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Witches Protest Eviction From Mall

June 13, 1992

LEVITTOWN, Pa. (AP) _ A buyer agreed to purchase a half-empty shopping center, but with one condition: The witches must go.

The decision to evict Gypsy Heaven, a witchcraft supply shop, provoked protests Friday from more than two dozen practitioners of Wicca, the witchcraft religion.

″I’m getting thrown out of here for no reason,″ said Tammie Jesberger, who owns the shop with her brother, Joe Tittel.

The store sits at the end of the Levittown Shopping Center, nestled among a half-dozen empty stores with ″For Lease″ signs in the windows.

Melissa Helweg, spokeswoman for the current owners, Dallas-based Bramalea Centers Inc., said the prospective buyer, Levittown L.P., had demanded that Gypsy Heaven’s lease be terminated before the suburban Philadelphia shopping center could be sold.

″We’re just following the contract,″ she said. Levittown L.P. is not listed in the area, and Helweg declined to say where it is located.

Gypsy Heaven’s owners filed a lawsuit June 1 in Bucks County Court alleging they are being wrongfully evicted, according to their attorney, Ronald A. Smith.

The store sells herbs, incense, candles and oils for use in the practice of Wicca, the witches’ religion. It also stocks jewelry, New Age books and pewter collectibles. Tittel said business is ″brisk.″

He said there are many witches in the area, estimating the state population at 20,000.

About 30 witches, some carrying infants, demonstrated outside the store to protest the eviction. The protesters, some in red or white robes, marched to the property owners’ office at the other end of the shopping center.

One 40-year-old woman, who like most participants refused to give her name, blamed the negative portrayal of witches in movies for the discrimination faced by followers of Wicca. The religion is based on worshipping the earth and other forces of nature.

″We are not green-skinned evil people and we do not kidnap babies,″ she said. ″In 24 years I’ve never ridden a broom. It just doesn’t happen.″

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