Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Update!! I got a Letter regarding the Planchette from Richard Fink at Museum of the Macabre.

Thank you for the email and congratulations on your find. The planchette you purchased is definitely unique!

Our research into early planchette production indicates that Selchow and Righter were the first American company to manufacture the devices for commercial purposes. There were, of course, planchettes made long before that...Ancient Chinese and Native American Indians had similar devices.

The planchette you own is likely one of the first to be produced commercially in the United States. It was probably produced in the late 1860s by Selchow and Righter at their New York factory. When the company first marketed and advertised its product, it was advertised as a "scientific instrument." Its initial use was to detect involuntary motion, (often called the idiomotor effect) in humans. Basically, the planchette was first advertised as a tool which could tap into the human subconcious.

With the growth of the Spiritualism movement in the late 1860s, however, people began to use the planchette to communicate with deceased spirits. The planchette you read about on our website, the "Mystic of Mystics," was the first one commercially advertised for a Spiritualist audience.

Your planchette looks like its in great shape! Congratulations and hope this helps.

PS - We would be interested in writing an article about your planchette if you were willing to allow us to use your images. No worries if you don't feel like sharing, just wanted to offer!

Whoa! It just gets better and better!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

At a flea market today I found the most incredible thing.

A "Scientific Planchette" Manufactured by "Selchow & Righter."

From the Original Pattern
First Made in 1860. (IMPROVED.)


Place Planchette on a sheet of paper [printing or wrapping will answer,] then place the hand lightly on the board; in a few minutes it begins to move and is ready to answer mental or spoken questions. When a party of three or more come together, it is almost impossible that one cannot operate Planchette. If one be not successful, let two try it together. That Planchette is capable of giving a large amount of amusement, is beyond doubt, nor is it less likely to afford instruction and a wide field for speculation and experiment to the scientific.


Manufacturers, New York.

That is really the only information on the item or the box. Since it says it was First made in the 1860s but has been improved I can safely assume it was produced before the Turn of the Century.

Admittedly I don't know much about these. So I did a quick internet search and came across the "Museum of Talking Boards." My exact model wasn't featured, but a similar Selchow & Righter one was:

This is a particularly fine example of a pretty maple automatic writing writer circa 1875 by Selchow and Righter. The instructions state that Planchette the Mystic of Mystics is the "scientific planchette from the original pattern, first made in 1860." Although the phantasms on the front of the box are obviously not of this world, there is no mention of spiritual communion of any kind.

Judging by the ornate illustrations on the cover I bet the one they have featured is a new model than mine.

On another site "Museum of the Macabre" I found a great deal more information:

Selchow and Righter were a 19th century game manufacturer from Bay Shore, New York.

While the company is probably best known for producing Parcheesi and Scrabble, it also developed planchettes for commercial use.

Planchettes were produced by Selchow and Righter out of a New York City factory it owned at 41 John Street.

It became the first company to market planchettes as spirit communication devices with the release of "Mystic of Mystics" in 1875.

The fancy leaf-shaped instrument gained distinction for its colorful packaging and likely the earliest planchette to be sold in a box. Its wrapping featured and illustration of three deceased interacting with the planchette as it scribbled on a piece of paper.

Although Selchow and Righter gained notoriety for producing board games and entertainment devices, the depictions reveals that the company intended for Mystics of Mystics to be employed as a spirit communication device.

Additional instructions on the product itself assured spirit seekers that it was a "scientific planchette" and not some board game. The approach proved to be both sustainable and lucrative for Selchow and Righter as the company continued to manufacture Mystic of the Mystics until the mid-20th century. Language used to market the product further confirmed the corporation's objectives. In an advertisement featured in Scribner's Magazine, a planchette that "beats table-tipping, spirit-rapping, etc., etc." is offered for $1.00.

Selchow and Righter began producing a board game called "Madame Planchette's Horoscope" game in the mid-1960s. In 1986 the company was purchased by Coleco Industries for $75 million in cash and notes.

An advertisement for a Selchow & Righter Planchette found in an 1889 Scribner's Magazine.

Finally I checked eBay to see if anyone was selling a similar Planchette and had more information. I was surprised to find a couple:

It is without a doubt the same model. It is amazing to see them talk about how great the condition of their item is despite a trashed box, torn off instructions, and FAKE scrawled across it.

I am completely elated about my find today. I KNOW I have something very very special, and in fantastic condition. It has quickly become one of my favorite possessions. Hopefully someone in the future may even use it to contact me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We will be allowed to film ectoplasm in action also in the future, although the productions of our medium happen more than 2 metres from the cabinet - where the medium sits - away! Furhtermore the approach is more experiemtental and less spiritualistic. Its the GERMAN approach and our "control" "Prof Hans Bender" produces with his 5 chemists experiments that are likely to those with Rudi Schneider, Willi Schneider, Stanislawa P., Marthe Beraud, Mary Marshal (Winnipeg) and so forth!

Felix Circle in its 5th year is into a new era. One of the sitters practiced trance for over two years and was contacted by different spirit entities, these lead the circle first into Psychic Photography and then into classic Physical Seances with baffling phenomena. So we published Psychic Photography and in the meantime we were allowed to photograph peculiar displays of a substance, the entities call "a visible density of a rigid force field", formerly "ectoplasm"!

***I really wish I had made these videos...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This last weekend was an incredibly interesting one.

It started off great with an Investigation at a local Business.

What made this investigation more interesting than normal is I got to use a new piece of equipment. An IR (Infrared) DSLR camera with a combination of an IR Filtered Speedlight.

Neither of these are new technologies, and certainly many investigation groups use IR cameras, regardless I felt lucky to use such Unique equipment in the form of a Professional level DSLR and Speedlight.

A colleague of mine let me borrow his Nikon D1X that he had modified to become an InfraRed. Now, believe it or not almost all Digital cameras are sensitive to the IR spectrum, all it takes is the removal of an IR filter over the imaging sensor; which is a complicated but fascinating process. (Without a doubt I would NOT recommend you try this yourself, many places will do this for FAR LESS than the cost of a new DSLR, which is mostly likely what you will need if you try this without expertise.)

You can see the differences between the modified D1X and stock Canon 5D.


Now switching to IR doesn't automatically allow you to see in the dark, all the rules of exposure still apply, it just allows you see a lower (less visible) spectrum. The same way a dog can hear sounds inaudible to humans.

To compliment this great piece of technology, I was able to modify a Speedlight with an IR filter, leaving me with a nearly invisible flash. I am completely impressed, it all functions the exact same, TTL even worked! Most important is I was able to almost perfectly Autofocus in the pitch dark thanks to the Speedlight's AF matrix.

Without a doubt this is the most effective tool for low/no light photography.

Making this filter was surprisingly easy. I started off with a roll of unexposed then developed 120 E6 film. If you do this, don't use 35mm, 120 is definitely the way to go as the 6X7 ratio almost perfectly matches the size of modern flash lenses. From there I sandwiched two pieces of film together, and then secured them to a housing with cardboard. A roll of electrical tape later and I had a slick filter.

You'll notice the filter is visually opaque, this is good. It is only allowing the lowest spectrums of light to pass through, so what's left is a dim red burst when the flash gets fired. WAY better than the blinding strobe that normally is used in the dark.

Now to the Field test!

The investigation was at a location that is beyond belief. It huge 5 story building that has had many different inhabitants but is currently a business. The majority of its life was as a Masonic Hall, though other businesses utilized different floors simultaneously. At different times they had a concert hall, theatre, department store, and the basement acted as a Morgue at least for a short time. Much of the Masonic ornamentation and decorations are left intact.

The Paranormal accounts surrounding the place range from Footsteps, Apparitions, Music, Movement, and more.

This is our second time there and we were very happy to be asked back. The IR camera allowed me a discreetness never before available.

Before you look be aware that the images have a strange hue because of the camera and speedlight. The ones with a red hue were generally made without a flash or when the light source overpowered the strobe.

Main Hall

Ceiling of Main Hall

Funny decoration found on a balcony over looking the Main Hall

Light Pod above "Crystal Room"

Old Elevator Motor

At the entrance to the tunnel they transported bodies through (now cemented up)

Elevator Interior

No matter what floor we were on the elevator seemed to follow us. We'd be sitting in silence and hear the familiar "ding" followed by the doors creaking open. What is strange is how sporadic it was, it wasn't happening at intervals or cycling through the floors. It was like someone having fun pushing buttons.

For this shot I happened to be right around the corner so ran towards the opening doors snapping my camera. Unfortunately, no one was there to greet me...that I could see.

A few minutes later it happened again, and so I had the idea to jump in and see where it would go. Thankfully two team members got in with me, but the elevator wouldn't move.

I'd like to try that again though.

Tablet inside the "Casket Room"

Another incredible find. This is a room off of a library about as big as a closet, covered in faux rock texture. I am no expert on Masonic ritual but I do know it can involve a lot of symbolic references to death. This was the room where we believe a Candidate would sit to contemplate the commandments, and at some point a Casket containing a Skeleton (real or fake) would be lowered from a trap door above ready to greet the poor man once his eyes acclimated.

In the floor above, the trap door is still visible. The spot is covered with newer floor tiles.

All in all...a Great weekend.

If you're curious to see some "Correct" images of the location, several can be found in a post made about a year ago.