Haunted Bookshop & Ghost Tour

Too many cooks spoil the witch's broth

Sunday Age 4 March, 2007, pp 3
By John Elder with photography by Craig Sillitoe

Drew SintonBEFORE you try the sea change or the tree change have you considered the witch change?

Instead of opening a gift shop or tea house with frilly curtains, a stall at the local market with a crystal ball or a set of tarot cards may well be less stressful. For one thing: no rampaging kids knocking over the knick-knacks.

And with 3.5 million Australians choosing magic and mysticism over mainstream religion, and estimates that nearly half the amateurs playing the stockmarket use astrology as their guide, there's a reasonable living to be made, right?

Indeed, despite the downside - eternal damnation - life in the service of the Dark Arts is meant to be pretty good as far as the money goes. That's how it seems in the movies, anyway.

"I used to earn six figures," says Drew Sinton, former Grotto Master with the Australian Church of Satan. "If I'd wanted to be a millionaire, I should have stuck at it."

Mr Sinton's actually talking about his 14 years as a copywriter.

Ten years ago, he abandoned the devil's playground of advertising and gave himself fully to a career in the occult: black magic, various methods of fortune-telling, vampirism and communicating with the dead. These are just some of the areas of interest - including DIY manuals - to be found in his Haunted Bookshop in the CBD. With such a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips, Mr Sinton might be expected to have conjured up a mountain of wealth.

"For the first five years my accountant said I'd have been better off on the dole," he says. "I didn't move into occult to make money. In the last couple of weeks I've sold two or three books a day. How can you get away with that? I've adjusted my life to not living off much money. More important to me is that I love books and I love the paranormal. I'm drawn to the forbidden. As far as making a living - I get by and I don't care because I'm doing what I want to do."

So there's no fortune to be made from fortune-telling?

"Name a millionaire tarot reader in Australia. I've met a lot of tarot readers and astrologers over the years and most of them are on social security. If there were only 10 in town, they'd make a fortune - but there are so many."

Pamela Rowe of the Burwood-based Australian Academy of Astrology and Cosmobiology agrees the astrology scene has become crowded - and to a sizeable extent with her own students.

"Many of today's astrologers came through our school," she says.

Ms Rowe says that over 30 years, she has taught "many thousands of people" the art of reading the planets. But she reckons very few hoped to make any money out of it.

"Most people get into astrology to see how it can help their lives."

They find it gives them confidence and guidelines, says Ms Rowe. "I've had some students say they use it to play the stockmarket or the races, and they say they do all right. But I don't know.

"As far as being a full-time astrologer - and at one point I was teaching four nights a week and consulting for three days - I think you need a partner with a full-time job to properly get by. I had my husband. When I started out there was no way I could have supported myself. It took me many years to build up the business."

Ms Rowe says she's scaling back class teaching and going on the internet. "I'm attempting to launch a correspondence course: 10 privately conducted lessons ($650) over a year or even longer. Some people will need a year-and-a-half to get through the work. To become a professional astrologer took me seven years of study."

Struggling to get a foothold in the mystical market is Claire Hennekam. For a while she was running Emerald Astrology out of her home.

"It was a part-time thing," she says. "To go full-time I had to get out there."

Her first venture was a shopfront in a city arcade. "But it wasn't sustainable as a business."

Last year, Ms Hennekam, a software engineer who teaches one day a week, opened the Sahu Healing Space in Collingwood. She is still waiting for it to take off. "It takes a lot of patience. It takes a while for the word to get around," she says. "But lately I feel there's been a shift in energy. I've decided to stop worrying about it - and since, things have been feeling more positive. I've had a couple of other people come in with me. We've had more appointments."

Happy to say she's doing well is Stella Woods, who has an astrology program on 3RRR, a column in the astrology magazine Living Now (half a million readers) and work teaching astrology and tarot.

"Well, I've paid off my house. I have a new car. And I go overseas every year," she says.

Other Haunted Bookshop offerings you might enjoy ...

"Dark and fascinating bookshop"
- Citysearch

"Melbourne's hidden treasure"
- Herald Sun

"A gothic Black Books"
- Chelsea Kwok, Adelaide

Drew Sinton
Witches Bible
Satanic Bible
Gothic Grimoire
Real MIB
Psychic's Handbook
Rider Waite

"When you have bought your fill of paranormal books, tarot cards and occult jewellery, you can come back at 8.30 pm on a Saturday for one of Sinton's very popular ghost walk tours of Melbourne" - Narrelle Harris, author Witch Honour

ENQUIRIES 9670 2585

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ABN 69 079 705 776


15 McKillop Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000

(03) 9670 2585

Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday
12 noon - 5.30 pm


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