Published: 09 December 2011
by CONRAD LANDIN
MYSTICISM and the occult have been the mainstay of the Atlantis Bookshop for the best part of a century. So when the shop overcame a street-wide power cut this week, what else could be the cause but magic?
Managers at the store, just off New Oxford Street, were startled when they saw flames shooting three feet into the air from a manhole after hearing a “quite dramatic subdued boom” on Wednesday.
But as neighbouring shops in the street were all plunged into darkness, the lights in Atlantis continued to burn.
Geraldine Beskin, whose family has run the shop for the past 50 years, said: “The lights flickered, and in the streets I could see everyone else’s go out.
But we were left intact.
It must have been magic!”
Staff at the street’s boutiques and cafés turned to Atlantis, a Mecca for mysticists worldwide, for candles to keep their shop-fronts lit.
Asked if the shop had ever survived a black-out before, Ms Baskin said: “No, never.
I remember the three-day week of 1973, and then it was candles all round.
But in the 1930s, Aleister Crowley [the popular occultist], who used to come here regularly, was said to have fused the lights at a rival shop on the other side of London.”
Bilal Esaid, who has run the street’s Echo hair salon for seven years, said: “It will affect bookings and passing trade adversely.
“We usually get more custom at Christmas time, so this is a really bad time for this to happen.
“It’s the second time in only a few months, and it took them a while to sort it out last time.”
Gifts emporium Edwards and Todd, also on Museum Street, were preparing to host a late-night shopping evening and wine reception.
Having decked the premises in candles, business partner Jonathan Todd told the West End Extra: “This would normally be one of our busiest nights of the year, so it’s a shame.
But the candlelight adds something new, I suppose.”
Firefighters on the scene could not confirm the cause of the explosion.
While Aleister Crowley died in 1947, this has not always been a deterrent to conspiracy theories.