The Folding Fortune Teller

Don’t worry, I’m not going into the occult. But yesterday’s “Memory Lane” with the Magic 8-Ball reminded a couple of our readers of another popular fortune-telling device. I don’t remember what you call it, because I haven’t thought of it for ages, but I do remember it was a big fad in high school.

So here’s how it works.

And we need another video to show you how to get the thing folded in the first place.

The thing that made this fun was, you wrote the “fortunes” yourself. High school kids–of course we wrote them to be funny or (even better) embarrassing. “You are in love with (most despised teacher in the school).” “You steal your dog’s food and eat it yourself.” Stuff like that. Nothing to turn anybody into the next Aleister Crowley. If you made the fortunes too raunchy, no one would bother with you.

I was a lot better at this than I was at algrebra.

There are folks out there who’ll pay a self-advertised psychic an arm and a leg for advice they could just as easily get from the Magic 8-Ball or the origami fortune teller–and which would be just as helpful, but a lot cheaper.

9 comments on “The Folding Fortune Teller

  1. I seem to remember doing ours a little differently, but with the same general effect when they were done — except that we had only four options inside, so there was only one saying under the flap we opened.

    Isn’t it amazing how kids’ games and crafts show up all over the country (and maybe the world) without any discernible communication between kids of different locales or between kids and their parents (i.e., the generation before them)?

    1. You’re right–when this was a fad in our high school, it just seemed to have sprung spontaneously out of nowhere. We had no idea who was the first to do this.

      I was surprised when I learned from people who’d grown up in Michigan that they had the same goofy songs (“Jars and jars of green and gooshy gopher guts…”) that we had, growing up in New Jersey.

      That’s folklore, I guess.

  2. I remember seeing these in my school days. I don’t think that anyone took these seriously as regards foretelling the future. It was mostly a bunch of kids having fun.

    There are, of course, people that claim the ability to foretell the future. I recall one television ad for a psychic that I found especially galling. What was wrong with people to believe that just because someone claimed powers that they would actually possess said powers. We skeptics were proven right; this psychic never foresaw her own arrest.

    The Bible warns us not to use foretellers of future events for good reason. It’s very easy to be taken in by such things because we all love hearing what we love to hear. “Reading” others is a well known art and unscrupulous people can use flattery and vague speech to influence the unwary. No human knows the future and we place ourselves at risk if we seriously believe that someone, anyone, can predict specific events.

    However, I don’t think that kids playing this game cross over into that territory. You know, and I know, that an origami device possesses no mystical power. Even school kids know this, or at the very least, learn this in a hurry.

    One More thing about predictions. It’s easy to make predictions which come true if you make them vague enough. A hurricane will damage property on the East Coast of the US. That’s a completely accurate, and completely useless, prediction. For sure, a hurricane will damage property on the east coast, but without a specific location and time, it’s a meaningless prediction. Here’s the danger; sometimes a person will latch onto a vague prediction which comes true and ascribe power to the person that made the prediction. Worse yet, there are all sorts of people out there ready and willing to exploit this gullibility.

    Perhaps you’ve seen an ad along these lines: “Man who predicted Trump victory weighs in on future of our economy”. Now that strikes me as utterly stupid. A lot of people predicted a Trump victory but that doesn’t make them capable of predicting the future. I’ve had opinions as to the probability of future events and seen these come to pass, but that doesn’t mean that I know what the price of barley will be next Tuesday. Ok, if there was a surprise freeze in Florida, one could predict that orange juice will cost more, but that’s based upon analysis and track record. The problem happens when someone places their trust in prognosticators and relinquishes responsibility for their own action.

    1. One of Patty’s co-workers, years ago, got hooked up with a psychic who tried to get her to sell her house and turn the money over to her.

      PS–I was one of the first to predict Trump’s victory, but so far no one has consulted me to read the future.

  3. I saw one of these in a sixth grade class recently. Once, at a friend’s house, they brought out their Ouija Board. It spelled out answers to our questions but I’m pretty sure the brothers who owned it were manipulating the board mover. I do remember sensing a strange feeling while doing this so I never played with it again. Another thing that persists through time is Astrology. Astrologist make a prosperous living in Europe. Nancy Reagan put her trust in it.

  4. For a little bit of history here’s the scoop on the Fortune Teller. It is one of the oldest folded paper models to come down to us since Tsei Lun developed the process of making pulp paper back in the hundred or so years after the Lord ascended into heaven. It’s original use was to hold salt and was (and is) known as the Salt Cellar. Instead of putting the model on your hands and operating it, the Salt Cellar makes use of the pockets that are on the underside. The original position of the model is for the pockets to be upright sitting pretty on the table . It’s origin is Chinese where origami actually had it’s start.

    What Phoebe was saying about how this and other paper models just seem to pop up no matter the country, I think, is fascinating. In origami terminology the Salt Cellar as used today among kids and called the Fortune Teller falls into the category of Playground Models. The other models that kids seem to pass around are The Boat That Turns Into a Party Hat, Monkey Up The Mountain, The Talking Fox, and The Water Balloon or Water Bomb. Paper airplanes sometimes fall into this category as well.

    I love seeing kids “discover” these old-time models and find fun in the making of them.

    Discussing the evils of demonic fortune teller I’ll leave to all of you. Many have made some very good points. I just wanted to share what I knew about The Fortune Teller/Cootie Catcher/The Salt Cellar.

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