A Sneak Peek Into The World Of Fortune Telling Machines & Funfair Gypsies
Fortune telling machines and funfair gypsies have been a popular and integral part of amusement parks, fairs and gaming arcades for a long time now. Fortune telling machines aren’t very old though. They have been around for a little more than a hundred years. Funfair gypsies are however different. The practice of mystics, psychics and nomads or gypsies foretelling the fortunes of people has been chronicled for centuries. The practice was widespread in ancient Egypt, erstwhile Persia, during the glorious era of Mongolian dominance and in ancient India and China. The iconic crystal ball may be a tad of an exaggeration in pop culture but gypsies regarded as oracles, witches or soothsayers are not a figment of anyone’s imagination.
While there are accounts of gypsies being very accurate with their foretelling, modern day fortune telling machines and funfair gypsies aren’t actually for predicting the future. They are used for amusement.
The earliest fortune telling machines were the Verbal Fortune Teller by Mills Novelty Co (circa 1904), Madame Zita which was among the earliest of funfair gypsies, Grandmothers Predictions by William Gent Mfg (circa 1929), Princess Doraldina by Doraldina Corp (circa 1928) and Geneco Gypsy Grandma Fortune Teller by Geneco Mfg (circa 1940). These fortune telling machines and funfair gypsies have transcended boardwalks, penny arcades and amusement parks. Today, you may find some in malls, gaming zones and there are many modern versions of the old concept.
Just as the old machines would require a coin or two and would automatically pick up a card and either read out or simply slide it out for the recipient to read, there are modern day versions of the same where a deck of tarot cards are shuffled and chosen from instead of a future telling card. There was seldom any consistence pertaining to the type of cards used in earlier machines. Some had no images and just a text. Some had illustrations or a long paragraph. Some had images and the text corresponded to them. With tarot cards and certain methods of fortunetelling, the fortune telling machines and funfair gypsies have become more standardized lately.
Today, it isn’t odd to find a video arcade powered by software generated fortune telling cards or picking tarot cards based on a person’s birthday or name. There are innumerable versions of the old concept available in various forms.