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Fortune-Telling Not In Cards For Parkersburg Business

Photo by Haadiza Ogwude Heather Cooper, left, explores the nature of crystals with Rebecca Merrill, center, and Valerie Wright.

PARKERSBURG — A woman seeking to open a fortune-telling business in Parkersburg never expected to run into a nearly 70-year-old ordinance prohibiting such operations in the city.

Heather Cooper, owner of Hawthorn on Camden Avenue, went before Parkersburg City Council last week asking members to repeal a 1947 law that prohibits the practice of “palmistry, fortunetelling, astrology, phrenology, or any kindred trade or profession” in Parkersburg.

Both Mayor Jimmy Colombo and city council President John Rockhold said they are unfamiliar with the ordinance.

Rockhold, however, said the city of Vienna has the same code. Rockhold advised Cooper to ask City Attorney Joe Santer about the code and the steps to get it removed.

“I’ve never heard of it my entire life, and I’ve been around city council for 20 years,” Rockhold said.

Councilwoman Sharon Lynch also said this was the first time this law has been brought to the attention of city council since she has been a member. In October of last year, Cooper received a state license to practice tarot card reading and fortune-telling.

However, when she went to Parkersburg Municipal Court recently to obtain a business license from the city, she was denied.

Instead, she filed for a business license under retail. Cooper said she had heard reports of this law prior to seeking a license, but found it inconceivable such an ordinance could exist. The business has been rented and furnished, according to Cooper.

Lydia White, assistant city zoning administrator, said this is not the first time she has dealt with this provision. White described a time when a woman tried to get a license for fortunetelling and was denied.

White said the person moved her business to Murdoch Avenue, between Parkersburg and Vienna, in an area that White describes as “no man’s land” because it does not fall within the city limits of either Vienna or Parkersburg.

White said when people come in seeking to obtain a business license for fortune-telling, tarot card reading, astrology and similar practices, she denies them a license. She said if they feel adamant about attaining one they should appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Only two or three people have ever wanted to take their claim to the BZA, she said.

Cooper said tarot card reading is something she’s been interested in since she was a teenager. As the single mother of an autistic child, she said she’s had difficulty getting a regular job.

“I look at tarot as a gift,” Cooper said.

However, Cooper said she is aware of the negative reputation associated with tarot and fortune-telling. She hopes to change that reputation in Parkersburg. Hawthorn welcomes anyone who wants to come in and learn more about fortune-telling, astrology, palm-reading and tarot, she said.

“We’re hoping to make a difference. We hope to give knowledge in a positive aspect,” Cooper said.

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