On two different movies I’ve scouted for recently, I was asked to find a genuine “occult store.” Of course, by occult, they actually mean cliched movie magic shop ala the curio shop in Gremlins.
Sadly, the reality is that such shops SIMPLY DO NOT EXIST. Literally, there is not a single store in New York that bears any resemblance to the magic store Hollywood has reused over and over and over. However, each time, we do the search to be thorough, and end up covering the same list of New Age and Wiccan stores in the area, most of which are located in one-story storefronts and strip malls, as opposed to hidden down dank alleys and forgotten byways.
One location that has always been nice to me (and I’m sure a zillion other scouts who have ultimately never ended up filming there) is Mystic Essentials, a small New Age shop near the Gowanus Expressway.
I’m always fascinated when I go in because this is the reality of occult practice in New York. Yeah, it’s not the fog-and-shadows environment movies are hoping to find, but customers come here for answers and help when life is reluctant to give either, and they truly believe in it.
Below, you can see how modernized magical practices have become. Scented house sprays are available for such purposes as home and money blessings. Note the one on the right labeled High John the Conqueror, referring to an African-American folk hero whose eponymous root is said to hold magical properties (very interesting Wikipedia entry here).
Another rack carries a number of bath and floor cleaners with specific effects: ghost chaser, success, fast luck, etc.
A shelf of incense offers many of the same options:
More incense, including one for court cases, and another simply marked “crossing.”
Bins of railroad spikes and horseshoes:
Very cool candles:
Offerings of money and alcohol had been left on this display:
In the counter were a number of trinkets, including a red box labeled “Love Honey.”
In all, there must be well over a thousand different bottles in the store. These were behind the counter…
…as were these (note the dollar bill in the one second from the left – not sure what’s in the rest):
Yet more bottles for sale…
…offering enhancements for “The Five Senses” and “Confusion” (I’m not sure what the “Reversible” bottle does, though I think I can guess):
I spotted this spooky-looking doll tucked away on a lower shelf:
Finally, would any such store be complete without a black cat?
While the Gremlins-style curio shop will always have its place in big budget movies, to me, there’s something intriguing about the idea of powerful and potentially dangerous magic being offered under the bright fluorescent lights of an otherwise unremarkable one room storefront.
If you enjoyed reading this post, would you consider making a donation to help me make my first movie? Just $5 or $10 can make a difference - AND you get this snazzy Scouting NY sticker/magnet as a Thank-You gift! Click here to donate today!