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Circus, Carnivals and Fortune Tellers- Historical Facts

Nearly every person is interested in knowing the future by going to a fortune teller. But the big question arises when we get a prediction from them. Most of the time they just divert our mind in such a way that we believe that whatever the other person/ fortune teller is saying is the only truth of our life. But this is not entirely true. We need to go back in time to know about these fortune tellers.

The most common methods used in the last few hundred years of fortune telling in Europe and the Americas include astromancy, horary astrology, pendulum reading, board  reading, tasseography (reading tea leaves in a cup), cartomancy (fortune telling with cards), tarot reading, crystallomancy (reading of a crystal sphere), and chiromancy (palmistry, reading of the palms). The last three have traditional associations in the popular mind with the Roma and Sinti people (often called “Gypsies”).

In 1929, Mickette Cuba was fined $100 for a new kind of crime, and that was “Illegal fortune telling”. An undercover policewoman came to her, and she looked into her tea and predicted “a trip across the water” and “a tall, dark man.” For making this prediction, she took 25 cents in return for the premonition. Charging money for fortune telling was illegal at that time, and the Police Department was waging war against “tea rooms of occult nomenclature.” Because most of the fortune tellers call their clients in their tea rooms, make the prediction and charge money for that.  There were many incidents where people did crime just because of these fortune tellers.

Despite the pressure from the police department, tea rooms remained popular, very inexpensive entertainment. In 1935, a hit ballad “In A Little Gypsy Tea Room” reached the top of the international charts. People were crazy about that plus, in a country wracked by the Great Depression, fortune tellers were sources of employment advice, writes Whitaker.
In New York State, claiming a genuine ability to communicate with spirits or lift curses—and getting paid for it—is a class B misdemeanour. Instead, fortune tellers must declare their prophecies are “solely for the purpose of entertainment or amusement.” Nevertheless, New York City streets are still lined with psychics and card readers. After this, these fortune tellers find a new place rather than using Tea rooms they started doing the same in carnivals and circus. Because these were the places where people come for entertainment and as per the law, it was legal. They make the prediction and make money from it. It was accessible and fascinating as well not only for the fortune tellers but for the people as well as this was a very peculiar thing.
After this many machines invented for the fortune telling as this was a very lucrative business for many. Some of them mentioned here-

Verbal Fortune Teller – Mills Novelty Co, c. 1904 – One unique machine, perhaps last version in the world, rests in a museum in Virginia City, Montana. It speaks a recorded voice. This 100-year-old fortune teller was a rare find. It was different from Zoltar which dispense cards; this one actually speaks your fortune from a hidden record player. When you dropped a coin in the slot, her eyes flashed, her teeth chatter, and her voice comes from a tube extending out of the eight-foot-tall box. This machine also tells fortunes of males and females separately.
Madame Zita was a fortune teller in gipsy style. Its electric version was manufactured by Roover Brothers in 1905. It was very famous for its dresses.
Princess Doraldina – Doraldina Corp, c. 1928 – Her beauty attracted the arcade customers from all over the country. This machine was actually moving like a real person, and the whole process of doing the fortune telling was very lifelike.
Zoltan Fortune Teller – you just need to put a 25 cent coin, put the receiver in your ear, press any one of twelve zodiac sign button on the machine and it’s done.
As time passes these machines and fortune tellers were very popular in almost every circus or carnivals. People were so keen to get the readings from the devices as well as from the actual fortune teller. Around 1930 it was not on the priority that every person will get or give you the correct reading about the future but people like the way things have changed of telling someone’s future.

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