Fortune Tellers, Gypsies Can Stay in Front Royal


FRONT ROYAL, Va. - It was standing room only at the Town Council meeting in Front Royal, where hundreds gathered to debate ordinance Section 110-17, an old town code that outlaws the practice of fortune telling and magic arts.

"If fortune tellers wanted to prove their abilities to tell fortunes honestly and truthfully, all they have to do is give us the winning lottery number," said Leo Morton, a resident of Front Royal, holding up lottery tickets in his hands as he challenged the “dark” artists.

Others see it differently. 

"I was so dismayed and irritated when I saw on the news, about the tarot card readers being able to predict the future,” said Front Royal resident, Cheryl Langlais, who believes it’s wrong and misguided to challenge fortune tellers in that way. “My initial reaction was that the Catholics have been predicting my future forever, and telling me I’m going to hell," she said in rebuttal.

In four to two vote, Town Council repealed the original ordinance, which stated that any “company of gypsies...or person...pretending to tell fortunes or practice any so-called ‘magic arts,’” would be subject to a $500 fine, and up to six months in jail.

The Town's attorney, Doug Napier, told council the ordinance was unenforceable after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a similar case last year, out of Chesterfield, Va.

"Quit making a mockery of Front Royal, and quit being an embarrassment, nationally,” said Langlais, echoing the requests of many individuals who spoke out against the ban. Her other words for council members? “Grow some, and get it together."

Despite Napier’s suggestion, there were religious groups advocating for the preservation of the "magic arts" ordinance.

"We think that Main Street should be a family friendly environment, and we don't want occult activities on Main Street," said Andrew Schmiedicke, an area resident who carried a cross with him as he circled the building, with other devout Catholics.

Many worry, despite council's vote to repeal the ordinance, time will not be enough to heal the divide amongst town residents.

"I do think we need some conversations in this town, and [to] work toward healing,” said Linda Allen, a long-time resident of Front Royal. “[We need to get] to know each other better. We need to separate religion from the state."

Front Royal's ban on fortune telling and magic arts was originally enacted in the 1960, not as long ago as the vernacular of the ordinance seems to suggest.

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