There's more reality in the German Village bookshop's hilariously bizarre persona than you might think

On the Book Loft’s Twitter account, followers of the Skeleton Lord Malamarkus are sacrificially thrown into The Pit on a regular basis. Sometimes blood pours through the ceiling. Scoops of teeth are discounted for sale. Insects, reptiles and other creatures swarm visitors. 

The Twitter persona may seem like a far cry from the quaint, 32-room bookshop housed in a sprawling, Civil War-era building on German Village’s cobblestone streets. But to marketing manager Gary Lovely, who has managed the shop’s Twitter account for the majority of his four years on staff, the bizarrely hellish alternate reality is a peek behind the curtain.

“It’s basically what we see here — like what's actually happening, instead of what customers see when they come in, which is, ‘Oh, look at all the books! It's so pretty!’ Behind the scenes, to keep up a place like this, it's total chaos all the time,” Lovely said in a chat at the Book Loft a few weeks ago. “It’s kind of a mirror of what we feel.”

The chaos can take many forms. Customers argue and/or vomit. Rivers of blood have yet to pour forth from hidden portals, but other things sometimes do crash through the ceiling. “I was at the front desk, and it was about 9 o’clock, and a young lady comes up to the side of the desk, and she’s like, ‘I don’t know how to say this to you, but there is a possum in the fiction section upstairs,’” Lovely said. “I just picked it up and carried it outside by the tail." 

Plus, the tweets aren't entirely made up. The Pit is a very real place, hidden in plain sight beneath stacks of children’s picture books. “It’s this horrifying hole in the floor where we keep a lot of supplies. There's a giant plate that lifts up off of the ground, and there is a staircase that goes down into a huge stone room. A couple times a year we have to get into The Pit,” said Lovely, who frequently refers to this downstairs lair on Twitter as a place of punishment. “Whatever happens, you’re either getting tossed in The Pit or set on fire. That’s just our way of dealing with the many, many stupid things that happen here.”

Lovely took over the mostly dormant Book Loft Twitter account about six months after arriving, and he knew it had to be different from the store’s social media presence on other platforms (“On Twitter, no one cares about advertisements, for the most part. Everyone just wants to complain or act goofy,” he said). He loved watching other independent bookstores and publishers joke back and forth, and one day, when he found a full suit of armor in the Book Loft’s basement, Lovely started making jokes about wearing it when the skeleton army wars begin. People latched onto the idea, and the persona grew from there.

The ethos seemed to solidify when Malamarkus showed up in October of 2018. “if the crew gets saved just know I made a sweet deal with the devil for you, my Large Sons,” the account tweeted. The thread continued an hour later: “sad part is we had to sacrifice our sweet thomas to Malamarkus, The Skeleton Lord.”

“There’s an old [‘Parks & Recreation’] episode where they had this weird cult in the town. … And I was like, what if, with all the weird stuff in the Book Loft, what if it was run by some cult, but a cult of total stupidity? Like if a bunch of the dumbest people you know were in a cult,” Lovely said. “It’s like the most beautiful part of hell that you could possibly come into — like if there is an extra circle somewhere, and there’s books and a bunch of total psychopaths that are trying to sell it to you. That's the Book Loft.”

indie bookstore day specials:

book crawl (nice): free
soul pledge to Malamarkus: free
8 mostly alive raccoons: 8.99
handful of rocks: .99
One Scoop of teeth: 34.99
Sacrifice a Man™: BOGO
screaming: free w/purchase

hell yeah party in The Pit™tonight BYOBlood

— The Book Loft (@TheBookLoftGV) April 27, 2019

Soon enough, Twitter followers glommed onto the concept, praising the Skeleton Lord and playing along. “Came to support local business, stayed because I was thrown into the pit™ as a sacrifice for Malamarkus,” one recent visitor tweeted.

The Book Loft account now has nearly 8,000 followers, and it’s a consistently entertaining, hilarious escape, whether the store is covering a screaming child in thousands of slugs or, while the shop’s doors are closed to visitors during the coronavirus crisis, launching the new Malamarkus Mystery Box: 

we made a mystery box to appease Our Skeleton Lord and Savior

give us a couple genres and a t-shirt size and I'll send you some cool shithttps://t.co/4youJSadWa pic.twitter.com/uDDLL64jNv

— The Book Loft (@TheBookLoftGV) March 25, 2020

“It took a little bit to figure out what Columbus likes here. … There's a lot of good Twitter accounts for independent bookstores, and they all do their own thing. We're pretty good buddies with the Raven Bookstore out in Lawrence, Kansas, and they use their platform to educate people on how terrible Amazon is, and people there really, really love that,” Lovely said. “[But] this is what Columbus clung on to.”