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Haunted Books
By Christopher Silvia

A House just is not Haunted without ghosts, and unless you are lucky enough to find a truly Haunted place to operate your attraction then you will have to do the "Haunting" yourself! I was looking for an inexpensive way to create the illusion of poltergeist activity in a library setting, with dusty volumes on a bookshelf moving by unseen hands, and came up with a motor and cam shaft arrangement that worked really well. As described herein, this project is self-contained and built directly onto a shelf to fit into an existing bookcase. As presented, it could even be used in a nice bookshelf in your home without any damage to the furniture. You can use an extra shelf piece that you do not mind damaging or find a similar piece of wood, cut to size.


  • Extra shelf board (or similar)
  • Old hardcover books
  • 1"x1/2" pine stock
  • low rpm motor
  • Aluminum rod
  • Pieces of insulation foam
  • Scrap of 1/2" plywood 4" X 3"
  • 1/4" plywood about 2'X4"
  • bungee cord
  • plastic yard sign
  • hot glue and gun
  • 1.5" wire brads
  • old shelf or similar piece to mount the project to
  • Plastic sheeting


  • router with 1/4" straight bit
  • Glue
  • hammer
  • saw


The Books
Even though only 5 books move, you need enough books to fill the shelf. These extra books help hide the motor and mechanism. I used and an old set of encyclopedias, but this would work just as well with different types and sizes of books. To prepare them for mounting on the shelf, remove the inside pages from each book leaving just the hardbound jacket in tact. Use pieces of insulation foam cut to the thickness of the books to replace the pages and help the cover hold its shape. Using an extra shelf from the bookcase (or a board of the same size), arrange the books on the shelf in the order that you want them. Make sure that the backs of the books are about 4" away from the back of the shelf, to leave room for the mechanism and return cords. Determine which books will be moving and which will be stationary, and mark the location of each. For this example, 5 books will move, but you could have more or less.

After you have determined the number of books that will move, make the cams or "fingers" (as I like to call them) that will push the books out from behind. Cut 5 finger shapes (see diagram b) from 1/4 inch plywood and round over all edges with sandpaper or a grinder. You will need to drill a hole in the finger the same diameter of the rod. The fingers need to fit snuggly onto the rod. Use an aluminum or graphite rod that fits over the drive shaft of the motor. I used a 5/8" piece of spun graphite rod about 3/4 of the length of the shelf, that fit perfectly over the motor shaft. Drill a small hole through both the rod and motor shaft and secure the connection with a cotter pin or small nail. I used a small nail and just bent it over to keep it in place.

The size books you use will determine the height location of the rod. It should be approximately at mid height of the books. By this I mean measuring half way from the shelf to the top of the book. (See diagram a). Your cam rod needs to be mounted at this height behind the books. Block the motor with scrap wood or whatever you have handy and mount it to one end of the shelf at the correct height. The shaft should be about 2" from the back of the shelf. At the other end of the shelf, use a piece of wood for a bracket to hold up that end of the cam rod at the same height. The rod needs to be as level as level as possible from the motor to the bracket. Before you secure everything slide all the fingers onto the rod.

Cut scrap pieces of wood stock (one for each stationary book) to 1 inch tall, by thick the original thickness of the book, and the approximate depth of the book. Starting on the end with the motor, (See diagram c.), secure the first piece by gluing and screwing it to the shelf. Then take one of the book jackets and glue it onto the wood stock. You may have to cut away portions of the books on this end to fit over the motor. Make sure to give the motor enough breathing room because it will get hot. Continue with this process until you reach the first book you wish to animate.

The Tracks
The next step is to make tracks (like drawer slides) for each of the books that move. Take a 45 inches long piece of 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch thick long wood stock and router a 1/4 inch grove down the center of the wider side. This will be enough track for at least 5 books. You will also need to rip another piece of stock to 1/4 wide and 45 inches long that will fit inside the routered grove to act like a rail. Starting with the last book you secured in place, mounted measure a piece of the track about 1inch shorter that the length of the book. Using a sharp utility knife cut a slot in the side of the book to recess the track into. The track needs to be the same height as the cam rod and mounted flush to the side of the book. (See diagram d.) Take the book that will be mounted on the other side of the moving book, and using the first book as a guide mount another piece of track into this book. Cut two rails pieces the same length as the tracks and mount them onto each side of the book you want to move. Placing the rail in the track, run some glue along the edge of the rail and press the moving book into place slightly off the shelf, and against secured book. Then take the un-mounted book containing the track, and do the same for the other side. Holding the un-mounted book in place, test to see if the moving book slides in and out properly. A little sanding and some wax will help it to slide more smoothly. Now you can mount the other book containing the track with the wood stock as before. Be sure to leave enough room on each side of the moving book for it to slide freely. Continue this process until all of the books are mounted.

Cut a strip of the plastic sheeting (I used an old sign I had) about the same size as the spine of the book. Attach this "strike" to the foam insulation inside the moving books (See picture a). This will give the fingers a nice smooth surface to push against. Starting with the first moving book, slide a finger down and align it exactly in the center of the plastic strike. Drill a small hole into the finger and through the rod. Then insert a small nail or cotter pin to keep the finger from spinning. Continue to secure the fingers along the rod at different positions until all 5 are attached. This will make the books move in and out in a random fashion.

In order for the books to snap back into place you need a return mechanism. Cut a bungee cord open and separate about four or five strands of the elastic. Secure two sections of the elastic to each side of each animated book, near the back of the shelf. Using a hole punch or a nail make a hole through book jacket and tie the elastic through them. Place a screw or brad nail into the shelf (about 1/2 way) directly behind each moving book near the edge of the shelf (See diagram a.). With the book set in the start position (with the front of the book flush to the rest of the books) tie the elastic to each of the nails. You will have to experiment with the strength of the bungee in comparison to the torque of your motor. It may need more or less resistance to draw the book back. Rubbing a little wax on top of the shelf may also aid in movement.

Time to now replace that old boring shelf of books with your new Haunted set. Make sure that there is enough clearance behind the shelf so that the fingers can make a full rotation without hitting the back of the bookcase. Run the power cord out of site and down behind the bookcase. Plug it in and turn the motor on. The books should randomly slide out and snap back into place. You will want to use an electric timer, motion detector, pressure mat or remote switch to activate the Haunted books.

Now it is time to invite your non-paranormal believing friends over for a social. Build them up with a story about how you think that your house is really Haunted, and make an excuse to leave them alone in your Haunted Library. You may never be able to get them to visit you again!


Christopher Silvia is the owner of Banners for Dark Attraction, Portsmouth, RI, which makes quality custom-made nylon banners for any venue. Every October he turns his home into Lamar Manor and terrifies his neighborhood. Contact Christopher at cslivia9@idt.net or visit his award winning web site www.christophersilvia.com.

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