Steve Elliott’s retail booth — The Spooky Bookstore at The Mercantile vintage mall in west Fort Worth — is packed with horror year-round in its 100 square feet.
“This is my happy place, coming here,” Elliott, a longtime Fort Worth artist who opened his Mercantile booth three Halloweens ago, said during a recent interview. Elliott sits among stacks of titles such as Robert Bloch’s “Psycho,” Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and Thomas Harris’ “Hannibal-Red Dragon-The Silence of the Lambs” trilogy, as well as decor including skull door- knockers, Victorian-style mirrors and candlesticks, decorated shadowboxes that customers can use to display favorite books, a Christmas tree decked out with skulls and a raven topper and prints of his original drawings inspired by the holiday Dia de Los Muertos.
His art includes drawings and pieces such as furniture, cutting boards and straw hats he char-burns using a butane torch. A former longtime employee of a major corporate retailer, he got his start
at The Mercantile when he set up a booth selling furniture and finished it with an elaborate Halloween motif.
“I did such an elaborate job, customers asked me about Halloween,” he says. The National Retail Federation estimates Halloween does more than $10 billion in sales annually.
Elliott also stocks unusual editions of books. A publisher’s hardback copy of Bloch’s “The Early Fears,” for example, is for sale for $125. Unusual editions of Stephen King novels fetch that price, too.
He enjoys the thrill of the hunt for books. Online auction site eBay is one of his favorite sources. “I’m the highest bidder,” he says. “I’m lucky. Sometimes, you can get into trouble.”
Customers often send Elliott down rabbit holes in search of books. One customer asked him to hunt down
a young adult book, whose title and author she didn’t know, that she’d read years earlier. The few clues she provided — young daughter, cursed with illness, children go missing — led Elliott to Samantha Mabry’s “A Fierce & Subtle Poison.”
“She’d read it in school and always loved the book.” Elliott said. Customers “come up with all kinds of challenges for me.”