In December 1915, an unlikely prisoner was marched into Omaha Police Court. He was Thomas Whitney, better known as “Prof”, an astrologer, clairvoyant, and fortune-teller. The Prof seemed to have been doing well with his readings, but somewhere along the line, he met an unhappy customer…so unhappy he had the Professor charged of eliciting money from him under false pretenses.
Many clairvoyants used the title “Professor” and in Omaha local parlance, they were known as “spook professors” or proprietors of “spook parlors.” In 1912, a Professor Zola in Chicago sold her clients’ secrets to a woman who later blackmailed them. The following year, a Professor Crane, aka James Ryan, was arrested after swindling a woman out of $15,000. And in 1914, a Professor D’Astro was sentenced to spend 18 months in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta for mail fraud.
Things ended more happily for the Professor though. He agreed to refund the unhappy customer’s money and the charges were dropped.