Santa Cruz, Calif. – At 11:30 pm on the night of Sunday, April 17, police in Santa Cruz responded to an unusual call. Somebody was breaking out of a business at 428A Front Street in the city’s downtown area. This is the location of the Academy of Arcana, the latest venture of Oberon Zell and business partner Anne Duther. Founded in October 2015, the Academy is the physical campus of The Grey School of Wizardry, the magickal education center founded by Zell in 2004. The location also includes the Museum of Magick and Mysterie, a library and reading room, and a gift shop offering magickal items, ritual supplies, books and jewelry.The shop itself is located in the front of the establishment. Anthony Starr, aged 20, was caught on video, bashing a hole through the tempered glass of the front door. A passerby with a cell phone captured the escape on video as another passerby called 911 for police assistance. Starr used a large athame to bash a hole at eye level in the door. He then managed to climb head first through the ragged opening of broken glass, sliding to the ground. The video then shows him jumping to his feet and looking directly at the camera before making his escape by running away, down the street.
In a recent Skype interview with The Wild Hunt, proprietor Oberon Zell has this to say about the incident:
Clearly he snuck in hoping to have a place to just crash for the night. He did not apparently come in for the purpose of theft or anything. How he got past us, we still can’t figure out. The place was full of people, but somehow he did. And when we locked it all up, he was locked in. When he woke up in the middle of the night hearing voices, which he attributed to the ants when he talked to the police about it.
We have got a shop that is full of images of angels, fairies, dragons, Goddesses, all kinds of guardians, you know, magical stuff all over the place and skulls and strange sigils. That anybody would even dream of coming in to a place like that with hostile intent is kind of amusing in the first place. So apparently the voices sort of told him he had to get out and not touch anything, don’t mess with anything, just get out of there, whatever you do! Of course he couldn’t get out, because the door was locked.
It is assumed by Zell and the staff of the Academy, that Starr entered the building sometime on the evening of Saturday April 16. It is not known where he was hiding when the staff left the building, locking him in. Zell explained that the store, library and temple space was designed so that there are clear sightlines with no hidden corners. Starr may have been able to make his way to one of the back offices. Police were able to inform Zell that Starr did use the shop phone to call his mother at some point in the night. It is presumed by Zell that he did not use the phone to call 911 for help getting out because he was afraid of being arrested. Whatever Starr’s mental state may have been, his physical state was affected by the glass since he had to crawl through it to get out. Blood was found on the door. Zell reports:
To go up and over (the broken window), scraping himself on the broken glass edge of this – he messed himself up pretty thoroughly. But on the other hand, he did not do any damage inside, he didn’t even take money out of the tip jar. He just didn’t touch anything except the blade he used to break through the window, which he left behind. He just got out of there.
Aside from the broken glass in the door, nothing in the Academy of Arcana was harmed. This came as a tremendous relief to Zell, who rushed to the scene to meet staff and assess the situation. The large museum collection of more than 360 Goddess statues, devotional items, magickal tools, Books of Shadows and regalia, as well as the vast library of myth, sci-fi, fantasy, history and magick books belonging to Zell, and his late life-partner Morning Glory Zell, are on display at the Academy.
The break out has proven that any publicity is good publicity. When the video of Starr slithering out of the hole in the door went viral, curious people made a point of visiting the store that had featured in it. Zell said:
The landlord of the building is covering the other half of the cost of replacing the glass. The small amount of damage did not warrant an insurance claim.
This happened Sunday. Monday and Tuesday we were closed, these are our normal closed days. When we opened Wednesday, we were mobbed. All the rest of that week, people had to see the place – they had seen the video. The reporting officer came down and brought one of his friends, another officer, to show them the thing, and discuss it and have a few laughs about it. I went out and we visited. It has been fantastic for business! You can’t buy advertising like that. When we opened up, the first thing we did was a little prosperity spell. Within about a half an hour, we had sold over $250 worth of stuff, that’s our half of the window.
Starr was located the next morning by officers from the Santa Cruz police, sleeping in a nearby doorway. He was suffering from cuts to his hands and body and had several bloodstains on his clothes. He is now in the custody of the Santa Cruz Police. He has been charged with felony vandalism for this incident. This was his fourth arrest in three weeks. The state of Starr’s physical and mental health are not known at press time, but Zell has stated he will be speaking to police to learn more about what happened and find out how Starr is doing.