Uri Geller tells Judy Goodkin why he gets good vibrations at Enigma, regular haunt of the discerning psychic.
If you have ever found yourself wondering where paranormal operatives go shopping, here is the answer that you have been waiting for: Enigma, Rathbone Place, London W1.
Behind its unassuming shopfront, Enigma has become the provider of all those little incidentals that members of the psychic fraternity find it impossible to live without. I have this on the very best authority: Uri Geller's.
Paranormal luminary, not to mention ace spoonbender, Mr Geller is a devotee of what he now regards as his own cosy cornershop. He has felt this way ever since he stepped out of CNN's front door and into the tiny positive healing shop that stands in its shadow, less than a year ago.
This is his first port of call for such everyday essentials as crystals, incense and wind chimes. And were he ever to run out of authentic North Dakotan feathered dreamcatchers - large holes to let the good dreams through, small ones to cunningly trap the nightmares - he would find a fine array of those here too.
"When I step into this shop I am transported by my sixth sense to the smells and the sounds of Tibet. It has a very positive aura," Mr Geller assures me.
"We are fully feng shui'd," Enigma's bouncy proprietoress, Vanessa Lampert, says breezily, in tones usually reserved for the fully licensed restaurant. "That's the reason behind the water feature and why the metal chimes had to be moved across the shop to hang over the stairs; they were all wrong where we had them before," she explains. So upfront, friendly, so unspooky.
Enigma is no dark and dangerous voodoo cavern. It is not staffed by Gothic shopgirls with cobwebs in their ink-black hair. Enigma is less the commercial outpost of Hades, more a jolly gift shop. Among the standard reading on past life regression and astral projection, you will find hot-water bottles and birthday cards, candles and cuddly toys.
It could be that Ms Lampert has achieved a spiritual climate of the optimum balance, for standing here among the New Age chattels, Geller is clearly in ebullient mood: "They have just confirmed water on the moon," he says, his penetrating stare becoming a beam of delight and vindication. "You see, anything is possible," he adds, pointing to his UFO T-shirt, while clutching a favourite crystal he bought here. "We are entering a phase in our of our minds in the lead up to the millennium where we are beginning to appreciate that human potential is limitless."
Of course, Geller has always known this. He was four years old when an extraordinarily bright light from nowhere knocked him over, triggering his sixth sense. "I heard kittens crying in the little Arabic garden across the street. I went to investigate and a beam of light burnt into me. That was my first extraterrestrial experience. That evening, as I ate my soup in the kitchen of our tiny Tel Aviv flat, the spoon I was holding snapped in two. It didn't take long for me to be bullied for it."
Hoping to make sense of some of these painful early experiences, Geller has just published his first novel, Ella . It marks a turning point in his career, ushering in an introspective phase in which the power of prayer has overtaken the more superficial thrills of spoonbending.
Although he will continue to be available for such services as "energising" the World Cup or giving football the magic touch the way he did in 1966, Geller is inclined to spend more of his time helping the sick. It is not unusual for patients to report for surgery after a visit to Geller's home at Sonning-on-Thames, only to be told that they are already cured.
"I take my responsibilities seriously. I believe in God and under God anything is possible. My energies come from an outside source and I can share them. I never say, 'Let me take away your cancer', rather 'I can show you how to trigger your impulses positively'."
Equally, Ms Lampert has always known this too, and that is part of the bond they share. "It was second nature to me as a child. My father always knew when one of his employees was stealing from his sweet shop - they would appear to him in a dream and he'd see the stolen cigarettes in their bag.
"He read the tea leaves and could astrotravel. I never tried it myself because, once you have floated up and looked down on yourself from a height, it's such a struggle to get back in to your own body again afterwards. But I was not in the least surprised when the spiritual world began to call me."
Now, as owner of a pair of shops and more to come, Ms Lampert acts as dispenser, a helpful quasi-pharmacist whose advice can be sought for spiritual strain as easily as it is to pop into Boots for something to rub on to a strained muscle.
"People complain of feeling depressed, tired and uptight. So many counsellors come into our Crouch End branch drained by the sheer weight of problems dumped on them. I recommend Black Tourmaline from our range of tumbled stones, because it absorbs negative ions. I usually tell them to imagine a mirror between themselves and the client sapping their strength."
Below street level lies Enigma's other face: palmistry, tarot and psychic readings; a darker side that, I venture, is better left uncovered. "Anybody can curse their enemy if they have enough hate inside them - they don't need any of this stuff to do it," insists the briskly practical Ms Lampert.
Is there nothing that can give her the creeps? "If a strange customer walked in, we'd smudge the shop immediately with smudge sticks. It clears the air, lifts the positive ions out. We do it once a week." Don't we all?
* Ella, by Uri Geller , is published by
Hodder Headline, Pounds 9.99; proceeds to the Bristol Children's Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
* Enigma, 23 Rathbone Place, W1,
10am-6pm Mon-Sat, 1-5pm Sun.
Copyright (C) The Times, 1998