the haunted bookshop


One dark and stormy night this week, I ventured through the rainy streets of Shoreditch to the opening of a pop-up shop with a difference: the mysterious Black Dog Books.

Black Dog Books, which describes itself as “London’s most unusual bookshop” is the brainchild of East End gallery Black Rat Projects: a pop-up antiquarian bookshop, built inside their railway arch gallery. This beautifully-realised installation perfectly recreates the atmosphere of a tiny, creaky old-fashioned bookshop, complete with vintage fittings, an antique till and even a welcome mat. You can browse (and buy) a selection of books ranging from Where the Wild Things Are and The Gruffalo through pleasingly shabby paperback poetry books, through to a range of new artist books, exhibition catalogues, monographs and quirky artist-made fanzines.

But watch out for surprises: Black Dog Books is rumoured to be haunted. According to Black Rat Projects: “The idea of creating the bookshop came when the Black Rat owners slept in the gallery one evening and were woken by the toilet flushing and books falling from the office bookshelves. Thinking they were being burgled, they turned the lights on only to find the gallery empty. Asking around, a local landlord mentioned that the gallery had been used to store the stock of legendary Victorian book dealer F.J. Williams, who disappeared in 1903 and is rumoured to haunt various pubs and houses around the East End."

Black Rat Projects continue: "Reports have already been received of eerie incidents and strange happenings, with books magically flying off shelves, and lights switching themselves on and off. Halloween may have been and gone but the real ghosts and ghouls work all year round.”

Designed by Will Randall and Giles Walker, and supported by publishers including Tate and Thames and Hudson, Black Dog Books certainly makes the most of this supernatural history. I'm afraid I can't promise a genuine encounter with the ghosts of East End London, but there are some enjoyable uncanny touches here, not least the presence of a strange figure guarding the bookshop entrance...

Black Dog Books can be found at the Black Rat Projects gallery, through the Cargo garden, Arch 461, Kingsland Viaduct, 83 Rivington St, London.

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