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Magic 8 Ball

magic-8-ball

It’s not every inventor that has a professional psychic for a mother. Believe it or not, that was the inspiration for the classic fortune-telling toy … Magic 8 Ball.

It’s the timeless story of an entrepreneur inspired by his psychic mother’s spirit writing device.

Albert Carter’s mother was a clairvoyant and fortune teller who had created a device called “the Psycho-Slate.” The device used a chalkboard in an enclosed box. When you closed the box, a message would be written on the board. Carter wanted to turn the contraption into a toy called the Syco-Seer.

The Syco-Seer was a cylinder with two dice inside suspended in murky liquid. The dice had messages written on them that would be revealed once you asked it a question and shook it up.

Carter went to Max Levison, a Cincinatti store owner, with his idea. Levinson brought in his brother-in-law Abe Bookman in to help mass-produce the novelty product.

syco-slate1

In 1946, they formed Alabe Crafts Company– Alabe being a combination of Albert and Abe.

Unfortunately, Carter died before his company was even granted a patent for the Syco-Seer. But Bookman continued on with the company.

While novel, the toy wasn’t very successful. Bookman toyed with the design, replacing the cylinder with a ball to simulate a fortune teller’s ball. But the product didn’t find any real traction until Bookman was approached by the Brunswick Billiard company in 1950.

The company wanted Bookman to make versions of his fortune telling balls that looked like billiards as part of a promotional campaign the company was working on. Bookman made the ball into an 8-ball and just like that,  the Magic 8 Ball was born.

Long after the deal with Brunswick Billiards ended, Bookman continued selling the Magic 8 Balls. The unique look and catchy name caught on with customers.

In case you’ve never used one- it’s a relatively simple toy. You ask the Magic 8 Ball a yes-or-no question, shake it up, and look through a little window. A twenty-sided die floating in murky blue liquid rises up to the window and reveals your answer.

Answers range from “Yes” and “Without a doubt” to “Don’t count on it,” and “My Sources say no.”

More than 50 years later, and the Magic 8 Ball is still a fun novelty product sold in toy stores everywhere.

The Magic 8 Ball is currently owned by Mattel.

Albert Carter and Abe Bookman exemplify one of our Axioms For EntrepreneursGo With the Flow.

An unlikely cross-promotion made this once unpopular toy a perennial success! The Magic 8 Ball… Now Why Didn’t I Think of That?


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