1917 crimes: Fortune-teller fined for forecasting fake futures

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The Scarborough Court sat for the greater part of the day in dealing with charges of alleged fortune telling.

In the case of Madame Morlee evidence as to three visits by Miss Phillpott and Mrs Firth to defendant’s rooms was related.

The evidence showed that on March 6th they went to 3 Museum Terrace in the afternoon and asked if it was possible for them to have their fortunes told. Madame Morlee replied, “Yes. Palmistry and clairvoyant 1s 6d; with crystal gazing 2s 6d.” They both decided “to have the lot”. The crystal was placed in Miss Phillpott’s left hand and she was told she had an inclination for singing and would make a public appearance in November, which was her lucky month. She would be very nervous but must hold her hand on her breast. She would have a legacy left when she was 47. She was also told she was about 18 years old, and would be married when she was about 20. Madame asked if she was seeking a change and she replied, “Yes.” Defendant said something would turn up in three weeks and she would benefit by it. Defendant gazing into the crystal, asked, “Do you know a dark boy and a fair boy?” She also invited Miss Phillpott to wish three separate wishes. “Was the first wish for the success of the fair boy?” Miss Phillpott said “No.” Defendant also asked if the dark boy’s people lived at Scarborough, and if they were hospitable. She replied, “Yes.” She paid 2s 6d.

Mrs Firth was told she ought to have been married between 22 and 23, and if not already married she very soon would be. There were references to a dark boy in civilians who went into uniform and came out again, and to a fair boy who was coming home and to a death, illness, a legacy when she was 31, and her possibly becoming a widow when married 23 years.

From the chief constable’s statement it appeared that they went again on March 13th. The boy Miss Phillpott was “to get” was described. Defendant, who was “looking into space,” saw a cycle accident. “There is a cycle accident here for him, I can see him come down hill...I can hear someone saying to him my word you have had a narrow escape.” Defendant then went into a recess to consult her “Foreign Doctors.” They heard her say, “Yes, that is where he will hurt himself.”

Later Mrs Firth said she would like to ask about a lady friend who was ill. Defendant said “Is it consumption? I will consult my doctors,” and again went into the recess. They heard her exclaim, “Now then, now then, what is it that is the matter with this lady? Oh! General weakness. Oh! You go away. There’s a dark foreign doctor who will speak to me.” Defendant then came out and told them it was only general weakness. She would get better. Mrs Firth paid 1s. Miss Phillpott wished to ask about a friend, and Madame said she must bring a letter from him. An envelope would not do as it had passed through too many hands and her “spirits” would not tell by metal. She must have a letter.

On the third visit a letter was taken. The letter was written by PC Firth, containing a lot of nonsense and rubbish, as if it were from some sweetheart at Malta. Defendant said she did not need anything but the signature, and took the letter folded, with only the “signature and all the kisses” visible, and held it across her forehead, closing her eyes. She said, “I’ll just see if he will be better,” and, after a pause, “Yes, he will.” Defendant said, “Is it at the back of his ear or at the top of his nose? I can feel something at the back of my ear and the top of my nose.” It was his nose, he would get better, and she would hear this week. Defendant thought he was a clerk at some base; it looked as if he had been given easy work until he got better.

The chief constable submitted there was a great difference between anyone professing to tell fortunes at a garden party for fun, than one who got a living by forecasting the future for those stupid women who came to them believing they had the power to forecast the future. He admitted defendant had been at garden parties at Londesborough Lodge, but had been invited there as a matter of amusement. No doubt she had very high connections in the district. Defendant had told the chief constable that she could see into his brain.

Madame Morlee, in the box, said she was a member of the council of an incorporated society called the British Institute of Mental Science, and a past president, and medallist.

Mr Royle: Do you sincerely believe in the truth of all you teach? - Absolutely, sir.

By Mr Royle: She was not ashamed to say she believed in a system which was supported by the names of Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and others. She must correct Mr Royle. She “sensed” things; she did not “see” them.

The chief constable: It is no use my saying, “Madame Morlee, will you give up your business?”.

Defendant: No, sir. It is my living, I have nothing else.

A fine of £7 10s was imposed and the chairman said that if the offence occurred again defendant might have to go to quarters sessions.

Mr Royle asked for time in which to pay but the chief constable said if their worships insisted it would be paid in five minutes. The society would pay it.

Mr Royle said the society would not pay.

The chief constable said the society would pay. The money was in court at that moment waiting to be paid.