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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 24, 2007

UI Libraries presents 'Ghosts from the Stacks' collection

In celebration of Halloween, the University of Iowa Libraries is unlocking the archives to expose artifacts on grave robbing, demon conjuring, local hauntings and other spooky subjects covered in the university's collection of rare books, manuscripts and ephemeral publications.

Librarians from Special Collections, University Archives and the Hardin Library for Health Sciences' John Martin Rare Book Room will discuss highlights from their collections at a presentation titled "Ghosts From the Stacks," which will be held in Room 2032 of the Main Library at noon Wednesday, Oct. 31. Light refreshments will be served, and the event is free and open to the public.

The Iowa Digital Library website,, features a online exhibit of Halloween-related artifacts, including the early 20th century Halloween cartoons of Pulitzer-prize-winning Iowa cartoonist Ding Darling, and ghostly cover art from "Nancy Drew" teen sleuth novels of UI alumna Mildred Wirt Benson. The online exhibit pulls together items from the Libraries' existing digital collections, which feature such diverse artifacts as a 17th century compendium of monsters, the papers of 1950s radio homemaker Evelyn Birkby, and the slide collection of Geosciences professor emeritus Dick Baker.

Speakers at the Oct. 31 event will present rare books -- such as "The Discoverie of Witchcraft," published in 1584, and "The Secrets of the Invisible World Laid Open" from 1770 -- along with items related to local ghost stories like the origins of the Oakland Cemetery's Black Angel monument and the fabled triple suicide and subsequent haunting of Currier Hall.

"Virtually all communities can boast of some ghoulish episode from the past and Iowa City is certainly no exception," says Ed Holtum, curator of the John Martin Rare Book Room, who will be discussing the 19th century grave-robbing scandal that came close to shutting down the UI's medical school in its first year.

With events like "Ghosts in the Stacks," the Libraries hope to promote use of these valuable primary source materials and rare historic publications, both in person and online. "Our goal for the session is to increase awareness of the Iowa Digital Library among members of the UI community," say Jen Wolfe, metadata librarian for Digital Library Services, who will be speaking on author Benson. "And to scare them."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Kristi Bontrager, University of Iowa Libraries, 319-335-5960; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,