Occult Open Thread

Good evening…

I put the remember-me checkbox back on the desktop site*, so now you have to humor me. 😈

*(If you would like to use the remember-me checkbox on your mobile device, you’ll have to scroll all the way down and request the desktop site.)

This caught my eye while browsing the local news: Why Do San Francisco Psychics Need Permits From the Police?

Fortunetelling isn’t just mentioned in the San Francisco police code. It gets its own section — starting with a rundown of all 70 things SFPD counts as fortunetelling.

This includes: clairvoyance, cartomancy, phrenology, tea leaves, tarot cards, coffee grounds, crystal gazing, astrology, palmistry, telepathy, and placing or removing curses.

“Fortunetelling,” the police code reads, “shall also include pretending to perform these actions.”


The application process for a San Francisco fortunetelling permit involves a background check, fingerprinting and even a public hearing. The fees are just under $350 — more than a permit for a masseuse, but less than one for a tow operator or walking-tour guide.

But why?

Unlike other Bay Area cities that require fortuneteller permits but don’t explain why, like Benicia and Lafayette, San Francisco says these permits are to help fight fraud. The police code says the regulations should “protect the public by preventing people who have been charged with deceptive practices from having easy access to persons who may be vulnerable to fraud or confidence games.”

Fair? Although…

Of course, when it comes to fortunetelling, the very notion of fraud is a subjective one.

Well, as long as it helps.

The S.F. District Attorney’s Office has received zero complaints in the last couple of years. The SFPD wasn’t able to say how many reports it has received about this kind of fraud recently, because fortunetelling fraud is not a unique category of crime it tracks.

Next, a shameless plug! Speaking of urbanite occultists, my new short story is now available for free online if you’d like to read it.

Last night, Murray called with another bunch of prophecies, so Yonatan Kaplan hasn’t slept yet. He stayed up preparing dossiers on some doomed socialites instead. Now it’s a little after dawn, Friday morning, and he’s standing in line outside Fox’s Bagels with a thermos and a tote bag. He’s shaky from too much caffeine and too little sleep, but he doesn’t regret it. The socialites will die this weekend, according to Murray, and Murray’s got a good track record. When they do die, the obituary writers will call the Morgue—The Pre-Morgue Clipping Service, Yonatan’s business—to buy the dossiers, expecting the usual thoughtfulness and prescience. So it had been best to begin the work immediately.

The line shortens when a gaggle of tourists leaves Fox’s. Yonatan steps forward, fills his thermos lid with hot tea, and covers a yawn with the hand still holding the thermos. He thinks back to Murray’s sneering tone when he ‘apologized’ for calling so late, his fake sadness that Yonatan would stay up all night working. It doesn’t matter if Murray made a lucky guess or if it was knowledge from Murray’s divine gift—either way, it’s rude to mock a man for doing his job. Yonatan takes a big drink of tea and frowns. Fucking prophets. They’re nothing like what you read about.

Extremely loosely inspired by an exchange between NotMax and BillinGlendaleCA, as I recall. Share and enjoy, if you like.

Open thread!

47 replies
  1. 1
    EBT says:

    Funny enough, my next new story is out on twitter tomorrow. Unrepentant furry smut.

  2. 2
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    I will read your story, Major. But next time you tantalize a guy with Vincent Price tread – there better be Vincent Price in it!

  3. 3
    dmsilev says:

    The S.F. District Attorney’s Office has received zero complaints in the last couple of years.

    I mean, duh, of course the fortunetellers had advance warning of any raids or stings or even potentially unhappy customers. They’re fortunetellers, after all.

  4. 4

    @The Midnight Lurker: I’ll keep that in mind.

    @dmsilev: Right?


    Unrepentant furry smut.

    The best kind of furry smut (one presumes).

  5. 5
    Platonailedit says:

    I put the remember-me checkbox back on the desktop site*, so now you have to humor me.

    Sorry to harsh your mellows. It’s gone awol again.

  6. 6
    Platonailedit says:

    Aaand it is back on again. I blame Obama.

  7. 7

    @Platonailedit: It’s also 110% guaranteed to not work right for everybody. All I did was put the default wordpress box back.

  8. 8
    dexwood says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:
    I can offer the writing of V. B. Price, Vincent’s son, local writer, retired journalist, good guy.


    Hard to link directly using this phone.

  9. 9
    NotMax says:

    When can I expect a portion of the royalties? (No bitcoins, please.)


    Switching topics, rained to beat the band today so switched on a movie on Amazon Prime. A weird one. Weird, though, in a good, albeit skewed way. Danish film, Men & Chicken. Shortest synopsis: Boy, and you thought your family was strange….

  10. 10
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @dexwood: I can drive from here, thanks. I’ll give it a read. (grumbles) At least it’s got Vincent Price in it.

  11. 11
    MomSense says:

    Thanks for the link to your story, M4.

    Bon Appetit named Portland, Maine foodie city of the year. It’s a nice write up.

  12. 12

    The S.F. District Attorney’s Office has received zero complaints in the last couple of years.

    The system works!

  13. 13
    Platonailedit says:

    comment eated.

  14. 14
    Debbie(Aussie) says:

    M4 not sure if you saw my comment last night. Read your story. Loved it. Please continue….

  15. 15
    Raoul says:

    Ok, well, let’s see if the rememberizer works!
    (btw the comment edit function has been unusable of late for me).

  16. 16
    Yarrow says:

    That gif keeps moving and moving and moving and I can’t make it stop!

    Congrats on your story. And thanks for fixing the check box. Works for me now.

  17. 17
    Raoul says:

    Nym & email remembered.

    Comment editor totally Borked. So, better! Glad for that.

  18. 18

    The comment editor problem is completely unrelated, folks. I have no idea how complicated it is, other than it’s a plugin malfunctioning, probably due to the theme or another plugin.

    @Debbie(Aussie): I did–thanks!

  19. 19
    Platonailedit says:

    Kyle Griffin @kylegriffin1

    Reminder in light of the naturalization of Melania’s parents: On this date two years ago—August 9, 2016—Trump promised that Melania would hold a press conference within the next few weeks about her immigration story.

    She still has never held that press conference.

    Can’t embed fucking twitter any more. Guess one has to sign up. Fuck that shit.

  20. 20
    thewesson says:

    If you watched “Shut Eye”, starring that guy from “Burn Notice”, you’d know that Romany apparently use spiritualism in con games.

    Like, “Your child is haunting you, you must burn a pile of money” (and then switch the money piles and keep the money.)

    This would be a reason to track fortune tellers, etc.


  21. 21
    NotMax says:

    From the story:

    Text on the mug reads The Chosen Son.

    Reminded me that when was in NY, passed by a kosher Chinese restaurant in an Orthodox Jewish section of one town named Cho-Sen Village. Really.

  22. 22
    SiubhanDuinne says:


  23. 23
    Steeplejack says:


    Yeah, looping GIFs that you can’t stop are no bueno on a post.

  24. 24
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    I read your story, Major. I really liked it. The central character kinda reminds me of me in the way old days. And I am willing to overlook (for now) the complete and total absence of Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. This time. Thanks again.

  25. 25
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @dexwood: I went over to Mercury Messenger. Looks really interesting, but I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to really scour it. Thanks for the tip.

  26. 26
    Steeplejack says:


    Attempt to embed tweet:

    Reminder in light of the naturalization of Melania's parents: On this date two years ago—August 9, 2016—Trump promised that Melania would hold a press conference within the next few weeks about her immigration story.She still has never held that press conference.
    — Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 10, 2018

    I’m not a Twitter account holder. Just copied the code from the “embed tweet” link.

  27. 27
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    Leave (the gif of) Vincent alooooooooooooooooone!!!!!!!!!

  28. 28
  29. 29
    Platonailedit says:


    Hmm. I tried a few times to embed but the pop up window to copy the code did not happen. Must be effing ff browser then.

  30. 30
    Platonailedit says:

    The judge ordered the government to turn the plane around and bring the asylum-seeking mother and child back to the US.

    He said that if the situation wasn't fixed he would consider contempt proceedings — starting with the attorney general.

    — ACLU (@ACLU) August 9, 2018

    *Restarted ff browser and twitter embed works. Thanks, steeplejack.

  31. 31
    Fred Fnord says:

    Incidentally, the kind of fraud etc they are talking about are things like the ones where the fortuneteller claims to have contacted your dead mom/dad/uncle/cat who demands that you buy this or that special incense/jewelry/cat litter from the fortuneteller and they thereby bilk you out of tens of thousands of dollars.

    There was a huge rash of this ten years or so ago.

  32. 32
    Platonailedit says:

    This disregard for commitments made to the court and the life or death circumstances that these immigrant women and children are facing is beyond unacceptable.

    — ACLU (@ACLU) August 9, 2018

  33. 33
    Yarrow says:

    Site dropped my nym and email again. Does it time out after a certain amount of time?

  34. 34
    Raoul says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Thanks. I haven’t had a ton of time for Juice lately, so didn’t know how pervasive or known the bug was. I’ll chill out and try to be careful about spelling, grammar and complete thoughts (we’ll see how that goes!).

  35. 35
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @dexwood: Going to this link leads to info about VBPrice’s book on the toll of atomic testing and related events on the ecology of New Mexico. Something I hadn’t thought much about. Thanks for the link.

  36. 36
    RepubAnon says:

    @thewesson: Yes, I also recall spiritualists showing up routinely in 1930s short stories (Agatha Christie, for example), conning rich people out of lots of money by pretending to put them in contact with the dearly departed.

  37. 37

    @RepubAnon: The article seems to say that it was illegal in San Francisco until a California Supreme Court ruling in 1985. (Just a Fun Fact.)

  38. 38
    Platonailedit says:

    Giuliani (late October 2016): “The FBI has October surprises—we're going to get our message out—all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton are going to have an impact!”

    Giuliani (August 2018): “The Mueller investigation must not interfere w midterm elections, per FBI rules!”

    — Smith (@WriteSmitty) August 9, 2018

  39. 39
    prostratedragon says:

    Two terrific movies about spiritualism cons: Seance on a Wet Afternoon; Nightmare Alley. Both probably on youtube.

  40. 40
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @RepubAnon: There was a big revival of interest in Spiritualism during the inter-war period which has been linked by some commentators to the massive loss of life, particularly of young people, during the Great War and Blue Flu epidemic.

  41. 41
    lightcastle says:

    That sounds similar to the Canadian law that makes it illegal to pretend to practice witchcraft. (And fortunetelling.)

  42. 42
    EBT says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Well, yeah. Hoping to get a tip or two, on account of my birthday on Tuesday from it as well.

  43. 43
    J R in WV says:

    Late comment posting test.

  44. 44
    J R in WV says:

    ‘Vincent Price was one of my favorite actors, with unexpectedly broad skills of characterization. He could be from anywhere in Europe, although he was from the US.

  45. 45
    Percysowner says:

    Thanks for the remember me checkbox. Just to let you know, the RSS feed is giving me conniptions. I use Live Bookmarks in Firefox ESR and the feed simply to quote Firefox “fails to load’. No idea if this can be fixed, but I hope so. I live by my RSS feeds.

  46. 46
    Tarragon says:

    OK, interesting. I’m a huge fan of the short story, much more so than longer formats. Get in, tell your story get out.

    On the first read my reaction was meh. But something called me back and read it a second time, which is not something I do often. On the second read it really worked and I enjoyed it tremendously.

    I’m not quite sure why this story worked this way for me, but it did. Well done and thanks for sharing.

    I’m not sure why that is

  47. 47
    columbusqueen says:

    @Sloane Ranger: Yes, there were many who were desparate to contact lost love ones. Another sad effect of the wasteful horror WWI brought.

Comments are closed.