Leave a message with ‘The Universe’ at Chester’s ‘Wish Booth’

Chester – With visitors and townspeople alike entering Chester from the north, it’s hard not to spot the 12-foot red and glass telephone booth that would look like a home in London.

This is not a working phone booth per se; It is a “magical” space that invites visitors to enter, pick up a speaker, and speak out loud about their inner desire. When the wish “passes” into the universe, the star at the top of the kiosk flashes.

“It’s a quiet, sensitive place where you can talk about your inner desires,” explained Caryn Paradis, collaborator/designer.

A 3-foot yellow star twinkles above it, and the curious “Wish Booth” sign attracts visitors.

Pulling a tall purple vertical door handle lets you access the intimate little space, a 42-by-42-inch platform with sides that rise 12 feet.

“That’s it,” Paradis said. “You go in and he’s so tight to you all the way. So, like an envelope, like a little hug.”

This is the interior design that inspires people, said creator Christopher Owens, an artist from Chester.

“It’s warm, it’s welcoming, it’s a little whimsical and hopefully inspiring,” he said. “So it’s a space that inspires response and it’s working, it’s really working better than we thought.”

Attached to the former New York City pay phone was a note that read, “This phone is equipped for direct communication to the universe.”

As the receiver is lifted, a voice with a quiet British accent recites a poem full of encouragement and sentiments towards the wishes.

poet/narrator Matthew Griffith wrote in a text.

The one-minute recording includes this excerpt: “So look at the change you want, feel the way you want, you will drive the universe. Now words have magic, so you must speak, to begin this magical arc…”

The recording ends with “After this bell, speak your wishes here”.

After speaking the wish, you can look through the glass ceiling and see the star above the cabin flicker of light.

“Speaking about something out loud, whether it’s to yourself, someone else, or the universe, is powerful,” Paradis said.

Upon seeing the booth in Owens’ Deep River studio, Paradise immediately recalled a story she heard on “This American Life” about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of Japan, killing 15,000 people.

“Someone has set up a phone booth near a site…” Paradis began to say, instantly overcome with emotion.

“Where else can you talk to someone you’ve lost,” she said. “I got goosebumps.”

“So, they have all these recordings of people talking to their mother or husband or wife that they lost,” she said. “I love you so much,” I wish I could talk to you. “

“Reports are that it has helped people not have a solution or closure, but feel like they are talking to their loved ones,” she said. “It has this incredibly beautiful deep meaning.”

Owens recalled the first time he heard the Wish Booth recording and being inspired to make a wish.

“The booth was still in my studio and it was all just an idea,” he recalls. “Matthew’s words were inspiring you to truly let go of a desire from the innermost places of your being.”

The poet’s words, Owens recalled, “ended up being an ode about moments and effects, even of a single person. About a place we watched the sunrise and felt the heat and let all the noises of life fade away and how we might all feel the warmth of the morning sun, like a blanket from the dryer, like Diving into a field of grass is like feeling the sheets of a clothesline. I wish everyone could live in the same moment.”

He immediately felt the power of desire as he spoke out loud.

“It was almost an out-of-body experience,” he said. “Did that just come from me?”

“When I finished, I was blown away because it really worked,” he said. “The setting, the space, the cathedral like cabin and Matthew’s introduction really worked. He brought out something I didn’t think he had in him.”

Paradis and Owens listened to some of the 1,500 wishes that were recorded anonymously.

“There were some that brought tears to our eyes,” Owens recalled. “It was intimate, and much more powerful than we could have imagined.”

He said: “Karen and I were surprised because when we dreamed this up we didn’t get serious – that’s what we had hoped, that the letters would be beautiful and honest and they are.”

Paradis remembered hearing some of these heartfelt messages with Owens.

“We both listen to them and we’re like, ‘I feel like that’s a huge responsibility,'” she said.

“A lot of it was about what you wish for the people you love — the majority,” she said.

These wishes included “I want everyone in my family to have a happy and beautiful life.” “I want everyone’s travels to be safe.”

“A woman said, Oh my God, ‘I just want to be cured of cancer,’” Paradis said. “I burst into tears and then Christopher burst into tears.”

“Then there are other things about regret, but a lot is just about love,” she said.

Kim Vickerman was inspired by the kiosk’s surroundings.

“I think because you’re standing in the booth and you look when you have a receiver in your hand, you look outside and the magical Chester itself and then there’s the river (Pataconic Brook) right there and the water moving quickly over the rocks,” the 55-year-old said. The man’s voice was calm. “It was just a little darkly magical to me.”

“When it came time to make a wish, I took it very seriously,” said a Branford resident.

“My wish was more time with my family and also, to be thankful for the time I had with my family,” she said.

The actual booth has deep meaning for both Paradise and Owens.

“They’re actually windows left from the Brushmill (next to the waterfall),” said Paradis, whose design firm, Paradis Interior Design, did the recent renovation/design of the former Chart House restaurant.

Owens took all the old sashes and built a glass structure on his Chester property and used the remaining sashes to create the long wishing booth, reminiscent of the glass elevator in “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory”.

For Owens, the wish booth takes him back to early Chester.

“At one time Chester had nearly 40 factories and there are only four left,” he said.

“When the graph house, in the ’70s, did what they did, it actually saved this factory from falling over or being demolished like all the others,” he said. “So, by getting them into the restaurant, it has saved this plant.”

“The fact that I got those windows and was inspired to build all these different structures, just by the bloodline of those windows, I love the joints,” he said.

The structure was erected in the Chester city center area in early December 2022 and will lower, and possibly move within the community, on February 14.

“We’re also talking about possibly bringing it to other cities,” Paradis said, “so we’re working on a design that’s kind of more vandal-proof. I’d like to see that move. Christopher has really moved in that direction as well.”

“It just brings hope,” she said. “It makes you think we need hope now.”

“We’re in a funky place right now, and it’s nice to have something that’s completely focused on your heart’s desire,” she said. “Also, when you listen to the record, it kind of puts you in this mindset of generosity. I think it makes people think of other people.”

“We need to all turn outside a little bit and notice what’s going on around us and think about the other people around us,” she said. “That’s really where we want this to go.”

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