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As Halloween nears, Salem sees rush for fortune-teller licenses

Posted by Sean Teehan  October 5, 2010 10:59 AM

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At a Licensing Board meeting last week, about a dozen people claiming psychic abilities showed up for recognition by the city.

For Salem, this is far from atypical this time of year, said John Casey, a member of the board.

With Halloween just around the corner and tourists crowding the streets and shops of Salem, many fortune-tellers seek to receive or renew their licenses required to predict people's futures.

"They need some supervision," Casey said of the paranormal readers. "There are certain rules and regulations"

Salem first required fortune-tellers to receive a license to practice in April of 1930, Casey said. The new ordinance required two years of Salem residency and five dollars from any reader practicing in the city, Casey said.

New fortune-tellers would later face adversity seeking their licenses when, in the 1970s, the city limited the number of licensed fortune-tellers to five. However, those who already had their licenses could continue practicing, according to Casey.

After decades of living with the limit, members of Salem's fortune-telling community met with members of the Licensing Board and City Council to discuss issues they had with the ordinance in 2007. In 2008, the ordinance was changed.

"We now have 24 store licenses" which allow five readers in a store offering psychic readings, Casey said. "We have 17 individual licenses."

According to Casey, Salem also has "psychic fair" law, which allows up to 20 readers at a city fair, but only allows 10 to work at any given time.

Each license, which are valid for two years, requires readers to have one year of residency in Salem, $50 and a back ground check by the Probation Department (those with a felony records cannot be licensed), Casey said.

At the meeting last week, Casey also asked applicants about their reading methodology and where they learned it.

"Various readers will read palms with tea leaves, some read with rocks, so it's very spread out with psychic powers," Casey said.

In present days, Casey said, advertising methods among readers are a concern for the city. Neon lights, for example, are something the Licensing Board try to keep from becoming pervasive, according to Casey.

While under regulation, Casey said the fortune tellers are a good way to draw people into Salem.

"It's a great tourist attraction," Casey said.

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