia” Google searches last fall shortly after I moved here, I was almost too late. The silent movie theater turned bookstore had article after article written by Philly locals bemoaning the impending permanent closure and probable demolition that, according to most sources was just days away!
The theater, built in 1913, was a local hub of entertainment for the neighborhood up through the 1950s. After it’s movie showing days, the building did time as both a vending machine company and a hardware store until it was purchased by the current owner, Greg Gillespie and his friends, in 2004 to house their growing personal collection of over 300,000 books.
By the time I made it in for a visit, he was selling books for just $1 a piece! Although much of his stock had already been picked over or donated, I still spent a good hour or so wandering the labyrinth of shelves and picked out several classics to take home with me. The store had a very cool, yet mildly eerie feel to it. Almost as if you were being watched, but not in a dangerous way, if that makes sense. The books were still organized, although a bit haphazardly arranged and in the main auditorium where the movie screen would have been- there were even more boxes of books and posters and furniture for the last few customers to sift through before the final close.
As far as paranormal activity goes, it’s no secret the owner himself believes the place is haunted. He’s even had several paranormal investigators out who confirm there is something there, although just what or who has never been made clear. Many visitors and workers have reported seeing shadows and hearing mysterious voices especially in the basement where the original organ for the theater remains. Mr. Gillespie told me he had spent many a night there in his time owning the shop and was actually incredibly distressed that the developers who had originally told him they were going to repurpose the building, were now planning on demolition. When I asked him what he thought the ghosts would do then, he told me that although most people think he’s crazy he was going to seek the help of some paranormal specialists to see if there was any way he could move the spirits out of the building and take them with him. I wish I could talk to him again to see how that went. It’s been several months now and I haven’t been back to see if the building is still standing, but online the business is marked permanently closed.
Until next time, happy wandering!