Lately, Facebook has bubbled with news about an archaic law in Parkersburg that prohibits the practice of the psychic arts. Marietta struck down a similar law in the recent past. People are anxious to talk about the law, what it means and how it would be enforced, but we were curious about the history of the psychic arts in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Susan Sheppard, owner and creator of the Haunted Parkersburg walk and psychic expert, sat down with us to explain how the arts fit into the history of Parkersburg.
A Belpre, Ohio astrologist cast the first locally known horoscope 110 years ago with the birth of twins in the area. People have been seeking the help of astrologists, and enjoying its entertainment value for centuries.
According to Susan, the law was originally enacted to keep out the gypsies. During the early part of the 20th century, gypsies could bring down a town’s reputation and cause trouble for the people of the town. The law was upheld twice in that time period.
“Gypsies were known to be fraudulent with the arts. They would tell customers that they were known to have curses on their money or their lives and for certain amount of money they could lift the curse,” Susan said.
There was also a racial and prejudice against gypsies at the time. They brought crystal balls, bright lights and the really created the image of the mystical fortune teller. Coupled with fears that they might bring an element of crime to the town and the tales of children being stolen, it’s not surprising that laws were quickly written under the lens of prejudice.
Gypsies from the past are a far cry from someone reading tarot, palmistry and horoscopes – where people give guidance in good faith. Like any career, some readers are better than others. However, good readers are never out to steal anyone’s money – or lift curses from their life.
As the psychic arts moved forward, their reputation as a sleazy fraudulent career to a more respected career path moved as well. Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologist after the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan and police forces are known to consult psychics on missing person cases.
With the progression, new psychics were coming to light. This includes Linda Goodman, who at point was one of the world’s most famous astrologers. She called Parkersburg, W.Va. home. She was the first astrologist who wrote a book on the topic and it make it to the New York Times Best Seller List. Not only was she an astrologist, but also an accomplished numerologist and palmist.
Divination encompasses many different types of arts, but none are fortune telling which is often carnival like jokes and scripts inside of cookies. Some parts of the psychic arts are learned – like astrology. While others, like psychic skills, are born into a person.
“I am against calling astrology fortune telling. It’s basically where the planets were when you were born. It’s frozen in time and imprinted on you. When they continue to move, they hit certain things that tell something likely is going to happen,” Susan said.
Susan also mentions that one of the best parts about divination is the entertainment value. There is a large part of the population who enjoys having their cards read or charts cast. Often, it is simply that, entertainment.