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Clinton, Whitewater ... and crystals? Arkansas’ mines are busy

April 7, 1997

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) _ Richard Cohen doesn’t mind paying $10 to spend the day scrabbling through piles of dirt in hopes of finding not gold or silver but crystals.

The same Arkansas crystals once used to tune World War II tank radios are now prized by stressed-out doctors and New Age enthusiasts alike for their perceived power to heal.

``I bring them back to sell in my book shop,″ says Cohen, who traveled from Rehoboth, Mass., to the 60-mile stretch of crystal mines in the Ouachita Mountains. ``I also use them in my veterinary practice. They seem to work on the animals.″

Like other metaphysical buffs, Cohen believes crystals _ because of their chemical composition of silicon and oxygen _ can generate energy and heal ailments ranging from arthritis to the common cold.

Quartz crystal vibrates when subjected to an electric charge. The thinner the quartz, the faster it vibrates. New Age devotees say that crystals with high energy can be used to treat depressed people or to ``balance″ people, much like they were used to stabilize radio transmissions during the war.

But the mines near here are full of rockhounds of all types, from the metaphysical to vacationing families. Many say the crystals here are comparable in quality only to those found in the highlands of Brazil.

Some want the crystals as charms for their mojo bags. Others want to add a bit of sparkle to their lawns and mantles.

``The only rock I believe in is Jesus,″ Kelvin Moseley, a Baptist pastor from Seminole, Okla., said as he cleaned his crystals at Coleman’s Miller Mountain Crystal Mine. ``I just like the way they look. I think we’ll put them in our garden.″

Arkansas officials said the states’ commercial crystal mines produced almost $5 million worth of the rocks in 1995; private mines were not included in the total.

Coleman’s mine sells to retailers and exported most of its crystals to Taiwan last year. Manager Lila Norris says there are often 30 visitors a day but it has drawn 10 times that many.

``About 60 percent of the people who come here are into the metaphysical side of things,″ Norris said. ``We get a lot of doctors and nurses who come here just for the therapy of digging in the dirt.″

Eclipse Neilson, author of ``Moon in Hand,″ believes each type of crystal has a different purpose.

``Isis crystals can be found here and those are good to give to people when they are about to die. They help them pass over,″ Neilson said. ``Generators, or six-sided crystals, are power sources. Those are like putting a plug in a socket.″

Government geologists who scoured Arkansas mines in the 1940s were not looking for anything spiritual.

``Crystals were used to control frequencies,″ said Robert Merriam, a World War II veteran and director of the New England Wireless and Steam Museum in East Greenwich, R.I. ``It meant that for every radio channel, there needed to be a crystal. They were hard-pressed to meet the supply.″

Quartz crystals are still used in cellular phones and in watches, but Merriam doubts their metaphysical value.

``That’s a lot of mumbo jumbo,″ he said.