Monday, August 14, 2023

Fun reading for 1970s kids? "Visions of the Future: Magic Boards"

Previous Contemporary Perspectives/Raintree children's books covered on Papergreat:

Today's book...
  • Title: Visions of the Future: Magic Boards
  • Why are they called magic boards? Because the word Ouija is trademarked, currently by Hasbro.
  • Author: Saul A. Stadtmauer (1929-2018). He also wrote 24th Forward: The Pictorial History of the Victory Division in Korea and co-authored Jewish Contributions to the American Way of Life. He was married to poet Colette Inez (1931-2018). There's a photo of Saul and Colette on the sixth page of this PDF.
  • Cover illustrator: Lynn Sweat
  • Publisher: A Contemporary Perspectives Inc. (CPI) book distributed by Raintree Children's Books, Milwaukee
  • Year: 1977
  • Pages: 48
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Interior illustrators: Wayne Atkinson and Alida Beck
  • Photo research: "All photo research for this book was provided by Sherry Olan." (More on her in a moment.)
  • Chapter titles: The Unexpected Visitor; Where It All Began; Searching for the Spirit Seth; Dr. Hegy's Magic Table; and How to Build Your Own Magic Board. (The Spirit Seth involves the famous case of psychic/medium Jane Roberts (1929-1984) allegedly channeling a personality called Seth.)
  • First sentence: Pearl Curran and her friend sat facing each other in the darkened living room.
  • Last paragraph: Even if you never receive a message from the past or from the future, the magic board is sure to be fun. Some say that your success depends on how much you believe.
  • Random photo caption from the middle: Ed and Lorraine Warren, famous "ghost hunters," advise against amateurs trying to contact the spirits.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: Dr. Hegy's game was similar to the magic board, and he planned to play it with passengers during long, fog-filled ocean nights. (Context: Dr. Reginald Hegy penned a 1935 book titled A Witness Through the Centuries. According to Weiser Antiquarian Books, "in this volume he outlines the experiences which led him to become a believer in spiritualistism. He then offers practical advice on how to start your own spiritualist 'home-circle' and test for yourself the actuality of the spirit world.")
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: It is very important that the board has a slippery, smooth surface so that the triangle-shaped pointer you make can glide from letter to letter.
  • Online reviews: Alas, none.
  • Attempts to ban the Contemporary Perspectives books: I found a pair of examples of attempts to ban these books from school libraries. I'm sure there were other examples during the satanic panic of the 1980s and 1990s.

1. In 1991, a school board in Dallas, Texas, had to deal with a parental challenge on Visions of the Future: Magic Boards, for "poor writing." I don't know how the challenge was resolved.
2. A May 4, 1992, article in the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, details a request by the Rev. David A. Wade to permanently ban eight Contemporary Perspectives book, including Spells, Chants, and Potions, from the school system. The books deal "with such subjects as witches, palm reading, ghosts and astrology," the article states.

The article explains that the books were purchased by the school system in 1981. As just two examples, officials noted that Spells, Chants, and Potions had been checked out 32 times in 11 years, while Visions of the Future: Magic Boards had been checked out eight times in 11 years.

But Wade worried that many young students may have simply read the books in the library without checking them out.

”I’m not going to stop,” Wade told the Daily Press. ”We’ve got to get these books out of the city school system. They’re horrible.”

From the Daily Press article: "Perhaps the most intriguing of the eight books is 'Spells.' It has a whole chapter on the use and significance of different colored candles in making spells but gives somewhat sketchy information on three 'enemy' spells. The book concludes with a detailed 'recipe book' for a love spell, a spell to make money, and a good-luck spell."

Librarian Pamela Neilson defended the books: "We found that the books represented, throughout, both sides of the issue. They were not advocating to the reader that this was something to do.”

Neilson cited a seven-page account of an Apache medicine man in Spells, Chants, and Potions as having value and said the Contemporary Perspectives books all contained disclaimers regarding any inherent truth regarding topics like witchcraft, astrology and numerology. 

The Daily Press' thorough reporting involved contacting Contemporary Perspectives: "Sherry Olan, president of the company, said she doesn’t remember the books and declined to comment further. 'We stand by the books we publish,' said senior editor Kenneth E. Baranski."

A short item in The Virginian Pilot in June 1997 explains how Wade's dispute was resolved:
"FIVE YEARS AGO. Books on voodoo, witchcraft and astrology were placed back on the library shelves at Hampton’s Forrest Elementary School in June 1992 after a parent’s complaint prompted some restrictions on who could read them. A series of eight books had been pulled for review after the parent requested they be banned as too explicit for young children. The books, the parent said, contained too much detail, such as a list of recipes for spells and a detailed explanation of tarot card reading.

"It was subsequently decided that only children who received permission from a parent would be permitted to check out the books.

"Today, the books still have a place in the school library, with the staff continuing to follow the procedure handed down five years ago, according to Forrest Elementary librarian Pamela Neilson."

For what it's worth, there doesn't seem to be a single copy of Spells, Chants, and Potions available for sale anywhere on the internet. I guess the lucky private owners are hoarding that spell to make money.


Finally, here are a pair of interior illustrations from Visions of the Future: Magic Boards, both by Wayne Atkinson.
Contemporary Perspectives/Raintree children's books to be covered some day on Papergreat (hopefully):
  • The Bermuda Triangle
  • Ghosts and Ghouls
  • Witches
  • Bigfoot: Man, Monster, or Myth?
  • The Mystery of Stonehenge
  • The Mysterious Ghosts of Flight 401

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