St. Louis, MO.- In early 1900s St. Louis, the storefronts on busy Olive St. were sprawling with exotic clairvoyants.
Clairvoyants and psychics were thriving in this era. Newspapers were filled with their advertisements and they captivated the public with their tarot cards and crystal balls. They specialized in different areas, some of them were masters at reading minds, some claimed to be able to see the future, and some specialized in talking to the spirits of deceased people.
Unfortunately, their presence in the city was short-lived. The city banished these psychics and fortune-tellers and accused them of being frauds. In 1913 a law was passed that rendered their services illegal.
However, 25th Ward Alderman Shane Cohn has introduced a bill that will repeal this old law. It is possible for clairvoyant and psychic services to be legal again, a century after they were banned.
Cohn states that he wants to legalize this practice again not because he has a love or interest in it but because he is trying to modernize and clean up St. Louis’ legal code. Before the introduction of this bill, Cohn successfully campaigned for a bill that got passed to reduce marijuana possession penalties in the city.
“I’ve been to maybe a handful of palm readers in my life just for fun,” said Cohn.
“I think it’s outdated,” he said about the ban.
Cohn feels that it is an unnecessary law because it doesn’t seem that many people even know these services are considered illegal, and there is no one going about enforcing it either.
It seems that since their prime a hundred years ago, the practice of fortunetelling and clairvoyance has become more innocent in nature and sometimes considered silly. There is even a bar in Benton Park named “The Fortune Teller Bar” and they give palm readings and tell fortunes.
“We were told as long as we don’t charge for it, then we’re good,” said one of the owners of the bar, Matt Thenhaus.
He states that the concept and name for the bar happened by accident. The building was previously a shoe store and when the building was being remodeled and the former business sign was removed, there was a sign underneath it that said “FortuneTeller Bar” and so they decided to keep it that way.
Thenhaus and the other owner thought it would be a good idea to go with this theme and keep the old sign. They opened in November of 2012.
“We decided that it would be super fun,” he says. “We hope people have a sense of humor about it.”
Thenhaus states that the fortune tellers and palm readers are only there for entertainment purposes, and that they are even considering adding teal leaf readers but makes it clear that there will never be séances held there; “Nothing that deep,” he said jokingly.
Thenhaus is in full agreement with Cohn’s law and believes it is a good idea.
“As I understand, it was created to clean up the city and run the gypsies out of town after the World’s Fair,” he said.
To be exact, the law deems any “profession or art of fortuneteller, clairvoyant, spirit medium, necromancer, seer, astrologist, palmist, prophet or other like craft or occult art, or art of divination, or pretended art of telling past events of another’s life or affairs” illegal.
Violating this law is considered a misdemeanor.
The reason the ban even came to exist in the first place is because of an article written by a former palm reader that disclosed secrets of the trade and was published by the “Post-Dispatch”. The Post-Dispatch stated at the time of the publication that there were at least 70 “seers and mediums” in the city charging for their services.
After the ban, most of these seers and mediums fled to other cities in the country.
Cohn isn’t the first alderman to try and repeal the law. In 1994 a different alderman attempted to turn it over but was denied by the board. The reason for the denial is that several lawmakers felt that the fraudulent seers could easily defraud the elderly.
However, there is a chance that this repeal will have a different outcome.
“The mayor looked into his crystal ball and doesn’t see much opposition to this,” said the chief of staff to Mayor Francis Slay, Jeff Rainford.
This past Friday morning, the Board of Alderman heard their first reading of the bill. It is still unknown whether it will be passed or not.