Away from the glitzy department stores and the garish boutiques, Melbourne has a treasure chest of strange and seductive shops. Bridget McManus reports. Pictures by Robert Hudson
Lurking in the shadows of tiny McKillop Street, The Haunted Bookshop is a magnet for Gothics, witches, lovers of the occult and the curious.
It is not, stresses its owner Drew Sinton, for the sceptics or the new-age "crystal fairies". This is a place for the seriously dark and brooding.
"The occult for me is introspective and secret," Sinton says. "If people come in here and say, 'This is an interesting shop,' I know straight away they've got a problem with it.
"We do get Christians coming in, of course. They come bouncing up the stairs, take one look and bounce out again. That's the way I like it. Tormenting my oppressors is a part-time hobby I have. If they walk into my lair they can expect to be chomped."
The lair is swathed in velvet, with rubber bats dangling from the ceiling and demonic sculptures propping up altar-like tables spread with chalices, ouija boards and skulls. There are books on witchcraft, paganism, black magic, Jewish magic, the paranormal, aliens, astral travel and tarot cards - not the "naff" New Age ones, mind, but proper esoteric decks.
There is no mistaking the overtly black nature of the place - Sinton's own Antichrist Bible sits on the counter next to his familiar, Pazuzu - but Sinton is the first to admit to an element of theatrics.
"I get the bad boys and girls from Christian schools - I think they wag and come in here as a dare. I've got a video security system with audio, and I can hear them whispering, 'Go, on ask him', and I'll actually relay what they're about to ask.
"I held a seance workshop recently - the Captain Howdy Good Friday Seance Special. I did it as a bit of a joke, but I think people got a bit nervous when I started trying to summon the spirit from The Exorcist."