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An Unearthly Bookshop

We went to Bere Alston today, in search of a second hand bookshop.   Bere Alston is a large village in the middle of the Bere Peninsula, which is an oddity in that it is a sort of fully-retracted peninsula in the middle of a land mass.  It is separated from Cornwall and the rest of Devon by rivers that bend round to make it almost an island.   So Bere Alston has oddly few connections to the outside world, and feels quiet and isolated.   The core of the place is tiny nineteenth century miners cottages, all huddled together around the few shops, and then around the outskirts there are sprawling estates of ugly twentieth century bungalows.

When we arrived,  a small group of children (the girls dressed in oddly timeless long skirts and boots) were cheerfully flying supermarket plastic bags on the end of long strings, like kites.   But this was not the odd part.

The bookshop is called 'The Victoria Bookshop' and it has a large bust of (I assume, although it didn't look quite as I expected) Queen Victoria, wearing a huge black hat, in the window - although you could hardly see her for all the small adverts stuck to the windows.  Inside, it was quite dark and very untidy.  There were a couple of strip lights illuminating the area nearest the door, but further into the shop there was no illumination, just bookshelves loaded with books stretching into darkness.   Random bits of paper, broken book covers, loose pages and torn photographs  were strewn all around on the floor.  Several brightly coloured women's blouses were hung on hangers across the front window.   There was a large desk in a state of considerable chaos, with a large but filthy Apple Mac embedded in the middle of it.

There was no sign of anyone about, although somewhere upstairs, a radio was playing. We wandered around looking at books, assuming that at some point, someone would hear us and turn up to see if we wanted to buy something.  Maybe they would even turn the lights on?  But nobody did. We turned on some lights when we could find the switches.   Pp found one book that was from the mid-eighties, but most of the books were from the sixties or earlier - I think most of them were pre-war.  On one shelf, hiding the books, I noticed a photo of an eager, smiling freckled girl with Sixties bobbed hair in a silver frame.  No name or date on it though.

By the door, there was a pile of huge disintegrating books, and on top of them, a pile of newspapers. The newspapers were The Times from 1927.  I went through a few of them: they were roughly in date order, and piled loosely, as if someone had come in many days running with their paper under their arm, and chucked the paper down on top of the heap.

At this point, we concluded that whatever story this was, it was liable to end badly for the inquisitive couple who blunder into it with no idea what is going on, and fled.  It was hands down, the weirdest and most creepy shop I have ever visited.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
19th Oct, 2013 16:24 (UTC)
According to the internet (and they do exist there, and sell via loads of different online booky places), it's a bookshop that specialises in "Occult, Psychology." Therefore they were probably observing you, either to study your reaction ("Hmmm," they were going, "interesting!" and scrawling down little notes) or to see if you were suitable for their mystic, arcane purposes. You were wise to escape when you did.
19th Oct, 2013 16:51 (UTC)
They were probably sitting and observing at the filthy computer the whole time...invisible to the unaided human eye.

(Just to make Bunn and Pp feel even more comforted about the whole affair! =D)
19th Oct, 2013 19:33 (UTC)
19th Oct, 2013 19:33 (UTC)
Apparently Pp *knew* it was an Occult bookshop, although he only admitted this afterwards!

None of the books I looked at *seemed* Occult - they were mostly history, local and international - there was quite a nice edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall - and lots of ancient disintegrating guidebooks. Oh, and a book by Giles Brandreth, according to Pp, and one short story by Philip K Dick. But Pp reckons that he found some Occult stuff on one of the shelves in the Very Dark section of the shop, which I did not dare to venture into.
19th Oct, 2013 20:55 (UTC)
Perhaps Occult describes its principles of operation more than it does its holdings...
19th Oct, 2013 17:21 (UTC)
Oh! This sounds like an excellent place for a Butteller excursion, albeit one that sounds even more dangerous than last year's Gorge of DEATH! The invisible watchers were presumably hivers, and somewhere hidden on the shelves was the Necronomicon itself. I think our characters need to a make an urgent return to the West Country to check it out.

(Edited on the grounds that it is probably unwise the misspell the name of a such a dangerous book.)

Edited at 2013-10-19 17:22 (UTC)
19th Oct, 2013 19:36 (UTC)
I'm a bit scared about this idea. If we do it, I am staying near the door. And I may wear running shoes.
19th Oct, 2013 22:05 (UTC)
On the subject of Lovecraft...

There is a Lovecraft short story called 'The Shadow over Innsmouth' in which the protagonist arrives in the New England coastal village of the title to find that the village is shunned by people from the surrounding settlements. He discovers [SPOILERS] that the inhabitants have all interbred with Deep Ones.

That was very much the vibe I got from Bere Alston. I could well believe that the inhabitants of Bere Alston are not so much interbred as inbred...
20th Oct, 2013 10:25 (UTC)
I recommend "Book Wurms", by Andy West, in Fables from the Fountain.
19th Oct, 2013 20:31 (UTC)
This sounds like perfect short story fodder. O_o
(Deleted comment)
22nd Oct, 2013 08:39 (UTC)
My mother, intrigued by my description of the place, has decided she will visit. (My mother is strangely attracted by terrible retail experiences, I think it's the train-wreck quality :-D)

We speculate that if she arrives and finds a perfectly normal well illuminated second-hand bookshop staffed by a visible human being this will be proof that the Unearthly Bookshop is actually migratory, and appears only at certain phases of the moon.
Glenn Fox
3rd May, 2016 10:13 (UTC)
We encountered this place too while passing through and getting some food from the supermarket across the way, however more unsettling was the unkempt middle aged chap wearing a Pokemon T-Shirt sitting at the computer, which compelled my mate to say "ere, come and have a look at this". I went over, but the guy had vanished. The shop had an open sign, but was in disarray, and in the window were loads of hand drawn pictures of questionable quality and weird slightly disturbing content. The sign on the door was turned around to "open" but like hell were we going to go in there, we were sleeping in a camper that night in the fog up on the moors, needless to say it felt like we had unwittingly stumbled into a horror movie, so wheel braces were kept close to hand. We were pleasantly surprised to wake up alive the following morning.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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