Drew Sinton has observed an interesting phenomenon about certain Melbourne suburbs. "Burwood, Broadmeadows, Brighton, Belgrave - the ones starting with B seem to have the most ghosts."
McKillop Street's most unusual attraction is the place to gain insights and possibly, solutions.
"Ours is the only bookshop in Australia entirely devoted to the paranormal," says the former journalist who has gathered some 2000 titles on subjects ranging from ghosts and poltergeists to vampires and demonology.
Whatever the time, it's always the witching hour inside The Haunted Bookshop. Not a sliver of daylight penetrates the thick velvet drapes illuminated by lanterns.
It is like walking into a Grand Guignol set, but there's no horrific drama about it.
Settle into an armchair and you can enjoy a cosy chat with the proprietor, who is far better known in such rarefied circles as the founder of Psychical Research Victoria.
"I've done a lot of ghost-hunting for churches, including St Paul's," says Mr Sinton. "I get called out by people all the time - Keilor, the other night. First, you have to sort out what you're dealing with. There are 10 definitions of ghosts."
More numerous are the problems which propel many to The Haunted Bookshop for readings minus the books.
"I get everything from stockbrokers to teenage kids who believe they're vampires," reveals the bookshop's resident clairvoyant.
Mr Sinton also offers visits to Melbourne's lesser-known tourist attractions.
"We do ghost tours in collaboration with Cobb and Co."
The task was to find 100 great Melbourne shops. What sort? How much of Melbourne? What constitutes "great"?
First, the most basic question: What really excites shoppers in this city? Walk down any smart residential street, case the magazines at your local newsagency or snoop at a pre-auction open for inspection and there is one certain answer. Melbourne is not just house-proud. It is besotted with homes and gardens, on which it lavishes much time and money.
It is also a city convinced of its status as Australia's fashion capital - dissenters steer clear of the top end of Collins Street, especially these days - and takes pride in its cosmopolitan tastes in food and wine.
What else? Things for the kids. The little luxuries in life - jewellery, fragrances, fashion accessories, tulips in season - and, of course, sporting goods. You can shed a kilo just walking around Myer Sport, though the numerous shops devoted to books, music and non-sporting hobbies make you wonder about the supposedly No. 1 addiction.
A striking trait: Melbourne loves shops with a difference. Exotic, organic, romantic, cutting edge, offbeat - specialty stores abound in the city which prides itself on individuality and is warmly supportive of artists and artisans. This is not confined to the posh and affluent. Go to Highpoint Shopping Centre and you will find a fine commissioned sculpture by Deborah Halpern in the atrium.
Categories defined, it was time to find the shops. That is, one person, still rediscovering Melbourne after half a lifetime abroad, finding the shops.
The Met provided the boundaries and, mostly the transportation. I decided to concentrate on Zone One but be flexible about areas beyond it if there was word of an absolute must-see. Finally it was down to the nitty-gritty. The CBD and the top suburban strips, for sure. Also major shopping centres on both sides of the Yarra - and of course the Big Four. No other capital in Australia has four major department stores and Melbourne's are all world class. Each has its special flavour, so I have focused on departments epitomising that.
There is no easy way to find great shops. It can't be done behind a wheel; walking is the only way. Besides, you need to be ready when your antennae signal Enter. Then you take stock of the goods, ambience and especially the service.
Not all the icons or popular favourites are among the 100. This was an opportunity to also discover little known gems and exciting new ones - ultra challenging, given Melbourne's shifting demographics and growth spurt. Tunstall Square in East Doncaster - enormously popular with the Italian, Asian and South African communities - turned out to be one winner. It yielded three of the 100 shops and they are truly tops.
Advice and assistance came from many including Tim Piper, executive director, Retail Traders Association of Victoria; Carl Schwartz, national director, Property Council of Australia; Alison Bennett, program manager, Craft Victoria; Don Parsons, centre manager, Block Arcade; Michele Curtis, chef and co-author of The Goods; culinary consultant Virginia Hellier and many traders.
Otherwise, I'm grateful for knowledge acquired during years in Hong Kong - the last 11 as arts and fashion editor of the South China Morning Post - my year as Life & Style editor for the Herald-Sun and culture shock, characterised by compulsive gawking.
- Zelda Cawthorne
Basement Discs (Melbourne)
Cosmos & Metropolis (St Kilda)
Kay Craddock Antiquarian Bookseller (Melbourne)