At SFO Museum: spooky, cool Ouija board exhibit


The Amazing Answer Board c. 1944 Courtesy Eugene Orlando_Museum of Talking Boards_SFO Museum

The Amazing Answer Board c. 1944 Courtesy Eugene Orlando_Museum of Talking Boards_SFO Museum

It’s Halloween season and a perfect time for the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport to host an exhibit of Ouija boards and other “talking boards” from the 1890s to the present.

These devices can be dated back to 1886, when news spread of Spiritualists in Ohio using a “talking board” with letters, numbers and a small wooden device, called a planchette, that pointed to the letters. With that set-up, the living could ‘simply’ hold their hands on the planchette and then spirits could move their hands to letters and words and spell out messages. (“Water the plants.” “Bring home milk” “You snore..” are some of the messages I imagine…)

Official “Ouija” boards began being produced in 1890 and a variety of knock-offs were issued with imagery that included Egyptian sphinxes, swamis, fortune tellers and witches.

Here are some images from the exhibition,  The Mysterious Talking Board: Ouija and Beyond, which is on display at San Francisco International Airport through May 7, 2017, post-security in Terminal 2.





Can’t make it to Terminal 2 at SFO before next May, 2017? Here’s a link to the online version of the exhibition and here are links to an online Museum of Talking Boards and an online Oujia board you can use to communicate with a spirit of your choice.

All images courtesy SFO/ Eugene Orlando/Museum of Talking Boards

Museum Monday: solar system made in Kentucky


While visiting Kentucky last week I spent a few hours with the knowledgeable and very gracious staff at the museum of the Kentucky Historical Center in Frankfort. While there I was pleased to see – and learn about – the orrery pictured above.

An orrery, I learned, is a mechanical model of the solar system. This one was made by Thomas Barlow – a mechanic and inventor who lived in Kentucky – and purchased in 1887 for use at a school in Lexington. It’s unknown how many orreries Barlow (and his son) made in their shop, but today there are only three intact models remaining around the world.

Spooky Tuesday in Kentucky

Greetings from Kentucky!

I’m based in Lexington, Kentucky this week to learn about what it takes to ship valuable racing horses to and from horse country. (Stay tuned for my article about that). And yes, learning a bit about bourbon.

But just 25 miles down the road from Lexington is the city of Frankfort – the capital of Kentucky – and the home of the Kentucky Historical Society and the Thomas Clark Center for Kentucky History, where I had the chance to have a reunion with this doll named Jimmy in the collection.


I learned about Jimmy when putting together my Hidden Treasures book – about things museums can’t or won’t show you- and was told back then that Jimmy stays locked away most of the time because he’s too creepy looking – even for museum staff members – and because he had been found in parts of the storage area where no one remembered putting him.

Jimmy and some other creepy items from the collection – including cursed furniture and a cast of Daniel Boone’s skull – will be on view October 27 during the museum’s Creepy Kentucky event but just spending a few minutes with the doll is enough for me..


Get ready for Star Trek’s 50th anniversary

Star_Trek_Gallery at EMP. Brady Harvey_ EMP Museum

The 50th anniversary of the airing of the first Star Trek episode on TV is coming up on September 8 and there are a wide array of parties and special events lined up to mark the day. I’ve got a round-up of those in the works for CNBC, but in the meantime, here are two Star Trek-themed museum exhibits you can visit right now to get in the mood.

In Seattle, the EMP Museum is hosting Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds, an artifact and prop-filled exhibition that offers a unique view of the show.

Star Trek Costumes _Brady Harvey_EMP Museum

And in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum recently put the restored model of the USS Enterprise used in all the TV episodes back on display.

Star Trek USS Enterprise from National Air and Space Museum

PHX Airport celebrates National Park Centennial

PHX Grand Canyon 1932

Grand Canyon, 1932, courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park

The National Park Service turns 100 this year and to celebrate the Phoenix Airport Museum at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has put together an exhibition  showcasing the diverse range of Arizona’s National Park offerings.

Each of Arizona’s parks is represented with historic images and objects.


Flagstaff Black on White Bowl, 1100s, clay, courtesy of Wupatki National Monument

The selection includes ancient pottery from early cultures, a button from a Buffalo Soldier’s uniform, a fossil cast of an early reptile from pre-historic times and a boat that was used by Otis ‘Dock’ Marston in 1963 for a complete traverse of the Grand Canyon. There is even a slab of petrified wood that lived 225 million years ago.

phx petrified wood


PHX Gallery

On August 25 – from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – two National Park Rangers from Arizona parks will be in the PHX Gallery in Terminal 4 answering questions and offering more information about the Find Your Park in Arizona exhibit, which is on display through Jan. 29, 2017.