A spirited search for respect

As published in the Murfreesboro Post, Erin Edgemon, Business Editor, October 7, 2007

The Book Rack is now empty on South Maple Street in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/K. Hite)

The Book Rack is now empty on South Maple Street in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/K. Hite) (editor’s note: this location is now the home to ‘Sugaree’s’)

Not all ghosts are out to frighten those who come in contact with them; sometimes they just want to have a little spirited fun.

But the spirits who are said to haunt the former Book Rack building on South Maple Street seem to require one thing: a little bit of respect.

They tended to act up if the ladies who worked in the shop were talking about them or when they knew their actions would get a big reaction.

One of the last weeks the Book Rack was in operation in the small building, Julie Warrick, a long-time employee, was talking about leaving the ghosts behind when the used bookstore relocates to West College Street. She laughed and said they were harmless.

Suddenly, a stack of books fell off a bookcase behind Warrick’s head and landed in a pile at her heels.

“And they were secure,” Warrick said.

Other unexplained events were not unusual in the shop.

Rosey Smoot, the Book Rack owner, never thought too much about the business she operated for 12 years in a 1900-era building on the Public Square being haunted.

“I just took it for granted with how old the building was — why shouldn’t someone be hanging around?” Smoot said.

According to local history, an undertaker once operated a shop at a house near where the former Book Rack building now stands.

(Ed. note: H. Preston Scales purchased a two-story building on the ‘Mink Slide’ – aka South Maple Street – in 1920 and opened Scales Mortuary).

Smoot doesn’t scare too easy, not even when while cleaning out the store recently she caught a shadowy figure out of the corner of her eye.

“When I stopped and took it in, it was definite,” she said.  “I would have to say it was a strange feeling.”

Unexplainable events began happening almost from the day Smoot took over the shop. Most of the time the activity was limited to book racks mysteriously moving on their own and books being rearranged or falling off the shelves.

“I have never felt afraid,” Smoot said.  “It has always been mischievous stuff.”

Two or three times during Smoot’s tenure, she would open the back door in the morning and smell the scent of a woman’s floral perfume.

One of those times, the scent was so strong Smoot had to air out the building.  Being allergic to perfume, Smoot politely asked the ghosts to refrain from that activity.

They more or less listened.

Frequently, employees would open up the store in the morning and books would be stacked in an unusual pattern on the floor or otherwise put out of place.

Smoot said a particularly aggravating occurrence was when Rolodex cards — used to keep track of customer’s credit — would disappear.  She would plead to the ghosts to return them; sometimes just walking away from the desk and coming back a few moments later would make the card reappear.

Sometimes though the ghosts did cause the ladies of the Book Rack some uneasiness.

Warrick remembers leaving the store one evening, talking on her cell phone as she walked through the center of the store; she began to hear the sound of books crashing onto the floor from the outer aisles.

Warrick didn’t stop to see what was happening.  She quickly exited the shop for the night.

“The next morning there weren’t any books on the floor,” Warrick said.

Longtime employee Delrae Helmick vividly remembers being in the back storeroom one day and hearing someone call her name.  There was no one else in the store.

“I knew what it was immediately,” she said. “It gives you a funny feeling to know they were there.  I was just never scared of them, I guess because Rosey wasn’t.”

The Book Rack is preparing to reopen soon at 610 West College Street, a location where a man was murdered in the early 1980s.  (Ed note: Russell Jones was murdered by Allen Hawkins at Jones Meat Locker in 1984).

The ladies of the Book Rack have invited their old friends to come along in the move; they just hope not to meet any new ones.

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