Haunted Bookstore in CA

Main Piece

Informant SF tells of their favorite recycled bookstore in downtown Campbell, CA. They associate it with being “full of old things,” and their family believes it to be haunted.

This specific familial legend comes from a time SF, her mother, and grandfather were all shopping at the story together when SF was about 16. Their grandpa, who believes in ghosts, “swore he saw a book fall off the shelf,” and when questioned by SF about the event, their Mom backed him up and affirmed she believed the store to be haunted.

As they had this discussion just outside of the store, all three began smelling cigarette smoke despite the fact that “no one was smoking.” They looked around and waited a while, but continued to smell it without finding a source. SF’s Mom and Grandpa both pointed to this as evidence for the bookstore being haunted, and they “never found out if someone was smoking.”

SF notes that she doesn’t know if she believes in ghosts, but if she did this is one she’d believe in, particularly because the store is “full of things people used to own.” They also found it odd that their Mom leaned into affirming that the place was haunted, as she “doesn’t really say that” about other places.


Informant’s Interpretation: SF attributes her family’s delineation of the space as haunted primarily to its status as a recycled bookstore. She notes that she believes haunting legends are much more common around/associated with items that have been owned by many people and have an unclear history.

Personal Interpretation: I agree with the interpretation above, and add that the impossibility of finding out the history of items / untraceable origins creates a stronger premise for ghost stories to arise. “Nobody really knows” is much more intrigue-invoking than a clear-cut explanation. I also found SF’s story to be indicative of how familial belief frequently strongly influences personal belief–SF noted she was more inclined to believe the space was haunted because she “believes what [her] family says.”


Informant SF is a current student at USC pursuing a degree in Cinema and Media Studies. They grew up in San Jose, CA, and are very close with their parents, sisters, and grandparents. SF is white and Latine.