Thursday, June 2, 2011

Too Many Witches?

Fresh off deciding against renaming Witchcraft Heights Elementary School, the City Council of Salem, Massachusetts is considering moving to limit the number of psychic and witchcraft-oriented businesses that may operate within the town. The Council voted to relax previously existing restrictions in 2007, which probably accelerated Salem's transformation from a charming seaside community into one big witchcraft-themed tourist trap. Incidentally, as I've noted before this transformation is completely at odds with the historical record, which shows no real witches were ever executed during the famous witch trials and and that little evidence exists connecting the city to real witchcraft of any sort prior to the modern era.

Salem psychic Barbara Szafranski is in favor of new regulations, noting that inexperienced and untrained people looking to call themselves psychics have popped up all over town since the old rules were changed.

“It’s like little ants running all over the place, trying to get a buck,” said Szafranski, 75, who quit her job as an accountant in 1991 to open Angelica of the Angels, a store that sells angel figurines and crystals, and provides psychic readings.

She says she has lost business since the licensing change.

“Many of them are not trained,” she said of her rivals. “They don’t understand that when you do a reading you hold a person’s life in your hands.”

It seems that these days nobody can write a story about Salem without talking to eyeliner-abusing self-proclaimed warlock Christian Day, whose media mojo far outclasses his spellcasting techniques. But in this case the mention is appropriate, as it turns out Day was closely involved in the process of relaxing the rules back in 2007. Needless to say, he favors the status quo.

Christian Day, a warlock who calls himself the “Kathy Griffin of witchcraft,” thinks the competition is good for Salem.

“I want Salem to be the Las Vegas of psychics,” said Day, who used to work in advertising and helped draft the 2007 regulations.

Since they went into effect, he has opened two stores, Hex and Omen.

Interestingly enough, Day's colleague Lorelei, who was involved with him in the infamous Charlie Sheen binding ritual, is apparently on the other side of the issue. She argues that only experienced psychics should be allowed to practice in the city.

But not everyone is sure that quantity can ensure quality. Lorelei Stathopoulos, formerly an exotic dancer known as Toppsey Curvey who has been doing psychic readings at her store, Crow Haven Corner, for 15 years, thinks psychics should have years of experience to practice here.

“I want Salem to keep its wonderful quaint reputation,” said Stathopoulos, who was wearing a black tank top that read “Sexy witch.” “And with that you have to have wonderful people working.”

As much as it pains me to say this, especially considering that Day lost it to the point of threatening to kill me with his magical powers in our last exchange, I actually agree with him that new restrictions should not be put in place. I'm not a big proponent of heavily regulating small businesses to begin with. If somebody who lives in Salem wants to set up a shop and can raise the money to get it going I don't see why he or she should be prevented from doing so just because city regulators deems the business to be psychic or witchcraft-related - even if the propagation of such establishments runs the risk of turning Salem into the "clown shoes" of magick.

The fact is that at this point the place is well on its way, and I doubt that trying to stem the tide now would make much difference. On the other hand, judging from the reported events of 2007 the debate over new regulations should prove amusing, if by "amusing" one means pathetic and sad.

Now, talk has started about regulations that would include a cap on the number of psychic businesses, but the grumbling has in no way reached the level of viciousness that occurred in 2007, when someone left the mutilated body of a raccoon outside Szafranski’s shop and Day and Stathopoulos got into a physical altercation.

Clown shoes indeed.

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Hypnovatos said...

So wait... I'd nothing changes we et a town where we can have our fortunes read while watching tassels spin an our laps warmed?? Where's the downside exactly O.o

All joking aside, free enterprise should weed out the money mongers and keep the honest psychics and magicians in business. As demand for space goes up, rent will go up, and the morons will be run out.

Yes, the marketing moguls with no ability but charisma in spades will remain, but how is that different from the stores and kiosks that promise weight loss or cellulite reduction or a host of other well wishes for a buck.

The competition will push them to offer better products and cleaner shops and the neon sorcerers will appear for the tacky side shows they are.

Ananael Qaa said...

That's pretty much how I feel about it, that the free market will work things out without micromanagement by the City Council. Usually that's the case with small shops and businesses that aren't so large that they distort the markets in which they operate.

And if the whole thing goes on overload and everyone becomes sick to death of Salem, well, there are a few residents who contacted me after my last Salem article who would be perfectly happy to see the "clown shoes" go.

Pallas Renatus said...

If one wants to keep a town "quaint", I imagine your general city-improvement legislation (such as advertising restrictions, road & park maintenance, etc) would be more effective than a ban on small businesses which will either provide a local economic boost, or fail and open up cheap rent spaces for more "legitimate" businesses (magical or otherwise).