SALEM, Mass. – Will I be rich? Will I find the person of my dreams? Will I be famous?
Those are some of the things fortunetellers are asked to predict, but soothsayers in Salem, Mass., say they had no way of knowing their cars would be smashed and their shops defaced with dead raccoons, incidents possibly linked to an ongoing heated debate about licensing and a proposed psychic fair.
Fortunetellers Sylvia Martinez and Barbara Szafranski, who found the dead animals last weekend, told the Boston Herald that they are opposed to the city increasing the number of licenses it grants for fortunetelling. The women claim that doing so invites unqualified witches and warlocks to the historic Witch City.
The women are also opposed to the licensing of a psychic fair right across the street from their shops.
Salem operates under a 1998 ordinance that grants licenses to a maximum of four shops, and five individual readers per shop.
Psychic fairs can license up to 20 fortunetellers, but no more than 10 can read at one time.
Fortunetelling, as defined by the ordinance, includes forecasting the future by "spirits, tea leaves, tarot cards, scrying, coins, sticks, dice, sand, coffee grounds (and) crystal gazing."
While unlicensed "readers" are not allowed to operate in the city, several do, according to Christian Day, who is not licensed but is trying to organize the psychic fair.
Szafranksi, who has been reading for 40 years, said she can foretell that licensing more psychics and placing the psychic fair in front of her store is going to hurt business.
"Anytime you have a fair put up across the street from your business, it’s going to take business from you, Halloween time does not make up for that by bringing more people in," Szafranski said. "We had a decline in business last year with the psychic fair."
The trouble started last month when Sandra Power, who works with Day, attended a meeting of the Salem City Council, during which she spoke about the proposed fair and gave her address, which also is her mother's. The next morning, she found her car mirrors smashed.
“The car was parked in front of the address she had given at the council meeting, her mother’s address,” Day said. “Her mother was terrified.”
Three days later, on May 24, another of Day's employees, Leanne Gordon, was representing him at a council discussion of psychic licensing. After that meeting she discovered her car had been broken into and obscenities were scratched into the paint.
Szafranski and Martinez last weekend found dead raccoons when they went to open their shops.
"People are scared,” Szafranski said. “Having a raccoon put in front of your store with blood all over the place is completely Satanic. It was done as a blood ritual. There is a stain in front of my door where it happened.”
“It’s cruel, it’s disgusting, and it’s negative for the city and for the raccoon,” Day said. “I believe that the same people that did the cars did the raccoon, too. It’s not someone on one side. It’s just someone that wants to cause trouble.”
Szafranski, however, believes the vandals had a purpose and it involves the fair.
“I feel uncomfortable,” Szafranski said. “I was told by the police department not to walk alone. But I love Salem. I’ve lived in the city for 71 years and I’ve never had anything like this happen.”
The city council, meanwhile, has approved new rules for licensing psychics, including mandatory background checks and a requirement that they live in or operate a business in the city for at least a year. Psychics also must wear a police-issued identification badge that displays their name, photo and address.
The new rules also set a $100 fine for seeing into the future without a license.