The Fortune-Telling Act

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Fortune-Telling Act is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 6 august 1928.

The Fortune-Telling Act

The Times (6 august 1928, p. 6)


Sir, — The Home Secretary, replying to Colonel Day in the House, has mid that the recent case at Westminster Police court only affects the fortune-teller. We have, however, the best legal authority for saying that this is not SO, and that the judgment snakes any intermediary who has sent a person to a medium, or who has arranged a séance, responsible at law for whatever the medium does, or is said to have done.

It was clear that Miss Phillimore, the secretary of the London Spiritualist Alliance, could know nothing of what the medium did. Also that fortune-telling was entirely against the policy of the Alliance which she represented. And yet she shared in the condemnation. Thus all secretaries of societies and of churches are now responsible for the words or alleged words of the mediums employed. This is clearly, upon the one hand, a restriction to scientific investigation ; and, on the other, it is religious persecution.

A short Act exempting mediums employed by churches or by organized bodies from police interference would go some way to meet the case. The radical solution would be to sweep away the obsolete Fortune-Telling Act, which is capable of much abuse. Even if we admit the futility of fortune-telling, it is surely anomalous that it is now more heavily punished in many cases than assault or gross cruelty to animals.

Yours faithfully,

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (President, London Spiritualist Alliance).
Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex.