Iowa City bookshop vandalized, graffiti alleges sexual misconduct by employee

Owner said she is trying to figure out the vandal's intent

What remains of the graffiti left outside The Haunted Bookshop, 219 N. Gilbert St., Iowa City, taken January 12, 2018. (Gazette photo)
What remains of the graffiti left outside The Haunted Bookshop, 219 N. Gilbert St., Iowa City, taken January 12, 2018. (Gazette photo)

IOWA CITY — The owner of an Iowa City bookshop targeted by a vandal accusing her of employing a “sexual abuser” said she doesn’t know why her business was damaged.

“That’s what I’m hoping the police can help me figure out,” said Nialle Sylvan, owner of The Haunted Bookshop.

Sylvan, who has owned the nearly 40-year-old bookshop at 219 N. Gilbert St. since 2004, said there was no graffiti on her bookshop when they closed for business Wednesday night. When an employee returned Thursday morning, they discovered someone had spray-painted the side of the building with black spray paint. The message, which has since been partially covered, appears to read “A sexual abuser works here. Trust victims. IC can do better.”

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Sylvan said the Iowa City police were contacted and Sgt. Scott Gaarde confirmed police are investigating, but there have been no arrests.

Despite the damage to her building, Sylvan expressed empathy for the culprit.

“Clearly, someone is feeling a lot of pain and I’m very sad about that,” she said.

However, Sylvan said there is also “some fear” among her employees and those who frequent her bookshop because of the ambiguity in the graffiti and what the suspect wants.

“But, that’s our problem,” Sylvan said. “If someone’s hurting, I hope they find an avenue of help.”


The North Gilbert Street location is The Haunted Bookshop’s fourth location and it has been there since 2013, according to the bookstore’s website. The building was built in 1847 and “is the foremost example of Greek Revival architecture remaining in Iowa City today,” the website states.

Sylvan said she tried to cover some of the graffiti and is talking with historic preservation commissions about how to best remove the paint.

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