Exporing the metaphysical

A local library for those able to find it

Oscar Zahner, Political Correspondent

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Hidden in the basement of the Kress Building in Old Ballard, unmarked save for a lone sandwich board, lies one of the neighborhood’s best-kept secrets: the Seattle Metaphysical Library. Despite only being a short trip from the school, the business has a tendency to fly under the radar. Even if you’re looking for it, it’s hard to spot.

But if you do find that little unmarked glass door between the Bop Street Records and the Pie Bar, and make the trek downstairs into the long, winding annex, you’ll find an eccentrically decorated room overflowing with tomes on the bizarre, the spiritual, and the supernatural.

“No one really knows the absolute truth,” says Ron Ginther, a volunteer at the library, “so we’re all coming at it from different angles. We’ve got different personalities and mindsets. There are different ways of trying to acquire enlightenment.”

Indeed, the library houses an impressively diverse collection of schools of thought, varying from mainstream religious texts to astrology to some spiritual teachings called “theosophy.” If you browse around, you’ll stumble upon loosely organized sections labeled “UFOs,” “alchemy,” and, a personal favorite, “conspiracy.”

The library owes its wealth and range of esoteric knowledge to its patrons. Their collection is all donated, so the books are secondhand. Each has its own unique story, and unique feel. Some of their more tattered volumes are from the early 1900’s, and an encyclopedia of alternative medicine was printed just after the outbreak of World War Two.

Yet, despite the donations the library receives, business isn’t always easy.

“The library always seems to be hanging on by a thread,” Ginther says. “We had a bit of a crisis in 2005 when we almost had to close. That’s when the library was moved to Ballard.”

Apparently, the library has been sporadically moving around since its formal inception in 1961. It occupied various buildings downtown, when rent was cheaper, for the majority of its existence.

Its new, fairly secluded location means that business is largely dependent on regular visitors. To check out a book, for instance, you need to buy a yearly membership for $40.

But even if you’re not there to buy a membership, the library is definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in the unexplained or the unexplainable. The volunteer staff is accommodating, and there’s something palpably enthralling about the mystery of the place. Any student looking to entertain their more curious side should make a point to visit. That is, if they can find it.

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