Went to See the Gypsy: Brooklyn’s Storefront Psychics


HAS ANYONE ELSE NOTICED the proliferation of storefront fortune-tellers in downtown Brooklyn? They’re popping up like the acupuncturists and qi gong studios of a few years ago (that seem to have stayed in business, mysteriously). On every other street, it seems, there are neon signs reading “CRYSTAL ENERGY” in 2nd story windows and buildings in unlikely locations emblazoned “PSYCHIC” in huge red letters.

Naturally this has aroused my curiosity. First, how do they pay the rent? Fortunes at $5 a pop take a long time to add up. What kind of scam are they? Money-laundering operations of some sort? Does anyone seriously patronize these places for “answers to all questions on Advice, Love, Money, and More!”? Are they a sign of recession desperation, perhaps?

Second, are they pure, utter bullshit, or might there possibly be something to it? I’m not a hard-core skeptic in these matters. For a while in the ’80s, I was a frequent client of Pia’s, a skilled (so I thought) tarot card reader at the Gypsy Tea Kettle near Bloomingdale’s, whose readings seemed deeply insightful at the time.

So the other night around 8PM, when I was in Brooklyn to meet and greet my new Cobble Hill tenants, I knocked on the door of one of these storefronts — the one at 60 Fourth Avenue, near Dean Street in Boerum Hill (above).

Ann looked the part, in a house dress with hair flying. Her red-painted anteroom is three feet wide; through a door, I could see small children running around in a room with a TV. She seemed surprised to have a customer. I was determined to give her nothing to go on beyond my first name and date of birth, which she requested. I didn’t ask any questions, just to tell me what she ‘saw.’

She gave me a penetrating stare. No cards, no crystals. For $5, she said, she would tell me two things about myself. As it turned out, I got three, and the news wasn’t good:

  • My energy, she said, was weak. True, I was kind of wiped after three days of running around the city. Also, it was a hot, humid night, and my eye makeup had smudged.
  • Regarding my ‘direction in life’ (her words), Ann told me I was taking “two steps forward, three steps back.”
  • My “‘sharkras’ are disconnected.” Which ones? I wanted to know. “Could be any of them,” Ann replied.

In order to find out more, she said, she’d have to “do some research.” That would cost $75. I declined to pursue it. It was all very soft-sell. She seemed to want to get back to her grandchildren. I asked her where she was from. Romania, she said, “but I was born and raised here.” She didn’t have an accent.

I took a shower, got a good night’s rest, and am glad to report that Ann’s ‘reading’ was, indeed, utter bullshit. My energy is great, my chakras are humming, and for every three steps forward, I take only two back.

Atlantic Avenue near Bond

Atlantic Avenue near Bond

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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7 Responses to Went to See the Gypsy: Brooklyn’s Storefront Psychics

  1. I gave you a good reading and then I see you post this??

    This post cracked me up. My girlfriend and I went on a lark to one up in the Bronx. Our reader was hyper dramatic and it was all we could do not to laugh. So worth the $5!

  2. designfabulous says:

    Funny story. I love how vague her responces were. Worth $5 for the laugh and feeling so good the next day, kinda to prove her wrong huh. Also letting everyone know I have a room makeover challenge going on over at my blog and would like as many people as possible to participate, to make it fun and interesting the limit is $200.00 for the room. Anyone interested come check it out.

  3. Adrienne says:

    Is that Ann’s BMW parked in front of the store?

  4. cara says:

    Maybe she has a weekend place in the Hamptons, too.

  5. I went to one of those $5 places in Greenpoint just before New Year’s.

    She too had a very small area in the front, with her grandkids in the back.

    I think we paid for their pizza.

    I’m still waiting to see if what she “predicted’ comes to pass, as much of what she said was supposed to happen later this year.

    I’ve gone to a few Botanicas in The Bronx and Harlem where abuelitas charge $25 to read cards.

    They have been eerily accurate.

  6. carolyn says:

    I’ve been wondering and speculating for months about that very fortuneteller storefront! Other businesses struggle and fail on those blocks. So how do the fortunetellers survive? They’re not even charging $5 all the time. Some days there’s a sign out front advertising a $2 special!

    I am guessing prostitution and/or drugs?

  7. cara says:

    Carolyn, I have NO IDEA! I would love to see some investigative reporting in the Times or NY magazine.

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