When Jewish Palm Readers Rubbed Elbows With Pushcart Peddlers


If you peel back the layers of wallpaper in any older New York City apartment, you’re bound to find something intriguing—even if it’s only more ugly wallpaper. A decade ago, though, renovations at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side led to something more mysterious—an advertisement for a “palmist and mind reader,” Professor Dora Meltzer. Charging 15 cents–and up!–(about $4 today), “Professor” Meltzer could not only guess your name and age, but also give you advice.

Who would need the “Professor’s” guidance? Everyone, really. Someone with old-world clout who had been in the U.S. a few years was an obvious go-to for newly-arrive immigrants. But fortune-tellers also served the powerful: Abraham Hochman, who specialized in finding missing husbands, also gave Timothy Sullivan, a Tammany Hall operative, some good advice at the racetrack. (Hochman later sold haggadahs with advertisements for his services.)

The practice of fortune telling is strictly forbidden by Jewish law, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t extremely popular among Jews everywhere, even as they left the “old world” behind.

Full link here.

Occult Based Novels

For those who may be interested in fiction regarding the occult, there are two book that may be of interest.

Wolf on a String is, according to Publishers Weekly, a brooding, atmospheric whodunit set in 16th-century Prague. Christian Stern, the bastard son of the Prince-Bishop of Regensburg, has arrived in that city in the hopes of winning the favor of Rudolf II, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, and obtaining a place among the court’s learned men, such as astrologer Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. The first night he spends in Prague, Stern finds Magdalena Kroll—the teenage daughter of Dr. Ulrich Kroll, Rudolf’s physician and “one of his chief wizards”—lying in a snowy street with her throat slit. Initially a suspect, Stern soon becomes the emperor’s designated investigator. In order to discover the truth behind the murder, he must navigate a realm in which no one can be fully trusted. Superior prose (Magdalena’s head rests in a pool of blood, a “black round in which the faint radiance of the heavens faintly glinted”) complements the intricate plot. Author Benjamin Black is the pen name of Man Booker Prize–winner John Banville.

Notably, Banville's novel Kepler was published in 1981. In a brilliant illumination of the Renaissance mind, acclaimed Irish novelist John Banville re-creates the life of astrologer Johannes Kepler and his incredible drive to chart the orbits of the planets and the geometry of the universe. Wars, witchcraft, and disease rage throughout Europe. For this court mathematician, vexed by domestic strife, appalled by the religious upheavals that have driven him from exile to exile, and vulnerable to the whims of his eccentric patrons, astronomy is a quest for some form of divine order. For all the mathematical precision of his exploration, though, it is a seemingly elusive quest until he makes one glorious and profound discovery.

A Psychic Healer Helped the Russians Navigate the Fall of Communism

Atlas Obscura reports that on October 9, 1989, broadcasts around the world were buzzing with news heralding the end of the Soviet Union. Protests had broken out in East Germany, and over the following weeks they crescendoed with the fall of the Berlin Wall. After the evening news on Soviet television ended that night, however, the screen showed a close-up of a man’s face. He spoke in soothing tones as he gazed through the camera into the eyes of the mass audience on the other side of the screen.

“Relax,” he told them. “Let your thoughts wander free.”

This was Anatoly Mikhailovich Kashpirovsky, who has been described as a faith healer, “perestroika’s chief magician,” and the spiritual heir to Rasputin. Over the course of a few weeks in 1989, he conducted six televised séances (as these sessions were called, though Kashpirovsky was reaching out to the minds of his live audience, rather than the spirits of the dead). They were broadcast across the Soviet Union, and he attempted, essentially, to hypnotize an entire country. Ostensibly, Kashpirovsky was there to remotely heal his audience of physical ills, but he was also serving as a distraction from the news filtering in from the outside and the clues that the Soviet Union was crumbling.

Read the rest of the article here.

Hollywood's Crystal Obsession

The Hollywood Reporter reports on Hollywood's obsession with crystal power. Who am I to argue? I use The Crystal Bible.
Here is the full account:

Take a pill for what ails you, or clutch a crystal? A-listers are deploying gems for everything from increasing positive home energy (Kate Hudson, Victoria Beckham) to decreasing performance anxiety (Adele grips one during concerts). "I definitely see an increase in crystal use," says meditation guru Olivia Rosewood, whose clients include stars and moguls. While there's no medical proof — studies on crystals have proved only the power of suggestion or a placebo effect — many cultures have histories of them purportedly healing via energy vibrations. "An intellectual understanding is not required to feel peace instantly," says Rosewood. "I attribute crystals' current popularity to increased stress and their inherent calming power."


1, 7 — Rose & Clear Quartz

Katy Perry carries rose quartz for love, "a feel-good stone," says Michael Carbaugh, founder of L.A.-based Sandoval, which sells scents containing crystals ritualistically charged by the full moon.

2, 4, 6 — Black Tourmaline, Pyrite, Hematite

These gems and others are embedded under the sprung-oak floor of movement guru Taryn Toomey's new NYC studio opening in January. Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson attend sessions of her cultish The Class, held daily in Santa Monica and Hollywood.

3 — Amethyst

Some of Rosewood's clients use infrared-heated, crushed-amethyst-filled "BioMats that cover an entire bed," she says of the $1,695 pad that harnesses technology NASA uses to help astronauts regain vigor. "It's deeply relaxing and life-changing for sufferers of chronic pain."

5 — Malachite

Renate Radford, senior vp of TV for Elizabeth Banks' Brownstone Productions, says writers rub stones to cure anxiety. "I work with a big writer who carries around a malachite stick," she says. "Creative people are more open to trying different things, and all this stuff is imbued with the magic you give it."

The Spiritualist Church of New York For Seances

SeancesI studied channeling with a teacher from the Holistic Studies Institute which I think is affiliated with the Spiritualist Church of New York.

The church is one of the only churches I know in the area that routinely holds seances. But I have yet to attend a Sunday seance.

So I was happy to see the Atlas Obscura just posted an article about it. After my course of study I did attend a seance at the Holistic Studies Institute on 39th street. Eric Grundhauser who wrote the article and attended the church seance seemed to have a similar seance experience to me.

My experience in learning how to channel was also mixed. I don't possess any great intuitive ability to channel spirits ... and I am not sure many others have that capability either. I have been to many channelers - in Manhattan, Brooklyn and London and there was only one in my years of experience who had the gift. Her name was Ruby and she worked at the Spiritualist Society of Great Britain in London. She was extraordinary!

But going to a seance or a channeler can be very entertaining if you do not expect much. If you really want insights, go to an astrologer or tarot card reader. My opinion!

As Eric writes:

Then the lights came up and everyone shuffled out into the night. While I can’t say that I found any great spiritual connection to the events of the seance, many of the people seemed to connect with the spirit messages they’d received, likely able to map some of their very real concerns to the messages coming from the mediums. Maybe it makes their problems easier to organize or deal with. Or maybe it was dead people. You’d have to try it, and decide for yourself.  

And Maybe you should! Solitary Seance: How You Can Talk with Spirits on Your Own