YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

'A good psychic knows his place--somewhere between a priest and a psychologist.' : Psychic Book Shop Thrives on Thrills and Chills

May 29, 1986|LAURA ACCINELLI | Accinelli is a free-lance writer who was tarred and feathered in her one of her past lives. and

Say you need a jinx removed. Maybe the problem is more serious, like a poltergeist playing with your property. Or you miss your dead mother and want to communicate with her spirit. Maybe you're just lovelorn--or boss-worn--and need to know what the future holds.

The Psychic Eye book shop on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks offers relief.

Occult paraphernalia helps people in the same way that religion does, says Robert Leysen, owner and chief psychic. But, make no mistake about it: He's in it for the money.

"I'm a bottom-line type of person," Leysen said. "I'm a successful businessman who pays his bills and provides a legitimate service."

The Psychic Eye isn't the only esoteric bookstore in the area. Over the hill, in the Los Angeles basin, dozens of stores cater to other-worldly tastes, as do at least two others in the San Fernando Valley. The Cosmic Connection in Northridge gives classes in palmistry, astrology and Tarot. The Gingko Leaf in Woodland Hills specializes in parapsychology and holistic health, offering courses in yoga, tai chi and an ancient divination process called I ching.

Lanterns and Pyramids

Leysen's store is crammed with candles, crystals and chalices, stuffed with scepters, seance books and wishing wands. The red-black-and-purple walls, covered with shelves of how-to and why-not books, are adorned with statuettes, voodoo dolls and pseudo-human skulls--little crystal balls popping from their eye sockets.

Tasseled Chinese lanterns and miniature pyramids--built to the exact same proportions of the Great Pyramid at Giza--hang from the ceiling, even though, Leysen says, pyramid power is passe. What's hot right now is natural quartz jewelry: It improves your health and increases your psychic abilities. The trinkets with the sacred third eye--the book shop's logo--sport genuine glass prosthetic eyeballs.

The air is heavy with incense in this metaphysical menagerie. And the eerie, oo-ee-ah canned music sounds like it's coming from the Gypsy's tent at a traveling carnival.

Leysen winces at the comparison. Gypsy fortunetellers give the psychic business a bad rap, he says, because they prey on people's vulnerability. "She'll say she's the only one who can help you: 'Give me $500,' and then she'll put an egg in a sock. Our aim is to help people help themselves. No mumbo jumbo," said Leysen, whose six staff psychics also work cocktail parties and conventions.

Books and psychic supplies are the mainstay of the business, accounting for about 75% of sales, Leysen said, which amounted to about $200,000 since the store opened last spring. There also also more than 500 psychic readings a month at the shop that, along with the Friday night seances, account for about 25% of the business, Leysen says.

At a recent seance, nine people paid $20 each for a two-hour session that only yielded one spirit, named Jule. David Cherubim, the trance medium, chanted in an occult gobbledygook that included smatterings of Hebrew and Hindi and an English invocation to the four archangels.

Cherubim burned a lot of incense and predicted that one man would soon have a serious accident--the one who had laughed during the chanting.

Cherubim turned his attention to a woman and told her she had been executed by an obsessed lover in an earlier life.

"Tell me about my past life," asked another woman named Patty. "I mean, was I ever executed? Did I live in a castle?"

"No," Cherubim snapped. "You were never executed, but you did live in a castle. As a slave."

The spirit Jule, by the way, had a cryptic message for one of the women present, telling her not to end a romance.

"People come looking for the bizarre, but there's nothing here but the basics," said the goateed Leysen. The basics include $29 goggles imported from England, used to view the auras that surround people.

The goggles come with 15 lenses "because customers like to look through different colors." And the store carries two types of spirit trumpets, although right now it is sold out of the collapsible aluminum one that sells for $10.95.

There are complete ritual kits to attract love or money and $3 male and female anatomically correct image candles. The trick is to select a candle of the sex you're trying to attract and light it--like a votive candle to the Virgin Mary or your favorite saint.

If your love object is playing particularly hard to get, you may opt for the $6 candle: It's three feet tall.

And if the problem is really serious, you can hire Leysen to do an exorcism. He says he has done about 10 in the past two years to rid homes of "rapping and things, you know, standard ghost high jinks." An exorcism runs about $300, he said. The work doesn't come with a guarantee.

Leysen has more than 30 varieties of Tarot cards, ranging in price from $10 for the standard brand to $90 for the limited-edition Salvador Dali deck for collectors.

Los Angeles Times Articles