Police Charge a Salem Psychic with Offering Fraudulent Curse Removal Services

Police in Salem, MA—or as it’s often referred to, Witch City, USA—have charged a psychic studio with unlawfully providing curse removal services.xcunhax.fotografia/Flickrxcunhax.fotografia/Flickr Fatima’s psychic studio, which has been offering a Romani form of fortune-telling to tourists for two decades, was caught violating a city ordinance which states that psychics may only forecast the future and read the past. Warding off evil spirits and protecting patrons from bad auras is strictly forbidden.

So when a New York resident issued a formal complaint against Fatima’s, alleging that he paid a psychic $16,800 over several weeks for placing a curse shield on him, police closed in. In an investigation led by Detective Sergeant James A. Page, police learned that the studio’s fortune-teller license was long expired. They forced the studio to shut its doors and make a court appearance.

The Boston Globe reports:

But on Monday night, when Fatima’s owner Harry Mitchell went before the city’s licensing board to ask for reinstatement, the lapse worked in Fatima’s favor. Page…said that without a valid license, the shop was not technically operating under the fortuneteller’s ordinance at the time of the cash-for-curse incidents and therefore could not be charged with violating it.

Instead, he issued two $100 fines for operating without a license. The board granted a probationary license for Fatima’s to resume operation until the end of the year, provided they promise not to meddle in curses again and work with the New York man to come up with some kind of reimbursement.

Mitchell had explained to the Salem Licensing Board earlier this week that he had already settled the dispute with the customer and that he would return the money.

Detective Page told the Boston Globe that while he thought Fatima’s was making money off deception and fraudulence, it would be difficult for police to pursue criminal charges since “people are embarrassed and they’re not going to come forward.”

In response to the allegations, Christian Day, a local warlock who owns two fortune-telling shops and has appeared on Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, said:

If they’re a fraud, then we’re all frauds, and all religion is a fraud. They’re not regulating the priest who absolves you of your sins and tells you to put some money in the collection basket, or the old lady who sends all her money to Pat Robertson.

If customers are looking for a reputable place to get their palms read, they might just want to avoid Fatima's completely: the business has received a 1.5 star rating on both Tripadvisor and Yelp with reviews such as, "I had a palm reading and she didn't even look at my palm," "Fraudulent Gypsies!!!," "She told me I was having a baby!!!! I had a hysterectamy 12 years ago!!!!!," and perhaps most tellingly, "Don't waste your money. Do some research."

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  • ||

    Uh....the curse removal service is just as real as the curse, so what is the problem?

  • Swiss Servator, Burn a Böögg||

    You think proper psychics would have seen this coming!

  • Tonio||

    ^This

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I don't know, they seemed to have let their license lapse at just the right moment. Spooky.

  • CE||

    Curses! Foiled again!

  • Swiss Servator, Burn a Böögg||

    "She told me I was having a baby!!!! I had a hysterectamy 12 years ago!!!!!,"

    But your O!care will still provide prenatal care and birth control!

  • ||

    +5 uteri (uteruses?)

  • Ted S.||

    Both UTERUSES and UTERI are legal in Scrabble.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So the cops finally busted Madame Marie for telling fortunes better than they do?

  • Brett L||

    You think naming the girl Sandy was a coincidence? After Superstorm Sandy blew down the boardwalk?

  • kinnath||

    Sounds like a better option that Obamacare.

  • Tim||

    If you like your psychic, you can keep her.

  • kinnath||

    +

  • Tonio||

    If they’re a fraud, then we’re all frauds, and all religion is a fraud. They’re not regulating the priest who absolves you of your sins and tells you to put some money in the collection basket, or the old lady who sends all her money to Pat Robertson.

    Yep. All or nothing.

  • Sevo||

    Nope.
    Robertson can deliver 1M votes, so he runs a protected "religion".
    The other one? Hah! A "cult"!

  • Tonio||

    And he can deliver those votes because evangelical christianity is a well-established religion here. So cart/horse, but yeah.

  • Spartacus||

    I don't think most churches charge a fee for attendance. At least, not anymore.

  • Tonio||

    No, they don't absolutely require payment. But the christian denominations which expect you to fork over 10% of your income (tithing) take that requirement pretty seriously.

    And try getting away with not "tipping" the priest who performs your wedding (or funeral).

  • Brett L||

    And try getting away with not "tipping" the priest who performs your wedding

    He holds your first kid under the water in the baptism font for a long 10 count?

  • Acosmist||

    The guy who officiated my sister's wedding gave precisely as much as they paid him as a wedding present. So yeah, totally greedy and stuff. Yeeeep.

  • Tonio||

    You're right. That single data point completely demolishes my entire argument, particularly the tithing part.

  • Brandon||

    Actually, he presented more data than you did.

  • Tonio||

    Also, I have nothing against fee for service.

  • ||

    (or funeral)

    What motivation would anyone have not to stiff that guy? To quote Jack Handey:

    I hope that after I die, people will say of me: "That guy sure owed me a lot of money."

  • Jquip||

    Paid consultants, Lobbyists, Policy Experts, Legislation based on or for future outcomes. Theoretical physics too. All of Sociology and Psychology. And every ounce of government funded science. And every contract that posits future obligations. Campaign donations...

    I'm good with making opinions, especially about the future, criminal fraud. But only if it is every opinion that could possibly exist and be voiced within a given Euclidean distance of cash. All or nothing.

  • Tonio||

    Not only the future, but the past as well. And "science" is on that list of verboten divination methods.

    Yep. All or nothing.

  • ||

    My only interaction with a psychic circa 1990:

    P * as I am walking by her tent* - You! I see tragedy for you! Come and let me see more.

    Me *incredulous voice * - Really? You can see my future??

    P - Yes, my son. come and let me see more

    Me * flat voice* - Huh. If you can see the future then you already know I am not going to give you any money.

    P * 'fuck you' look on her face*

  • Zeb||

    THe only time I ever had my fortune read or anythign was involuntarily by some old Gypsy woman in Spain (and amazingly, none of the kids that were swarming around stole my wallet). She read my palm and told me I was going to live a long life and have lots of children, or some bullshit. Then when I didn't give her any money she put a curse on me.
    A few days later another Gypsy put a curse on me for not paying for some crappy dried flower she put in my hand. So I'm all loaded up with Gypsy curses and as far as I can tell no worse off for it.
    Then end.

  • ||

    I wouldn't worry too much, you've got the curse of the white man from town on your side.

  • Tim||

    Well, you did end up here.

  • Zeb||

    How do you know that here for me isn't a hot tub full of hat naked ladies, sipping on some 21 year old Ardbeg?

    Well, it's not, so shut up.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Because if you hadn't gotten cursed, here would be in an king-plus sized bed with a bevy of fully naked ladies and a Balvenie 40.

  • Zeb||

    I find after you get beyond 21, age is really not much of an indicator of quality.

  • Aresen||

    On balance of probabilities, if your "here" was "a hot tub full of hat naked ladies, sipping on some 21 year old Ardbeg", you wouldn't be wasting time posting on HnR.

    Get back in your nerd cube.

  • Ted S.||

    a hot tub full of hat naked ladies,

    Are they actually naked if they're wearing a hat? ;-)

  • Zeb||

    It's just my New England accent coming through.

  • CE||

    Yes, that still counts.

  • SweatingGin||

    So when a New York resident issued a formal complaint against Fatima’s, alleging that he paid a psychic $16,800 over several weeks for placing a curse shield on him, police closed in.

    Who would admit that? Stupid enough to pay for curse shielding, and not enough self respect to suck it up and never speak of it again?

  • ||

    I would've done it for way cheaper.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, how did he one day think that spending thousands of dollars on curse shields was a good use of his resources, and the next day think he was defrauded? People are fucking weird.

  • Brett L||

    Maybe she told him the shield would protect him from all curses, even hers.

  • hotsy totsy||

    Did she get rid of the curse or not? If she did, fine, he probably thought it was well worth it.

  • SweatingGin||


    Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
    Homer: Oh, how does it work?
    Lisa: It doesn't work.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
    [Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
    Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
  • Aresen||

    My friend in Nigeria would like to get this guy's email address.

  • GILMORE||

    "Police in Salem, MA—or as it’s often referred to, Witch City, USA—have charged a psychic studio with unlawfully providing curse removal services. Warding off evil spirits and protecting patrons from bad auras is strictly forbidden."

    PAGING STEPHEN KING, PHILIP K DICK = REALITY IS STEALING YOUR PLOT LINES AGAIN.

  • Aresen||

    She obviously did not have a 'cop-warding' charm.

  • ||

    Now I'm sad that I didn't go into being a charlatan.

  • AlexInCT||

    You mean politics?

  • Tonio||

    Charlatanism takes many forms, Alex.

  • ||

    No, deep down inside I'm a tyrant. I refuse to go into politics lest I get a taste of power and become the kind of asshole I hate. It's part of what I find so attractive about libertarianism.

    There was a running joke at one point that I was a religious figure, but I started getting accosted by people who demanded I bless them before tests and whatnot and I had to change my style and force all of my friends to never mention it again.

  • Aresen||

    You mean politics?

    There is a difference between being a charlatan and being a perverted charlatan.

  • flye||

    Luckily they weeded out the crazy stuff like curse protection:

    Sec. 14-72. - Definitions.
    (a) Fortunetelling shall mean the telling of fortunes, forecasting of futures, or reading the past, by means of any occult, psychic power, faculty, force, clairvoyance, cartomancy, psychometry, phrenology, spirits, tea leaves, tarot cards, scrying, coins, sticks, dice, sand, coffee grounds, crystal gazing or other such reading, or through mediumship, seership, prophecy, augury, astrology, palmistry, necromancy, mindreading, telepathy or other craft, art, science, talisman, charm, potion, magnetism, magnetized article or substance, or by any such similar thing or act.

  • ||

    Why is this a law in the 21st century? Why?

    Massholes.

  • Tonio||

    For the same reason that antiquated, unenforceable laws remain on the books in many places.

  • GILMORE||

    only a witch would say that

  • ||

    Well, antiquated is right, but it looks like they're trying to enforce this one.

    I just can't imagine being a police officer and being able to look at myself while spending other people's money cracking down on "crimes" such as this.

  • Tonio||

    Why there are no libertarian police officers.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    The really bizarre thing is that I bet the law isn't really that old.

  • Robert||

    I'm sure it's not, or at least that it's been amended recently, because it includes a form of divination only recently invented: psychometry.

    Many years ago I considered becoming an adviser by telephone, just so I could give people advice by any means for money. Michael Edelstein told me that in NY as long as I didn't use one of a few official descriptors implying a psychology license, I'd be free to operate. Unfortunately at the time time-billed phone exchanges (the local equivalent of 900 nos.) were too expensive for affordable operation by a solo live operator.

    However, many years later I was employed on a per-minute basis as a telephone psychic. I do think I am a bit psychic, and practiced mostly cartomancy with rune cards—a form of galdor—but also a little seither, fairly well. The customers are nearly always women looking for relationship advice; the one man I got was gay, and he wound up complaining after I tried to go beyond mancy into some pure advice-based advice, which was what I'd originally hoped to do. He wanted mancy, pure & simple, no real advising or psychologizing; or he may have just been a tough customer because he was gay.

  • Tonio||

    forecasting of futures, or reading the past, by means of...science

    Hmmm...

  • paranoid android||

    Huh. So does that mean meteorologists are governed by this law? Seismologists?

  • hotsy totsy||

    Why pay $16,000 to remove a curse when your weatherman can do it for less than $5,000?

  • Sevo||

    paranoid android|11.1.13 @ 4:31PM|#
    "Huh. So does that mean meteorologists are governed by this law? Seismologists?"

    Do you speak Italian?

  • CE||

    Cartomancy and augury have the best success rates, I've found.

  • flye||

    I'm a scrying man myself, so why don't you stay on your side of the street, and I'll stay on mine.

  • Steve G||

    Needz moar licensing requirements!!

  • Paul.||

    So, can we sue the Federal Government for "fraud" when they pass a regulation which proposes to remove the curse of [fill in the blank] and has no appreciable effect except to extract money in fines, licensing and compliance from the regulated?

  • GILMORE||

    Goverment Witchcraft is not to be competed with

  • CE||

    How about suing them for fraud for the social contract I never signed? And then can I get an injunction to stop them from taking FICA deductions from my paycheck? I was a minor when I was coerced and lured into signing up for Social Security, so that contract should be void too.

  • Tim||

    In the old days they'd just have a quick trial and burn her. Fucking liberalism.

  • Biden's Scroteplugs||

    Haven't these cops heard mental health is covered under Obamacare?

  • Zeb||

    Seems like there ought to be some first amendment angle here. Gypsy curse mumbo-jumbo is a religious practice, no?

  • Tonio||

    Yes. Absolutely.

    As I said above, all or nothing.

  • Zeb||

    Religious freedom is meaningless if anyone gets to decide what is or is not "legitimate" religion.

  • wwhorton||

    As an atheist, I can't help but feel that this is a little bit of government favoring one religion over another. After all, how would you know the curse protection didn't work? You'd have to prove you were cursed.

    What's the legal standard for proving a curse? Probably the same to prove that you were, in fact, adequately shriven by a Catholic priest and therefore made it to the pearly gates, or that your contact with pork caused you to go to Hell.

    Sorry, faithful, it's all the same shit.

  • ||

    Alright, FBI says this:

    Gunman was from New Jersey, 23, acted alone. But he used a 'high-powered assault rifle'.

    So brace yourselves for more gun control bullshit.

  • Brett L||

    Obviously, we just need to outlaw guns for New Jerseyans.

  • Restoras||

    If I am not mistaken the mini14 is banned in NJ.

  • Brett L||

    Sorry, to clarify, no one who has lived in New Jersey should have access to firearms until they have expatriated and been retrained. Its the only safe way.

  • T||

    And Californistan, by name, IIRC.

  • ||

    It was first reported he was a TSA agent. Now he is not. Hmmmmm.

  • ||

    This time they're providing a name:

    Paul Anthony Ciancia from Pennsville, New Jersey.

  • ||

    On topic;

    Speaking of people using magical bullshit beliefs to con people out of money, take a look at 24/7

    "President Obama issued an executive order Friday creating a "Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience." "

    Climate preparedness and resilience? WTF does that even mean?

    Pay particular attention to "The task force will include......tribal leaders..."

    Holy fuck.

  • Brett L||

    Spreading the government bucks around to make sure everyone stays bought.

  • ||

    Climate preparedness and resilience? WTF does that even mean?

    The govt. is preparing a climate of improved extraction from the serfs; improves its resilience to uppity subjects who do not know their place.

  • Zeb||

    Well, you know, the tribal leaders are so much more in tune with the Earth and shit, so they probably know all the answers already. Barf.

    If they were honestly trying to be prepared to be resilient in the face of climate change (which does happen whether or not people make a significant contribution), such a conference might not be a terrible idea. They could put forth some good ideas like not subsidizing people to live in flood zones, or how to best take advantage of ways people might benefit from a warmer climate.
    But I think we can safely assume that is not what they are planning.

  • jester||

    I understood that it is racist to discriminate against Romani?

  • Brett L||

    If I can't say the gypped me and I can't say they jewwed me, how will I express that I've been cheated?

  • ||

    He Welshed on your agreement?

  • jester||

    Try these:
    Romanized
    Semitized
    It's a lot like other PC changes:
    Kids now play cattlemen and Native Americans; we African-American rig things as a temporary solution, you get the idea...you racist!

  • Citizen Nothing||

    So I'm in Athens, Greece having dinner with a young government tourism official and he laughingly explains the way the old women "tell fortunes" using the grounds from your cup of Greek coffee.
    I ask him if he can do it.
    "Haha. Ok. Let me see your cup."
    He turns the grounds out on the saucer, pokes around a bit with his finger.
    "Ok. Lemme see -- you're gonna have twins!"
    We both laugh.
    A year later, I have twins. True story.
    I'm also a city licensed astrologer. But that's another story.

  • ||

    This is why a true seer is the one who can predict the winning lottery numbers twice.

  • CE||

    I was doing magic tricks on the school bus with a deck of cards and wowing a few people. One kid got tired of it and grabbed the deck, picked out a card himself, showed a few other people, put it back and shuffled it, then asked me what card he picked. I said "the four of clubs" as confidently as I could, and he said "sorry". Then I guessed a few more times, all wrong, when he suddenly blurted out "you were right the first time, it was the four of clubs." 1 in 52 chance.

  • Stilgar||

    @Jess Remington: [Middle English warloghe, from Old English wrloga, oath-breaker : wr, pledge; see wr-o- in Indo-European roots + -loga, liar

    Pagans, witches/wiccans in particular, consider calling a male witch a "warlock" to be an insult and use "witch" for both male and female.

  • Aresen||

    *shrug* I care little about the 'religious sensibilities' of 'wiccans'. The ones I have met have been purile fools who never grew up out of playing dressup.

    In the same vein as your point, should Roman Catholics be upset about the phrase "hocus pocus", which is a corruption of the phrase uttered in the sacrament of Communion?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Some Catholics seem to be offended -

    http://www.olvrc.com/culture/blasphemous.html

    So I wouldn't use the term myself, but that doesn't mean it's wrong in itself - I actually don't know. I would apply Romans 14 to avoid scandalizing someone who is offended by the phrase.

  • Jess Remington||

    Stilgar, Christian Day refers to himself as a warlock.

    This is his website: http://www.christianday.com/

  • Sigivald||

    If they’re a fraud, then we’re all frauds, and all religion is a fraud. They’re not regulating the priest who absolves you of your sins and tells you to put some money in the collection basket, or the old lady who sends all her money to Pat Robertson

    Last I checked, the Catholic Church (or about 99% of televangelist types) didn't promise you anything for a tithe, or claim it was a fee for services rendered, just a charitable duty.

    So there's something of a meaningful difference, ain't it?

    (Me, I consider calling male witches warlocks precisely because easily-offended Wiccans think it's bad form.

    If I can't mock Wiccans - for Gardner's sake - who can I?

    Next it'll be "burning times" nonsense.)

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