[Movie still from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Warner Bros.]
Libraries are dangerous places. They are filled with adventure, with daring quests and magic spells, with fearsome beasts, killers, and vampires. They are packed to the brim with solo travel to far off places, with haunted houses and darkened alleyways. Some would even say that libraries are treacherous no matter what stories we read in them - after all, a little learning is a dangerous thing.
But there are some (fictional) libraries that aren’t just dangerous in the metaphorical sense. These repositories of knowledge and stories have monsters and ghouls lurking in the stacks, not just the pages of the books on the shelves. From TV, film, comics, and books, we are rounding up some of the most frightening and dangerous libraries ever - that we would probably still want to visit. After all, a library, even one teeming with peril, has got to be worth a visit - there are books in there!
Hogwarts (The Harry Potter Franchise): The Restricted Section
We’ve all wanted to visit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but it’s not the safest place in the world - especially not the library! Presided over by the sour-faced librarian Madam Pince, the Hogwarts library is full of everything a young witch or wizard would need to know about magic. The Restricted Section, however, is only accessible to the professors and a few select students who have permission to check out specific volumes, usually when studying advanced Defense Against The Dark Arts. While most of these books wouldn’t be too dangerous to the magic-less reader, there are a few that would certainly be able to cause some damage - like the book that howled at Harry on his first visit. Given that the Monster Book Of Monsters isn’t considered dangerous enough to merit inclusion, we don’t know what else a reader might find in these stacks. Finally, even without opening a single book, readers might also have to deal with Peeves the Poltergeist…although that’s true of everywhere at Hogwarts.
Doctor Who: The Library
It seems like a dream - a library the size of a planet, containing every book ever written. However, when The Doctor visits The Library (a two-episode arc covering ‘Silence In The Library’ and ‘Forest of The Dead’) it is utterly empty. We learn that this magnificent library is overrun by ravenous creatures called the Vashta Nerada, living shadows who can strip a person’s skin from their bones. They are here because the books in the library were made using the trees of their home planet, making The Library and its contents theirs…or so they think. The Library now belongs to these creatures (once The Doctor had talked them into freeing all of the captured souls in the Library computer), and any who enter the sealed building will be devoured by the shadows in moments. Still, we would have loved to visit before the Vashta Nerada attacked, to experience that wealth of knowledge in a single (albeit planet-sized) space.
[TV still from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 20th Century Fox Television]
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Sunnydale High School Library
Like the school library at Hogwarts, the Sunnydale High Library contains as many volumes on saving the world from dangerous things as it does actual danger…but it was far from safe, especially after hours. For one thing, this repository of supernatural (and high school) books happens to be directly above the Hellmouth, which meant that multi-headed demons burst through the floor on more than one occasion! Add to that the occasional vampire or werewolf in the book cage and the medieval weapons on the walls, and this is far from safe for the average teenager. And of course, as the headquarters of Buffy and the Scoobies, there is usually some kind of supernatural creature hanging around outside that might kidnap or eat a reader passing by. Luckily, the library was destroyed when Buffy blew up the school, but we would still have considered visiting… during daylight hours.
Discworld (Terry Pratchett): The Unseen University Library
In worlds where there is wizardry and magic, libraries just seem to act as a beacon for trouble - which brings us to another wizarding school with a dangerous collection: The Unseen University. Existing within Terry Pratchett’s vast and sprawling Discworld universe, this library is stacked to the rafters with magical tomes and presided over by a threatening Orangutan (who was once a man). The amount of magic held within its walls makes the interior of the building warped and tricky to navigate, leading the unwary to become lost in the stacks. While many of the books are harmless, others are so dangerous that they are chained to the walls to prevent students without enough knowledge or ability from being hurt by reading them. Objects can turn into other objects (or even into creatures), readers might walk in one door and exit in another city, books might attack you…and none of that is as dangerous as the librarian should you be late returning a book!
The Pagemaster: Mr. Dewey’s Library
This kid’s movie from the ‘90s may not be the best film in the world (it sits at a dismal 18% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes), but we’ve got some fond memories of that magical library - even if it would actually be a little too dangerous to actually visit! The Pagemaster stars Macaulay Culkin as Richard Tyler, a child whose life is ruled by fear, anxiety, and statistics. But when he ducks into the local library to get out of a rainstorm, he finds that there is far more to it than meets the eye. To escape the library, he must make his way past the villains and obstacles of classic literature - so readers visiting these stacks might end up battling pirates, Mr. Hyde, dragons…any kind of monster that has been written might come to life in these shelves. A visit to Mr. Dewey’s library actually worked out pretty well for Richard, of course, but we’d still consider giving this one a miss. Then again, the thought of sentient books as friends could tempt us back in!
Sandman (Neil Gaiman): The Library Of Dream
In this comic series written by Neil Gaiman, there is a library that may well be the safest of all the libraries on our list: Lucien’s Library. In Dream’s Castle, in the center of The Dreaming, this library doesn’t contain the kind of books that you might find elsewhere. Instead, it houses every book that anyone has ever dreamed of writing, but never actually wrote. That idea for a novel that you have been meaning to pen? It’s in there. However, should you ever sit down and actually write that book, the copy in Lucien’s library will burst into flames. Therein lies the danger, of course - not just the physical danger of having a novel catch fire in your hands, but the danger that you might start a book and never be able to find out what happens in the end!
Which other fictional libraries might be too dangerous to visit… and which would you visit anyway? Comment and let us know!