To unwind for the evening, Hannah Moody, circulation department manager at Kennedy Library, opens her copy of “The Ballad of Black Tom” to her favorite bookmark with blood-red lettering, which reads “Papercuts: an Adult Horror Book Club.”
Moody is one of the leaders of the Muncie Public Library’s Papercuts Adult Horror Book Club. From her bedroom, she participates in the group’s monthly Zoom meetings, trading weeks leading the Zoom with Dennis Everette, the reference librarian at Kennedy Library on McGalliard Road, and Joshua Vance, circulation supervisor at Maring-Hunt Library on South High Street.
Moody first participated as an attendee when the Kennedy Public Library began seasonal book clubs in 2019 with assorted genres, including mystery, graphic novel, sci-fi and horror. The clubs saw varying success but none as successful as the horror club.
Everette said reading is just like any other hobby — people need an outlet to gather, discuss and embrace their interest. Because members were sad they would have to wait another eight months for the seasonal horror book club to come around again, the leaders decided to do a second four-month run of the horror book club. After the second run’s continued success, Papercuts will deliver spookiness all year to fans who want to talk about their interests and share ideas.
Papercuts meets the first Monday of every month on Zoom. To learn more about the book club, visit its Facebook group page @papercutsbookclub.
The Papercuts horror book club had its first meeting Jan. 4 to discuss “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood. The Facebook page for the club has 25 followers, and the meetings generally draw at least 10 participants — nearly double the size of the previous book clubs.
Moody said she believes Papercuts’ success is because other libraries don’t acknowledge the horror genre the same way the Muncie Public Library does.
“I do love horror — I'm a fan, but it also was something that no other libraries really were doing,” Moody said. “They have so many of the other typical genres, but no one thinks that horror — because it's kind of outside of the box — [is] going to be popular. We're really proving people wrong by the attendance.”
Moody said the horror genre is often associated with “weirdos” and not for women, but she thinks the club is proving otherwise, as it gives a space where people with this shared interest can be themselves.
“There's this stigma around horror that, ‘Oh, girls wouldn't like it because it's too gory and scary,’ and I'm right up in there,” Moody said. “Sometimes, I like stuff that's more graphic than Dennis does. If you tell someone that you like horror, then … they put you into this group of weirdos. If that's what we are, that's fine.”
Everette said he thinks the club is breaking the stigma around libraries as well. He heard from some participants that they expected the library to be “stodgy” and “quiet” and that a horror book club isn’t something they would expect from a public library.
While the club is small, Everette said, he sees it as their way of building the community they want to see in Muncie. Where this would be common in big cities like Chicago or Indianapolis, he felt obligated to create something interesting to better his own city and thinks others should do the same.
“There's constantly this [saying], ‘What is there to do in Muncie?’” Everette said. “I feel it's up to all of us to create things to do and to make the place as interesting as we can.”
The Papercuts Horror Book Club is open to everyone — no library card is required. Before the pandemic, members had considered meeting at Savage’s Ale House but had to turn to Zoom meetings during quarantine. Now, they hope to meet in person soon while still allowing remote library patrons an opportunity to participate.
Haley Perez-Arche attends the club’s Zoom meetings regularly from Atlanta, Georgia. When she first moved to Muncie, Perez-Arche said, she had no community and wanted to make friends, so she got involved with the Muncie Public Library through Books and Brews.
She attended the library’s book clubs faithfully for three years before moving to Atlanta in January 2020. Since then, she continues to participate because of her love for the library’s employees and the sense of community she found with the book club members.
“I enjoy the suspense and seeing what horrible things happen. I love the spookiness, especially with ghost stories,” Perez-Arche said. “I also think it's cathartic. I can't stop in life to think of everything I'm afraid of, or else I'd be paralyzed. In horror, you can put yourself in a mental space where you can feel fear, anxiety and stress and just allow those feelings to exist. Then, you close the book, and it's over. You've given yourself a space to feel bad, and, then, you can move on. I think that's more valuable than people realize.”
The club plans to expand its outreach throughout the year on social media by dipping its toes into the BookTok trend, where people discuss and recommend books on TikTok. Moody sees an absence of horror books in the trend and hopes she might someday soon fill that role.
As members of Papercuts Adult Horror Book Club have built a small community around heart-racing stories, Everett said, he enjoys how horror can be an escape and a thrill ride or how it can reveal a truth about reality.
“I'm more interested in the stuff that describes how the real world is actually terrifying just the way it normally is,” Everette said. “[I’m interested in] anything that makes people understand how weird the world really is and how the little half-inch veneer of normality doesn't count for much.”
Contact Nigel Meyer with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.