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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Three-out-of-Two Worlds Ain't Bad!

I don't know how familiar the term “google-fu” is to my audience here, but in the RPG gaming messageboard community, it refers to one's skill to locate obscure or forgotten information via Google. I consider my google-fu somewhat superior. I consider that after years of training, I'm something of a master. I know how to bend search terms in tantric ways, and my use of the Six-Fingers-Quotes-then-No-Quotes Technique is well heeded in such far-off locales as the British Newspaper Archives and Genealogy Bank. But sometimes even masters meet devastating foes, and a clash of google-fu erupts in a fury of flying searches and deadly exchanges of information.

The Two Worlds box that vexed our dating assumptions for so long.

I met my match last night, as a breeze blew through the digital bamboo grove, rustling the leaves silently, telling my ears that I was being silently stalked by a master researcher with ninja-like skills. Several times now have we met in battle, and once again he proved his google-fu superior to mine.

But I am wise in conceding defeat, as this master shares in his victories, so that both may win to battle another day. This researcher is, to date, our blog's sole comment contributor, who goes by the somewhat dubious name of Glenn Rinker. He reveals that when next we battle, they'll be having a sweltering winter heat wave in Miami with temps in the 90s, while the central and Rocky Mountain states are buried in snow. Mind which hotel you're staying in.

Glenn passed on to me an invaluable piece of a puzzle I have been trying to assemble since well before's debut. It is a complicated one, and one that stretches across a half-dozen talking board devices to make for a lot of pieces to fit together. The ad that brings it all together is below, from the backmatter of a 1936 pamphlet-published lecture by Harry Boddington delivered to the “Link Association of Spirit Circles” at Wortley Hall, and entitled “The Development of Clairvoyance and the Scientific Formation of Circles.”

This advertisement reveals to us, finally, three items for sale in 1936 that we were previously unable to date. Curiously, I've always called these items (planchette, ball, and board) the “Two Worlds Holy Trinity,” mostly because they were the trio of devices that, as a collector, I most desired. And here we are with all three pictured—a rare treat indeed! Seems I wasn't the only one who put these three at the top of the most-desirable list. 
Two Worlds "Magic Crystal" from

The ad solves the puzzle that long plagued when was the Two Worlds planchette sold? Given that we knew the date of its identical twin, the Weyers Bros planchette (a firm established in 1924 and advertising its planchette in 1931, as Marc Demarest recently revealed) and its cousin, outfitted in identical hardware, the H.P. Gibson & Sons “Autoscopograph” also produced around the same time, it should have been easy to jump to this conclusion earlier, no?
From left to right: Two Worlds, H.P. Gibson, & Weyers Bros. Fruit fallen from the same family tree?

Not exactly. 

The cause of this confusion is the existence of the third spectre of the "Holy Trinity:" W.T. Braham's "Telepathic Spirit Communicators," which were later rebranded by Two Worlds as their own products, with one existing example even having a Two Worlds sticker placed over Braham's name in a seeming mark of transition from one to the other. Based on the similar packaging of the crystal and planchette, it was always my assumption—one that turns out to likely be correct if this ad is any indicator, mind you—that Two Worlds entered the world of merchandising whole cloth in a short span, and not piecemeal over the course of decades. This assumption, however, led to a dating discrepancy between the identical planchettes of Weyers Bros and Two Worlds, and you'll still be able to spy my error over at if you're quick enough to get there before I update the relevant pages. 

Braham's "Wonderful Spirit Communicator:" later rebranded as Two Worlds, and source of our dating woes"
Though we've got the planchette pegged, the lateral "slide boards" in the same ad will yet give us trouble. Braham was in the game with Two Worlds from the start on its board of directors, and was established at his 392 Stretford address as a watchmaker as early as 1873. This address, of course, matches his earliest draft of the Telepathic Spirit Communicator: the “Wonderful Spirit Communicator,” though we do not yet know when he moved to the 13 Hartington St., Moss Side, Manchester address we find on the "Telepathic" version of his boards. Given that by 1895 he was a rather hirsute of face and bald of pate, it didn't seem too likely an assumption that he was producing his product closer to his prime in the 1900s, rather than the late 1930s. And given that Two Worlds is producing them at this point, it may be that the items were long-before acquired from Braham, with him totally out of the picture, if not aged or dead by 1936. And the 1900 assumption may still be the case, and armed with a patent number from one of his devices (Braham being an enthusiastic patentee) and a plane ticket to the archives in London to dig through back issues of Two Worlds, we'll be able to one day prove it for sure. Until that day, we'll keep connecting the dots, hopefully even discovering if there's any connection with this suspiciously similar device. It may be that the Spirit Communicators have a much longer run than anyone ever expected. 

And, in any case, they couldn't have done worse in England than Elijah Bond with the ouija board. 

Next post, we'll discuss other intriguing snippets from the ad, including the tantalizing "Seance Vibrator" and the "Psychic Research Table." Stay tuned!

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