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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Conspiracy Comfort Zone

 Patrick Whyte and Kandina Yu Conspiracy Culture Bookstore 
Small booksellers across the country are getting pummeled, but Conspiracy Culture lives on thanks to devoted followers with a yen for “alternative perspectives” on the world

 November 7, 2014

The owners of Conspiracy Culture, the Toronto magnet for books on alternative paradigms and out there ideas apparently didn’t get the memo about the demise of  independent Canadian bookstores.
But after eight years, Patrick Whyte and Kadina Yu have managed not only to keep the doors of their niche bookstore open. They’ve also attracted a huge following to Conspiracy Culture’s program of special in-store talks, presentations via Skype and discussion groups.

“The sense of community is imperative,” says Whyte, when asked about the key to the store’s success. “It’s probably equally as rewarding for us as it is for the customers, maybe even more so because you feel like you’re facilitating it.”

Back in August, Whyte and Yu loaded up three truckloads of books, magazines, DVDs and T-shirts and moved them from antique row at Queen West and Roncesvalles north to Bloor and Lansdowne.

It was shortly after 9/11 that Whyte and Yu found each other through mutual friends and common ideas. They shared an appetite for “alternative perspectives” one the world and soon found themselves in politically and spiritually-charged conversations late into the night.

Whyte was in the music business: artist management and concert production. Yu was a fashion designer for a small label. They combined their business savvy to realize their vision for a bookstore.

“We figured that if we get all this great material on all this great subject matter, organize some fantastic events, people are going to come,” says Whyte. “And they’re going to taste it and they’re going to think this tastes a lot better than [what] the news is telling them. It tastes a lot better than what my freaking government is telling them. It tastes a lot better than what the education system is telling them.”

Regulars and well-wishers have flocked to the new location to renew their fingertip acquaintance with Conspiracy Culture’s titles on 9/1, political conspiracies, aliens and UFOs, mythical beasts; and the occult and religion, among others.

Retired fish biologist Allan Wainio, has been scouring bookstores for esoteric titles on Sasquatch and flying saucers for decades. He was delighted when Conspiracy Culture first opened and he could pull impossible-to-get volumes right off the shelf.

“The store came along at just the right time,” says Wainio, 79, who is in the shop picking up a copy of Closer to the Light, the near-death classic by Melvin Morse, when I catch up to him.

Wainio has been a regular at the store since it first opened, browsing, buying and trading ideas with fellow travelers. “It really grabs you and you want to come again and again,” he says. “And you know that there are other people of like mind. I really enjoy that.”

Canadian UFOlogist, Victor Viggiani, an occasional presenter and facilitator at Conspiracy events, appreciates Whyte’s and Yu’s full-throttle support.

“No-one comes close to what Conspiracy Culture provides the local Toronto community,” says Viggiani. “In years to come this bookstore will stand as a bastion of freedom of thought and expression and will serve as an influential focal point for change.”

Yu says future events will be held in larger venues to accommodate all comers. Coming November 8:  George Noory, the host of Coast-to-Coast AM, the wildly-popular late-night radio talk show that delves into paranormal phenomena, time travel, alien abductions and the unexplained.

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