Weird, Wicked Weird: The occult. Witchcraft. Demonlogy. Library books that grow legs.

LEWISTON — “Salem Witchcraft” by Charles Upham is almost 150 years old, its spine covered in thick green tape, pages sepia with age. It’s detailed and scholarly, and Volume 1 — 460-plus pages — sets the scene for the Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692, which is chronicled in Volume 2:

Weird Wicked Weird
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

The Lewiston Public Library keeps part of its collection on the occult, witchcraft and demonology behind the reference desk because those books most often disappear.

A peek at Lewiston Public Library’s reference shelf:

* “An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present” by Doreen Valiente, 1973

There’s a naked woman on the cover, standing back to in a field. On the book’s jacket: “This is the only book of its kind on witchcraft that has been written by a practicing witch.

* “The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead” by J. Gordon Melton, 1999

Kiefer Sutherland is on the cover, bearing the fangs he sported in “The Lost Boys.” Inside are A to Z entries that include the Giovanni Vampire Clan, "Dark Shadows" TV show, Vlad Dracul (father of Vlad the Impaler) and Marilyn Manson (who, according to the encyclopedia, began college as a journalism major).

* “Hot Bodies, Cool Styles: New Techniques in Self-Adornment” by Ted Polhemus, 2004

Photos of body painting, piercing, deliberate scars, tattoos and funky haircuts.

* “High Voltage Tattoo” by Kat Von D

Includes “Tattoo Directory: Here it is — the ultimate guide to what I’ve got and where. And how!”

That directory? Ten pages long.

“The men of the day and scene we are now to contemplate, however deluded, to whatever extremities carried, were controlled by fixed, absolute, sharply defined, and, in themselves, great ideas. They believed in God. They also believed in the Devil.”

The book is 2 feet from the decidedly less academic “The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead” with fanged-out Kiefer Sutherland on the cover.

Both are too hot for general circulation at Lewiston Public Library.

So is “Tarot for Beginners,” “Teen Witch,” “Astrological Secrets for the New Millennium,” “Angels A to Z,” and “High Voltage Tattoo” by TV tattooess Kat Von D.

A 3-foot stretch of shelves behind the reference desk, available only when patrons ask, is where Lewiston keeps the books that grow legs.

It used to be that the library would get two copies, sending one straight to reference and leaving one to fend for itself on the shelf.

“Some of these, we don’t even do that anymore. It’s just a guarantee they’re going to go,” said Ellen Gilliam, deputy director and reference librarian. “It’s hard for me to imagine what motivates people to steal books,” she said, pausing to answer her own question:

“They want it and we have it.”

She said she couldn’t be sure how many are simply coveted and how many are never returned by “people who disapprove that a public library would have such things.”

With roughly 150,000 titles to stay on top of, Director Rick Speer said the library is diligent about recouping overdue stock.

“Anyone who has a stable lifestyle, they’re not moving a lot, we send the police knocking to retrieve the books,” he said. But, for whatever reason, people drawn to these particular topics — and making off with them — “they’re more transient in nature.”

Lisa Neal-Shaw, secretary of the Maine Library Association's executive council, said to her knowledge, most-stolen isn’t something her members have been polled on.

“That’s one of those things that comes up in casual conversation, the books that walk out," said Neal-Shaw who works at the Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library in Presque Isle. "It’s like you know as soon as you order them; it’s almost like you have a betting pool. Anything to do with Wicca, witchcraft, supernatural, things like that. Especially the spells.”

At her library, those books seem to bolt before they’re checked out, taken directly off the shelves. The library simply reorders every once in a while. Increased use of eBooks will help, she said — there’s nothing physical to lose.

Her best guess on why it happens?

“You know, I think there probably is just a little bit of fear that somebody’s going to judge. ‘They’re going to think I’m into something weird,’” Neal-Shaw said. “It’s almost like they’re trying to hide it from themselves; they haven’t come out of the Wicca closet.”

Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly feature on the strange, unexplained and intriguing in Maine. Send ideas, photos and things that lurk in closets to

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 's picture

Doesn't surprise me

It doesn't surprise me that someone who is interested in the occult or black arts would also do other bad things (like stealing). I find it appalling that a public library would use donations from the public (which is what they often get or when they have book sales to raise funds) to purchase books like this to offer. It gets into the hands of children or teenagers who don't need to be reading about such things. The spiritual harm of these books is tremendous. I know because when I was a teen I read occult books in our school library and it caused great evil to come into my life. People are ignorant of the spiritual if they think it will not affect them in a negative way. Those who believe in the Bible can readily see that the occult is forbidden. It explicitly says it in the Bible not to get involved with the occult.

Hopefully the library will get a hint and get rid of such things. There is no reason they need to carry books like this.

 's picture

Stolen Books

I am more apt to blame the religious community for radical behaviors such as the book burnings of Harry Potter. I would HOPE that anyone interested in studying wicca, witchcraft, etc would at least know enough about Karma to NOT STEAL!

 's picture

A Message To Those Stealing These Books

You're not doing yourself any good.

As someone who has studied Wicca/Witchcraft for over ten years I am here to tell you that you are not going to cast any successful spells from a stolen spellbook. Contrary to pop culture spells have very little to do with the herbs, the candles, and the creepy black cauldron. They have everything to do with the energy you are putting out into the world. By stealing these books you are putting only negative energy into the world. You are telling the universe, "I can't afford this book" and the universe is going to believe you. And you will never be able to afford that book.

A true Wicca is many things. Peaceful, calm, full of love. They are NOT thieves. As long as you continue to steal things for "magickal practice" you are only perpetuating your own negative energy. You will never be a true Wicca, or even begin to understand the beauty that is Witchcraft, until you stop habits such as these.

If it is indeed people who are copying the idea of the woman who stole the sex education book... Read one of those books with the same open mind that I recently enlisted when I read "Our Jehovah". I don't need to be Christian to see the beauty that CAN come from Christianity. Admit for a moment that throughout the planet there are many people who all think their way is the only way... and maybe in the grand scheme of things your opinion, as one out of billions, could be a misconstrued theory. Because, well, the world doesn't revolve around you. In revolves around my god, The Sun.

P.S. You can BORROW that book for free! They'll let you! It's what they do!


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