Scouting The Occult in Brooklyn

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.

000

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.

001

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.

002

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).

003

Another rack carries a number of bath and floor cleaners with specific effects: ghost chaser, success, fast luck, etc.

004

A shelf of incense offers many of the same options:

005

More incense, including one for court cases, and another simply marked “crossing.”

006

Bins of railroad spikes and horseshoes:

007

Very cool candles:

008

Offerings of money and alcohol had been left on this display:

012

In the counter were a number of trinkets, including a red box labeled “Love Honey.”

011

In all, there must be well over a thousand different bottles in the store. These were behind the counter…

013

…as were these (note the dollar bill in the one second from the left – not sure what’s in the rest):

014

Yet more bottles for sale…

015

…offering enhancements for “The Five Senses” and “Confusion” (I’m not sure what the “Reversible” bottle does, though I think I can guess):

016

I spotted this spooky-looking doll tucked away on a lower shelf:

018

Finally, would any such store be complete without a black cat?

020

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.

-SCOUT

If you enjoyed reading this post, would you consider making a donation to help me make my first movie? The goal is $30,000, and already, 1,473 generous readers have donated $31,888.00. Just $5 or $10 can make a difference - AND you get a snazzy Scouting NY sticker or magnet as a Thank-You gift! Click here to donate today!

And hey, if you've made it this far, why not follow us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr?

39 comments

  1. Scout, any idea on how much it would cost a studio to reproduce a Gremlins style set as opposed to filming in an actual store?

    Surely if you were lucky enough to find such a store there would not be room for the camera, crew etc.

  2. Magic store? Up on Gun Hill Road in the Bronx, they were selling a lot of those sprays in the CVS! I specifically remember the John the Conqueror spray. Ha!

  3. I don’t think this is a new age store. It has more of a voodoo-feel to it I think.

  4. It’s interesting to me how much of the merchandise has Spanish labels.
    It seems like the kind of actual store that comes closest to the Gremlins-style store would be some of the Eastern-medicine stores down in Chinatown. They have shelves crowded with intriguing-looking roots in bottles and such.

  5. It’s not even remotely a magic store, but if you want something with a spookier feel, try Maxilla & Mandible on Columbus (around 82nd, I think). It has lots of bones and dead things to look at, instead of just bottles of fraud like the mystic shop.

  6. Tom, we always scout both Maxilla and Evolution in Soho. Unfortunately, while they’re both awesome stores, it’s always decided that they’re too small to film in.

  7. The Pharmacia around the corner on Amsterdam & 108th will not only fill your medical prescriptions, but also sell you a wide variety of remedies, fixes, and spells in bottles, candles and sprays, much like what you found. Hilarious conjunction of modern medicine, diapers & hand lotions with mysterious gris-gris.

  8. I have the strawberry scent of the Money House Blessing. I’m still poor and my house smells of musty strawberries.

  9. Try “Strange Brew” in Buffalo. Its old, mystic and looks like the shop from The Craft. It would be perfect for a spooky magick shop in a movie!

  10. I guess Magickal Childe (sp?) is long gone?

  11. I do think that shop looks more like a botanica than an occult shop, based on the products that seem to dominate. Enchantments in the East Village used to have a cool vibe, as did The Magickal Childe (which is long gone).

    There is an aromatherapy shop called Enfleurage in the West Village that might suit you; very nice and cozy.

    Arsenic and Old Lace in Cambridge, and Crone’s Harvest in Boston, were both cool and roomy; but long closed. Maybe this kind of shop just doesn’t exist anymore.

    I’m intrigued by these film projects (I review films on witchcraft, magic, etc. for The Witches’ Voice and am also a scholar/researcher on occultism in media). Can you tell us anything else?

    Good luck finding the proper location!

  12. This is a picture of the front window Santeria shop around 144th and Broadway from a few years back. It was a large display that went 10 feet into the store itself. Not sure if it’s still there.

    http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n68/sexegesis/IMAGE_174.jpg

  13. Perhaps you could convince the McSweeney’s folks to open up an occult shop in Brooklyn, once’they’re tired of their Superhero Shop :)

  14. Try us! We’re in London, but, crikey we’re real! With dust, stuffed owls, dark corners, and dried snakeskin. And real rare books.
    Christina Oakley Harrington
    Treadwell’s Bookshop

  15. Christina Oakley Harrington

    Hey, just thought you might want to know your post has provoked over 70 responses on a site called The Wild Hunt. People are going crazy to list their favourite real occult shop. So far people have listed about 20 around the US which I think might fit your bill.

    Thanks for a beautifully written blog, which I’m so pleased to have discovered…. via the Wild Hunt entry, by coincidence!

    Anyway, here’s the link: http://wildhunt.org/blog/2010/06/quick-note-not-the-occult-shop-you-expected.html#idc-cover

  16. There are some trinket shops and herbal pharmacies in Chinatown that have to do the trick, or are easily converted. I’m thinking especially the shops right around the intersection of Mott and Mosco Sts, just north of Worth. There is one on the right side, just north of Mosco, where one half of the store is dominated by modern toys, the other is full of Chinatown trinkets. The ceilings are tin and there’s an arch that supposedly wards off bad spirits. A few props and a fellow with a glass eye could make that sort of thing very spooky.

  17. there are some crazy stores on Nostrand Ave in Crown Heights (bet atlantic & eastern pkwy), teas and remedies, pig and chicken feet. etc etc…

  18. Does the Magickal Childe on W. 19th street no longer exist? Jeez, that place was super creepy. Amazing. But creepy. If you can find pictures of it, that would be the place to re-create. Herman Slater was the owner.

  19. The house of magic http://www.houseofmagick.com/ in Milwaukee offers a bit more of that Curio feel, with some of the prepackaged stuff you were mentioning. Definitely worth a look if you are ever in Milwaukee.

  20. I have located three such stores across the country, none on either coast, all three, believe it or not, smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. The first is a Jamaican Vudan store located just north of Westport in Kansas City, Mo., on the east side of the road and operates under the premise of Jamaican foods. It is a small white block building with a glass door and one 3×3 glass window, that has rows of strung chilis hanging in it so thick as to block view inside. When you enter, the smell of blood is thick on the air, with shelves crammed in, no 2 alike, all piled with various plant products and dried animal products. Live chickens are kept in back, and against the far wall is various vudan trinkets and worn books for sale. The second is also in KC., Mo., between Westport and Foogie’s Music, in a strip of old brick block length buildings, and its a more traditional European style business. When you walk in used books are piled up in cardboard boxes, and after you weave your way through them, there are wooden shelves filled with used texts ranging from classical literature to classical Kabbalah. They also deal in relics, but they are not found on shelves and are not the prepackaged kind, but instead also in old cardboard boxes piled up. If you want something you have to ask, and if it isn’t in an old cardboard box, it is in the back room. The third store is in Tulsa, OK, on Cherry Street, the entrance is between a used musical instrument store and a massage parlor, and when you enter the door, you have to walk up stairs to get to the actual store. It is the closest to the Hollywood type store, with shelf upon shelf of used magical manuscripts, with trinkets such as crystals and fossils at the sales counter, a large assortment of relics, and a room where just about any herb you want can be found, and the overpowering aroma of sandalwood throughout.

  21. You’re talking about Peace of Mind in Tulsa, on Cherry Street:
    http://www.pombookstore.com/pom/
    This is a spooky one? Hm… the apothecary is indeed VERY nice, I love it. But it’s a new-age bookshop, mostly.

    There’s another Oklahoma shop, in Oklahoma City, which is rather spooky-like. It’s closer to a hoodoo shop.

    La Piramide Yerberia
    717 SW. 29th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73109-2216
    p: 405 616 0668

    In about 14 months I’m going to re-open MY shop, Once Upon A Silver Moon (online at the mo). We used to be located in central Oklahoma City “across from the Milk Bottle”. I closed it in 2005 due to the economic downturn (and a crap location across from the rehab center). There are some pictures on my flickr account, which are not really representative of what the space became.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randomleigh/sets/72157622415625658/

    I don’t know how I managed to run that place for 3 years and not get a single shot of the full wall apothecary, the shelves of mojo oils, novena candles, the incense, the cases of jewellery and ritual knives… I made about 60% of my products, and my customers wanted an occult supply house, so that is what we morphed into.

    Our new version is going to be a Dark Art gallery (like, skullies and skellies and halloweenie, and spooky art too), but we’ll have the full apothecary back, crystals, candles, lots and lots of Santeria supplies, witch supplies, music, jewellery. Plus we’re also going to have little shrines set up similar to Marie LaVeau’s House of Voodoo in New Orleans and we’ll offer rootwork and spellwork as well. We had these things in the back room, but we’re planning to pull out the stops and just go full throttle Spooky Occult Shoppe.

    Believe it or not there is a market for this in Oklahoma City…

    Sorry we’re not able to help you out right NOW, but keep us in mind. But I promise we’ll be scaring the crap out of our Baptist population, just for fun.

    Milk Bottle AND bonus the Golden Dome! (just a block away):
    http://exploringroute66.com/Oklahoma_city/index.html

    Yeah, OKC is a weird place.

  22. HIYA! STUMBLED UPON YOUR BLOG, LOVE IT, ESPECIALLY TOUCHED BY THAT SWEET BOY IN THE PLANE CRASH. You may want to check the house where my business is located, check my lasergoddess site. Joan Bennett, an old actress lived there and its rumored to have ghosts. Also there is a great botanica (magic store) in ridgewood queens run by a very serious santero..it looks more like the movie set. its called yemaya 718-386-9345

  23. Interesting blog you have here, genuinely 1 being bookmarked. I think your variety of writing and how you express elements is fascinating and gets me wanting to read far more and more! Thanks again from love from the USA.

  24. I have to admit that is a very strange store to sell those types of items. They dont sell those items at my corner store, nor grocery store. Interesting read though. Thanks for the post.

  25. there are stores called “botanicas” in some of the hispanic communities of nyc. some of them have been closed due to the newer generation leaving these traditions behind but it is worth a shot

  26. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Many thanks

  27. Hey I think the closest you can get to the gremlin’s style curio shop would be one of the apothecaries in China Town where they sell things like shark fins and pills and fungi and in the back there is an old Chinese man who knows how to work these magical things and tests you by looking deep in your eyes….. What do you think?

  28. check out Nirvana of Ny 821 9th avenue …new york city..it is the real deal

  29. Take a train down to Baltimore. You’ll be sure to find some good shops.

  30. Here’s a fun read on the old days in NYC where you could get that kind of stuff and books:

    http://nypress.com/the-doom-that-came-to-chelsea/

  31. There is so much out there, please stop watching movies and thinking “that’s all there is to it!” This is not a new age shop!!! This is a Botanica. These shops are mainly used by those of Santeria, Voodoo and Yoruba! If you want a new age occult shop, they are almost everywhere in The Village. So ridiculous. Feels like your another small minded person using something that you truly do not understand of the “minorities” to make yourself feel adventurous while having a good small minded laugh.

  32. My question is i have asthma n a foot spur how can I get the sickness out of my body by using good voodoo just wanna knw thanks have a nice day one more I’m trying to use the weigthless spell

  33. As mentioned before this is a Botanica for practitioners of Santeria.
    Rather gods and goddesses the Orishas and saints are prayed to for assistance and guidance. Healings such as rogacians and limpias are often performed there. Many people from the Caribbean, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spanish-American Indians (Taino), often visit this type of shop.

    The energy is powerful so I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the art.

  34. Helpful information. Fortunate me I found your site by accident, and I am shocked why this coincidence
    didn’t came about in advance! I bookmarked it.

  35. If you are looking for CRYSTALS and minerals for healing in New York City, you should check out ROCK STAR CRYSTALS, a small store in Manhattan with thousands of crystals at reasonable prices. You can call them at 212 675 3065 or go to http://www.rockstarcrystalsmanhattan.com More than a rock shop, they are also a metaphysical store with a really helpful staff. They also carry crystal pendulums, crystal balls, crystal skulls, pyramids, obelisks, gemstone massage wands, crystal angels, hearts, crosses, stars of david and gemstone jewelry. Great source for crystals for reiki and feng shui or for making your own custom jewelry. They are open every day fro 1PM to 7PM. They used to have a shop in Brooklyn in Park Slope called STONED, but that store is now closed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>