It sounds like the ultimate freaky Halloween excursion: Go to a parking lot in Westport, walk in a back door and enter a business that offers hoodoo spellwork, hex breaking, psychic readings, graveyard magic and, soon, séances.
What may catch an outsider by surprise, though, is the cheery atmosphere in Good Luck: A Kansas City Conjure Shop (4009 Central, 816-756-5551). Bright-yellow walls and color abound.
"Everything we do here is about healing, and that's a very happy process," says Matt Deos, who opened the shop with Julia Valdivia this summer.
The shop represents the pair's religion - vodou (something much different from voodoo). Confused? Vodou practitioners are Christian and believe that God created spirits to help us. To enlist those spirits, they turn to folk magic. That's where the shop's techniques and products, including oils, herbs, candles and crystals, come in.
Deos and Valdivia tell numerous, powerful stories about how healing through self-empowerment results from their work. But the shop isn't just for the devout.
Penis and vagina candles are fodder for bachelorette parties and girls' nights. The items, Valdivia points out, are also used to combat health issues and address relationship problems.
Valdivia makes oils - with names such as "Hot Raunchy Mess" and "Milkshake" (the type that brings all the boys to the yard) - that draw laughs while seeking to step up a customer's romantic game.
Deos holds up an oil bottle with a "Hot Fucker" label and says, "This isn't for the love of your life. It's for the love of your afternoon."
Deos and Valdivia say those in desperate need of a reversal of fortunes seek out the shop. There, the owners do readings to discover the root of troubled customers' angst and offer help. This means candles, incense, herbs and body products with names including "Lady Luck" for gamblers who can't shake a cold streak and "Court Case" for legal woes.
The shop, Deos and Valdivia say, fills a need in the city, and they consider their business a complement to nearby spiritual shop Aquarius, which serves neo-pagans. (Good Luck targets Christians.)
Deos' research indicates that vodou was big in Kansas City in the 1920s. The shop honors that history by selling a pink booklet from the 1930s called "Kansas City Kitty Dreambook." Have a dream about cut glass? The book tells you which lottery numbers to pick.
Within a few decades, the work was largely taboo, yet many quietly continued.
"We're bringing it out of the shadows," Deos says.