I collect old fortune-telling games. My collection, IMO, is pretty nice. These are small board games or little machines. Though I wouldn’t look a gift Zoltan in the mouth, I have never wanted to own an arcade fortune teller. Except for Morgana.
The ad above turned up on my usual ebay searches, and started an obsession. There is very little information on the game anywhere. The best coverage is from Mechanical Arcade, who even managed to snag a copy of the original video. Seriously, this link is cool. Well, if you’re me, I suppose.
Bacchus Games was incorporated in 1977, ending in tax forfeiture in 1981. Their arcade game was unique at the time. Instead of animatronics, their fortune teller was a foam head, on which a video was projected.
Every once in a while, I search around the web again, hoping for some tidbit. This time, I got one. I got names: Joel Osborne and Hardy Haberman. If I have the right Joel, he has passed. But I was able to track down Haberman, and ask him intrusive questions via email. It made me SO! HAPPY! First, he tells the story of the game:
I developed the idea for MORGANA after seeing a Technicolor super 8mm projector. They ran on cartridges of film in an endless loop that could be programmed to play a segment of film on command.
I projected the image on a white mannequin head with a face cast from the actress who did the readings of the fortunes. It was inspired by the talking heads in the Haunted mansion at Disneyland.
Paul Osborne designed the cabinet for the machine and the cosmetic pieces that made it attractive. We incorporated a company called Bacchus Games to produce it and sold quite a few of them in the US and Japan.
The input device on the machine was totally bogus and did not record your birthdate, but instead just triggered the projector to play whatever was the next segment in the cartridge. Everything was powered once the proper coinage was inserted.
It was a convincing and spooky illusion and they were popular. The drawback of the machines was the size, They had a big footprint for an arcade machine and that limited their sales.
I asked him what actress played Morgana:
For the American versions it was Monette Osborne, Paul’s wife at the time. Other actresses performed in the Japanese, Spanish and French version.
And that’s as much as I was willing to bother the nice man. Didn’t find out anything about the Bally version. I begin to wonder if it existed, as some sources list Bacchus as making the table-top version, which is clearly not the case.
I’d still like to see one in person someday. Rumor has it that David Copperfield has one in his extensive collection. For now, I’ll just keep that ebay alert.