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Charles Kennard and Saucer

May 23rd 1920
The World Magazine – New York World
by Edgar Goodman

Who shall own the cable line to spirit land? Who shall own the patent on the voices of the shades. Who shall collect tolls at the gateway through the veil? Questions for Caliostro! Questions for Paracelsus, Faust, and Albertus Magnus! A Federal Judge has been called to answer them.

Two brothers are at odds over the patents to the ouija board. Large sums are involved for the little talk-table has become a big money maker. The fraternal manufacturers of the ouija board, being confronted with a question about the ouija board, did not, singularly enough, carry the question to the ouija board – though if there were a dispute about the Delphic Oracle – you would expect the Delphic Oracle would be consulted. Instead, the problem has been laid before the greater oracle, before the big ouija board – the courts.

And so the riddle of the instrument of unriddling, the mystery of mysteries, is known by the mystical name of Fuld vs. Fuld. It is not even recorded that the brothers Fuld have consulted the little ouija board to learn what the big ouija board will say.

The inconsistencies, however, are not without that valuable thing in law and morality – precedent. The ouija has consulted the Judges before. Which brings a tale of the occult and the mysterious, a tale of spirit messages and legal decisions.

Like Homer, and cholera, the ouija board has many places disputing for the honor of its origin. Divers stories are told about its discovery, exploration and conquest – this latter meaning patenting. Of the many accounts, the following two seem the most heroic. At any rate they concern the case of Fuld vs. Fuld. Both are laid on the Eastern shore of Maryland, on that storied old peninsula, with the Atlantic Ocean on the East and Chesapeake Bay on the west. Which in times before the war – the Civil War – was the summering grounds of the planters.

Col. Washington Bowie, who was a leading figure in the company that originally manufactured the ouija board, narrated, while testifying in the case of Fuld vs. Fuld, that in the early part of 1890 Mr. E. C. Reichie, a cabinetmaker of Chestertown, Kent County, Md., invented the ouija board. In that year spiritism was in the flush of its early glory, and tables rapped and pranced on every side. Mr Reichie, although not a spiritist, noticed sympathetically that a large table was a heavy thing for a frail spirit to juggle about. His meditations, attuned to cabinetmaking, took a practical form. He devised a little table – the ouija board.

The other legend relates that Mr. C. W. Kennard sat idly in the kitchen of his Maryland home. He had nothing to do, nothing to think about. In this blissful state he reached out and took his wife's breadboard and placed it on his lap, and then placed a saucer on the bread board. The saucer began to move, as though on its own volition. Mr. Kennard was amused, frightened, interested, impressed, inspired and delighted. He saw both spooks and commercial possibilities.

This was a momentous event in the history of this world and the other world too. A thousand oracles might have spoken; the greatest shades in Avernus might have loomed; the voice of Caesar might have discoursed upon the military and political value of the short Roman sword; Aristotle might have expounded philosophy; without working half the effect wrought by that talismanic phrase: commercial possibilities. The saucer on the bread board might have revealed the secret to human happiness, or of universal knowledge, or of good government, without recommending itself half so well as it did when it suggested the idea that it might be a good seller.