Searching the Stacks at The Haunted Library with Glenn Tolle
The Haunted Cinema (THC) – When I told Ghastly that we were interviewing the Glenn Tolle, Head Librarian at The One Room Haunted Library, he was so excited I couldn’t get any work out of him (although now that I think about it, I rarely get any work out of him). Were books your gateway to horror, or was it something else?
Glenn Tolle (GT) – Books were definitely my gateway to horror! That and Halloween! My dad had a whole bunch of books on Vampires, ghosts, and death that, as a little kid, I would secretly pull off the shelf and look through. When October rolled around my mom filled the entire month with kid friendly ghost stories and a house full of Halloween decorations, some of which were quite macabre.
THC – Tell us more about your early days as budding Monster Kid. Did you have a favorite film?
GT – As a budding monster kid I didn’t have much access to monster movies or horror films (at least not until I was 11). I had a very overactive imagination and would get scared very easily. The first horror movie I remember watching/loving was The House of Wax (2005) remake directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. That movie opened the flood gates for me.
THC – Obviously, you have a love for books. How did that develop, and what made you gravitate to horror and thriller stories?
GT – My parents are big readers. As are my grandparents on my mom’s side. I grew up surrounded by books and people who loved them. My mom read to me my entire childhood and a week didn’t go by that I didn’t visit the library. At the library there were a bunch of Goosebumps books in spinner racks that I would gaze at. My mom wouldn’t let me read them, but I would sneak off and gaze at the covers. One Christmas, my cousin handed down a bunch of Goosebumps. I read them all in a week. After that, horror became my go to reading genre.
THC – Do you have a favorite author? If so, who is it, and why are they important to you?
GT – R.L. Stine would probably be my favorite author since he’s largely to blame for my reading habits. I have so many great memories reading his books. Someday, I hope to own them all!
THC – Horror books, like films, can cover a wide range of topics from monsters, ghosts, and killers, to screen adaptations and true crime. Do you have a favorite sub-genre in horror fiction?
GT – My favorite sub-genre in horror fiction would be ghost stories tied with vampires. If you take one look at my Instagram you will see ghost books and related ephemera in every other post, Dracula was my favorite monster growing up. My dad and I both share a love for vampires, and vampire media. Almost every vampire film I’ve watched I’ve watched with my dad! Speaking of my dad, my dad works as a grave digger! I grew up around cemeteries so that probably informed my love for those subgenres.
THC – Do you remember the first horror story that you read? What was the story and what about it set you on your path to The Haunted Library?
GT – I don’t really remember the first horror story I read. It might have been Dracula, but I’m not sure. For as long I can remember I’ve loved spooky and scary things. Being an artist, I’ve always loved things that are visually, narratively, and thematically dynamic. Horror is all those things. Beyond that very basic observation I don’t really know what set me on my path to the ORHL. I just started walking in that direction and never looked back!
THC – Was collecting horror fiction intentional, or did you wake up one morning and realize, “Hey, I have a horror book collection!”.
GT – Collecting horror fiction was definitely intentional. I’ve always been a collector of things. When I really like something, I want as much of it as possible!
THC – Tell us more about you book collection. How many titles, how long have you been collecting them, and where do you hunt for new acquisitions?
GT – I have roughly 3,000 something books that are horror and horror related. I also have about 300 horror comic books, 200 horror magazines and a ton of pulps and miscellaneous ephemera. I started collecting when I was 17. I would go to library book sales and buy every book that looked remotely up my alley. I still go to book sales, but most of my book hunting has, as of late, been online or at the various used book stores around me.
THC – Like most good libraries, you don’t just have books in your collection, you also have posters, masks, and other associated ephemera. Tell us more about those items.
GT – As my love for horror books has grown, so has my love for posters, masks and everything else related to horror and Halloween. I like being fully surrounded by what I love. I like the idea of owning a personal museum/library dedicated to all the things I’m obsessed with. Posters and masks, along with vintage toys and Halloween decorations, are my obsessions given physical form.
THC – I always ask collectors this question, if a horde of the undead was heading down the street towards your library, what few pieces would you grab on your way out the door?
GT – I would probably grab my childhood copy of Dracula and a copy of The Monster Men that my grandpa on my dad’s side owned. I remember finding that book in a box of his things and fireworks going off in my head!
THC – Referring to the last question. What makes them so important to you?
GT – Being an artist, as well as someone with severe ADHD and OCD, the things in my collection serve multiple special purposes (beyond being cool items). The things I own serve to inspire me and my art, they serve to stimulate my ADHD brain, and they serve as a safe space where my I can find comfort and strength when my brain wants to hurt me. I’m also mildly on the autism spectrum. Many people with ASD have what’s called “special interests”. These are interests that someone with ASD has a vast amount of knowledge on/interest in (hence why they’re called “special”)! Horror and Halloween are definitely special interests of mine.
THC – Speaking of important items in your collection, what are some of your most valuable pieces? What are your favorites?
GT – Some of my most valuable/favorite pieces would be a double signed copy of True Ghost Stories by Cherio, a once famous mystic; a huge hand-made Frankenstein head that was used in spook shows; four original hand painted movie posters by Mr. Brew, the famous Ghana poster artist; and a bit of black fabric that came from one of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula Capes.
THC – Every collector I speak with has a “Holy Grail” item they are hunting. What is it for you and why does it need to be in your library?
GT – I would love to own a copy of Dracula, signed by Bela Lugosi and or Bram Stoker. It would pair well with my piece of Dracula cape!
THC – If you could sit down with one author (living or dead) for coffee, who would you choose and what would you want to talk about?
GT – I would probably want to sit down with Mary Shelley. She was so ahead of her time. I’d love to pick her brain on scientific advancement and on its potential perils.
THC – One of the more interesting things you do at The Haunted Library is paperback restoration. I have seen rare book restoration, but they are usually hard cover projects. How did you get started in restoration?
GT – I got started when I realized that it was possible. I saw a video that Gary Lovisi (one of the foremost vintage paperback experts) posted on You-Tube, that showed things you can do to restore paperback books. Gary’s wife showed lots of cool tricks and tips in the video. I took some of those tips and expanded on them slightly. I quickly realized that restoring paperbacks added another dimension of joy and appreciation to my hobby. I plan to do it a lot more in the future!
THC – Was your restoration method self-taught? How did you develop the process?
GT – Beyond watching that one video that Gary Lovisi posted, I’m completely self-taught. I developed my process through trial and error with a bunch of beat-up paperbacks I had laying around.
THC – I can’t talk about books without talking about cover art. It seems to me like movie posters, book cover art has become lazy and uninspired. Do you agree with that feeling?
GT – I one hundred percent agree with that!! A lot of books now are just some moody photo that’s mostly covered up by the author’s name and the book’s title. I also have a bone to pick with the interior art of many current mainstream American comic books. I don’t read many current (mainstream) comics because the art inside turns me off. I much prefer indie works.
THC – What are some examples you would point to for great cover art? Do you have a favorite artist?
GT – Frank Frazetta will always be my all-time favorite. I also really love Norman Rockwell. While he didn’t do many book covers, his “Saturday Evening Post” covers are in a league of their own! I’m actually planning on visiting the Frazetta Art Museum in Stroudsburg, PA to celebrate my 26th birthday.
THC – As all genres, horror fiction has developed and evolved from Mary Shelley’s time to present. Do you have a favorite era of horror fiction? What are some titles from that era that resonate with you?
GT – I really love early horror fiction, pre-World War II. Anything written before then has my attention. As a ghost story lover M. R. James and his ghost story collections are some of my favorites. I also love John Polidori’s The Vampyre, Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, and of course Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
THC – For someone new to horror fiction, what books or authors would you recommend that they try?
GT – I would recommend trying all the books and authors I have mentioned above (to start with). After that I would recommend digging around. There are, quite literally, thousands of amazing authors!
THC – Any advice for a new book collector? Where are good places to hunt, is there anything they should be careful of? Are there any resources they might use?
GT – My advice for new book collectors is:
1. Find a genre or subgenre you really love and stick to collecting that.
2. Don’t overspend on a book if it’s in poor condition (unless it’s impossible to find).
3. Check the book condition before you buy it! Be careful of online listings with no photo that just say “good” or “very good”. I’ve bought books that are supposed to be in “very good” condition, that are actually in very poor condition.
4. Buy from independent bookstores/book sellers! As someone who dabbles in book selling, it’s very hard to make good money doing that job!
5. Be patient. Don’t jump on the first listing of a book you see on eBay (unless it’s a really good deal or super, super rare). Recently I bought a book I’d wanted for years. The only listings online wanted $300 or more. I waited and found a VG+ copy in a lot of five books for $24.00.
6. Go to book sales, I find lots of cool things that way! And 7. Join Instagram or some other book community and have fun nerding out with other collectors!
THC – How can people visit The One Room Haunted Library?
GT – They can visit the library by following @1roomhauntedlib on Instagram! I try to post at least four or five times per week!
Thanks for interviewing me!!