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February 10th 1922
The Baltimore Sun
OUIJA IS GAME, RULES U. S. COURT OF APPEALS
Decision Of Judge Rose, Holding Tax Valid, Sustained by Appellate Body
DISSENTING OPINION FILED BY JUDGE MARTIN A. KNAPP
Attorney For Manufacturing Company Argues That Board Is Form Of Amateur Mediumship
Ouija, the mysterious, the fascinating board that is supposed by many to possess occult powers, was “easy ment” for Judge Rose, in the United States District Court, but it cause the August Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond to divide a majority opinion just handed down the Court sustained Judge Rose his ruling that ouija is a game.
Appellate Judge Martin A. Knapp, however, filed a dissenting opinion in which he said that he, at least, was not convinced that the board comes under the head of games holding that it is plainly in a class all by itself.
In the fall of 1920 Internal Revenue Collector Joshua W. Miles boldly proclaimed the “spirit board” was, in his judgment, just an ordinary game and proceeded to levy a tax of $202.81 representing 10 per cent of the gross sales of the Talking Board Company, manufacturers of the instrument. This levy was disputed by the company, and it is through Assistant Attorney General Alan Fisher, filed suit to upset the action of Miles. A similar company manufacturing another talking board was represented by Attorney Washington Bowie.
The action put up to Judge Rose the question of deciding whether or not the board was a game. If it was so held, then it was liable to the tax; if not, the manufacturers were just that much money ahead.
For the Government, Assistant District Attorneys George Lindsay and Murray Donoho brought out many law books and quantities of material facts to show that even though the spirits might have something to do with ouija’s mysterious power, nevertheless it furnished some form of amusement to those who used it as they would any other game.
It developed at the trial that the name “ouija” was the combination of German and French words, meaning, “yes,” Fisher said it answers “yes” in any language.
Called It A “Medium.”
“We contend,” said Fisher, “that is a form of amateur mediumship and not a game or sport. By means of this board one is enabled to get in touch with the other side.”
Judge Rose opined that if the view were taken the board would constitute a rather inexpensive means of communicating with the other side a great deal less costly than telephone or wireless. Fisher came back with the retort that it was not only less expensive but the person operating the board could get his connection quicker than by either telephone or wireless.
Nevertheless, Judge Rose held that the tax was valid.
In it’s majority opinion the Appellate Court said in part:
“It seems safe to say that psychologists recognize the ouija board as a real means of expression of automatism.
“But the court cannot pretend to be ignorant that it is very largely sold with the expectation that it is to be used merely as a means of social amusement or play and is actually so used. It is true that automatism is the basis of its use, but phenomena of physical as well as of physical nature may be the basis of amusement and games.”