The Oldest Book Store in America (and Possibly the World) Is Also Haunted

While print is far from dead, it’s still a tough time to be an independent bookstore. Fortunately, the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania knows a thing or two about staying power. The store has been open since 1745. That 271-year running streak makes it the oldest bookstore in America, and as The Guardian reports, possibly the oldest continuously operating one in the entire world.

Scotland’s John Smith & Son used to claim those titles, but it closed in 2000 (and reportedly opened in 1751). The Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon, Portugal also may have a claim to the record, but the store, which opened in 1732, is no longer in its original location, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755.

The Moravian Book Shop has also seen some location (and name) changes in its time. It went by the name Bethelhemer Bücher Shop for a while and moved to Philadelphia for two years in 1856. The shop returned to Bethlehem in 1858, and first occupied its current location in 1867, adopting the current name in 1905.

In addition to having a lot of things bigger bookstores do not (like a curated gift shop and indie press titles), the Moravian also reportedly has a resident ghost. The shop’s employees have reported seeing the specter, and they hold annual ghost tours, featuring several spooky landmarks in the historic town. Sites like a pre-Revolutionary War cemetery called God’s Acre, the 18th century Sun Inn, the Hotel Bethlehem, and others have all been the site of reported hauntings throughout the years.

Moravian Book Shop employee Jane Clugston relayed the following story to The Guardian on the store’s live-in spirit:

She told me that one night, while closing the store with a fellow employee, she saw a dark figure in a back hallway of the store, going into the kitchen. She and the coworker followed the figure back. Then, she says she realized the back kitchen stove was on, as well as the fan.

“I don’t know why this person, ghost, spirit drew us back there, but I guess to turn off those appliances,” says Clugston. “I’d never thought of it until I told someone else and they said a ghost led you back there. But in that back hallway a lot of people have said that they’ve felt things and they’ve seen things.”

[h/t The Guardian]

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Feeling Stressed? Playing Tetris Could Help Relieve Your Anxiety

iStock/Radachynskyi
iStock/Radachynskyi

When Nintendo released their handheld Game Boy system in the U.S. and Japan in 1989, the first game most users experimented with was Tetris. Bundled with the system, the clever puzzler—which prompts players to line up a descending array of tiles to create horizontal lines—was the video game equivalent of an addictive drug. Some players described seeing the shapes in their dreams. The game was in the hands of 35 million portable players; by 2010, it had sold 100 million smartphone downloads.

Now, there’s evidence that Tetris players may have a solution to anxiety in the palms of their hands. According to a paper published in the journal Emotion, Tetris has the capability to relieve stress and troubling thoughts by providing a form of distraction.

As part of a larger study about the benefits of distraction, researchers at the University of California, Riverside conducted an experiment on 309 college students who were told to expect some anxiety-provoking news: They were told someone would be offering an evaluation of their physical attractiveness. While they waited for their results, a third of the subjects played a slow-moving, beginner-level version of Tetris; another group played a high-speed variation; and a third played an adaptive version, which automatically adjusted the speed of the game based on the player’s abilities.

Tetris games that were too slow or too fast bored or frustrated players, respectively. But the game that provided a moderate challenge helped reduce the subjects’ perception of their stress levels. They reported a quarter-point higher level of positive emotions on a five-point scale and a half-point reduction of negative emotions. The students still worried about the results of the attractiveness evaluation, but they experienced fewer negative feelings about it.

The key, according to the study, is that the students were experiencing “flow,” a state of mind in which you’re so engrossed in an activity that you lose your sense of self-awareness. While Tetris may be one of the best ways to quickly fall into flow, anything that consumes your attention—playing music, drawing, cooking—is likely to work.

The next time you have to wait for potentially life-altering news, you may find that a Tetris session will help you cope.

[h/t NPR]

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