Too Many Psychics in Salem?

February 1st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Salem City Seal

Salem City Seal

There’s a debate right now in Salem, Massachusetts about how many psychics there should be in that town.

Presently, all of Salem’s professional fortune-tellers are required to have a license.

Until two years ago, city by-laws limited the number of psychic licenses available to five for every 50,000 inhabitants.

Apparently, that law was seldom enforced. In 2009, the population of Salem was 41,361. And there were a lot more than five psychics there.

When City Council revised the law in 2009, no new limits were imposed on the number of psychics in the city, but they did institute a maximum of 6 per store.

Now some residents are upset. They want more control over how many people should be allowed to read the future and accept money for doing so.

blue crystal ball

At least seventy licenses were issued last year, 13 to individuals and 25 to stores. That’s about one psychic for every 591 Salem resident.

City Councilor Joan Lovely thinks that that’s too many. She doesn’t want a fortune-teller on every corner.

But the psychics have been hard to monitor. The Licensing Board is part-time and responsible not only for fortune-tellers, but for restaurants, bars, used-car dealers and rooming houses as well. They can’t keep up.

According to Board Member John Casey, “At this point, it’s not far from being out of control.”

Councilor Lovely wants to take action. A lawyer herself, she intends to discuss constitutional issues surrounding a possible cap on psychics with City Solicitor Beth Rennard.

According to the Salem News, though Rennard has yet to be approached, she’s open to the idea. “I think it’s something we’ve had in place before, and it’s something we can look at again.”

Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot painted by Frieda Harris

Some psychics welcome the initiative. Barbara Szafranski is one of them. Owner of two psychic shops, and eligible for 12 licenses herself, Szafranski says she’s upset about how many licenses are out there, and to whom they’re being issued.

Psychic Linda Weinbaum is also concerned. She thinks there’s too many readers in Salem and that putting a cap on licenses should be seriously explored.

It’s interesting that psychics and non-psychics seem to be on board with this. Though their agendas might be quite different.

The City Council is concerned that the historical importance of Salem will be forgotten in the circus-like atmosphere of fortune-tellers everywhere.

The psychics, on the other hand, are worried about the competition. Or at least that’s what it looks like from here.

Another psychic store owner, Teri Kalgren, thinks the idea of caps should be open for discussion. But Kalgren adds that the business is ‘feast or famine.’

City officials themselves acknowledge that most of the psychics in Salem are only open for a few weeks in October.


It’s a fascinating problem. I can see that gimmicky fortune-telling neon might cheapen a downtown. But if that’s the issue, maybe the controls should be put on trashy store-fronts rather than psychics themselves.

And if it really is only for a few weeks a year, I’m not sure what harm the readers are doing. I imagine they’re satisfying a demand.

For a town nicknamed, The Witch City, it shouldn’t be surprising that people flock there for divinatory adventure. Psychics are part of the fun.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this. I look forward to hearing what the people of Salem decide.

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