Civil Liberties

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.


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."