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June 6th 1922
The Baltimore Sun

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Say What It Thinks of Ouija
Case Over Taxes, Long Contested In Several Tribunals, Finally Thrown Out And Status Of Board Remains On List Of Unsolved Mysteries

Ouija, which has been shaking a wicked finger ever since it jumped into prominence some three years ago, is neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring, according to the view of the United States Supreme Court, which yesterday refused to pass on the status of that mysterious board.

The highest tribunal, to which the case was referred by the Baltimore Talking Board Company, threw the case out of court, although the lower Federal courts had sustained the Government’s contention that the boards should be classed as sporting goods. The company protested against the taxation of its product as sporting goods and insisted that should the court refuse to hold that the board was “a game involving considerable sub-conscious action of intelligence,” it at least would classify the smaller boards as “children’s toys.”

Even Accused Of Slander.
This is not the first time Ouija has been in trouble. She has been haled into court in various parts of the country on all sorts and conditions of charges, and out in Chicago became the cause of a $10,000 slander suit last year when she claimed that a certain Frank Walters had stolen the indispensable raisin from his neighbor and he was accused forthwith of the deed.

The present action began in 1920 when Joshua W. Miles, then Collector of Internal Revenue sent the Baltimore Talking Board Company a bill for $107.30. The bill was paid and then the company retaliated by bringing suit against the Collector to recover the money. The Collector claimed that his department, through its subsidiary, the Prohibition Enforcement Bureau, had entire control of departed spirits.” The company declared that might be so, but the department had no authority to tax a game in which the spirits of the departed were so vital a factor, and the question was fought out in this line.

It took longer than all the summer to do it, however, for the matter hung fire fro August 1920, until March 1921, when it was brought before Judge John C. Rose in the United States Court.

Judge Rose Sustained.
Judge Rose declared it as his belief that Ouija was a game and taxable as other games were. The company took an appeal. Here the judges of the Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond fell prey to their doubts. Some declared it was a game and some the means of spirit communication with the unseen world. A majority opinion, however, handed down in February 9 last, sustained Judge Rose. Judge Martin A Knapp filed a dissenting opinion, in which he held that he was not convinced that the board came under the head of games and said it was in a class by itself.

Still the Talking Board Company was not satisfied. On May 13 it filed papers with the United States Supreme Court and held its breath. The failure of the Supreme Court to pass on the case puts it up to the company to pay the tax, plus the lawyers and plus the costs of the proceedings.