St. Louis, MO.- In the early 1900s, in St. Louis, storefronts on busy Olive St. sprawled with exotic clairvoyants. Clairvoyants and psychics were thriving in this era. Advertisements for psychic services filled the newspapers, captivating the public with their tarot cards and crystal balls.
They specialized in different areas; some 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 St. Louis was short-lived. The city banished these psychics and fortune-tellers and accused them of being frauds.
In 1913 the city passed a law that rendered their services illegal. However, 25th Ward Alderman Shane Cohn has introduced a bill to repeal this old law. Clairvoyant and psychic services can be legal again a century after being banned. Cohn wants to legalize this practice again because he is trying to modernize and clean up St. Louis’ legal code.
Before introducing this bill, Cohn successfully campaigned for a bill 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. I think the ban is outdated,” Cohn said. Cohn feels that it is an unnecessary law because it doesn’t seem that many people even know these services are illegal, and no one will enforce them.
The Law Is Archaic
Since their prime a hundred years ago, fortunetelling and clairvoyance have become more innocent and sometimes considered silly to some. There’s even a bar in Benton Park named “The Fortune Teller Bar,” where 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, Matt Thenhaus. He states that the concept and name for the bar happened by accident.
The building used to be a shoe store, and they removed the business sign while remodeling the facility. Underneath that sign was another one that said “FortuneTeller Bar,” and they decided to keep it that way. Thenhaus and the other owner thought it would be good to go with this theme and keep the old sign. They opened in November 2012. “We decided that it would be super fun,” he says. “We hope people have a sense of humor about it.”
Thenhaus states that fortune tellers and palm readers are only there for entertainment purposes. They are even considering adding tea leaf readers but clarify that there will never be séances held there; “Nothing that deep,” he said jokingly. Thenhaus completely agrees with Cohn’s law and believes it is a good idea. “As I understand, its purpose was to clean up the city and run the gypsies out of town after the World’s Fair,” he said.
Why The Law Was Created In The First Place
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 ban came to exist in the first place because of an article written by a former palm reader.
The “Post-Dispatch” published it, and it disclosed psychic trade secrets. At the time of publication, The Post-Dispatch stated that at least 70 “seers and mediums” were charging for their services in the city. 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 board denied it because several lawmakers felt fake psychics could easily defraud the elderly. However, there’s a chance that this repeal will have a different outcome. “The mayor looked into his crystal ball and didn’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 the board will pass it or not.