2/3/14 The Chip Coffey Show Archive:

Guest Bob Murch

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Robert L. Murch, Jr., is the world’s foremost collector, historian, and expert on Ouija® and Talking Boards. To most he's known simply as "Murch." He was born in Lewiston, Maine on February 20th 1974. He is the second and youngest child of Robert L. Murch Sr. and Carol Shulman. Robert grew up in Portland, Maine and moved to Massachusetts when his mother married for the second time to Michael Sapol. He attended Peabody Veterans Memorial High School and attended college at the University of Connecticut, University of New Hampshire, University of Massachusetts in Boston, and Salem State College. Robert married Gary Halteman on May 17th 2004 on the steps of City Hall in Salem, Massachusetts.

Robert's grandmother, Sarita Shulman, loved horror/science fiction and they often spent hours watching Creature Double Feature together. Perhaps black and white movies planted the seeds that would grow into a full-fledged obsession. After watching the movie Witchboard in 1986 his strange relationship with the Ouija board began. Robert purchased his first antique Ouija board in 1992 while attending college in New Hampshire. After his second purchase he realized there were many different Ouija boards and continued collecting. Distance has never been an issue for Robert, and he is known to drive hours for a board he doesn't yet possess. Though he never mentions costs it is rumored he has spent a small fortune collecting these rare talking boards. He currently claims to own over 500 different talking boards. He also collects all things William Fuld.

As he studied the history of the Ouija board and William Fuld, he often found inaccurate and poorly researched articles. This inspired his extreme research methods often traveling to Maryland and tracking down descendants of all those involved with the invention of the Ouija board. He has spent over fifteen years uncovering the final resting places of these gentlemen that have been long lost to history. To date he has discovered the grave sites for William Fuld, Isaac Fuld, Elijah Bond, Harry Welles Rusk, William H. A. Maupin, Col. Washington Bowie, Washington Bowie, Jr., Charles Kennard, E. C. Reiche, and Helen Peters. John F. Green's grave continues to elude him and that search continues.

In the fall of 1997 Robert Murch found himself in the middle of the ninety-six year old Fuld family feud. While researching the history of William Fuld and the Ouija board, he created a website called "OuijaWitch's Wonderful World of Talking Boards." Through the site he received e-mails from both Kathy Fuld, William Fuld's granddaughter, and Stuart Fuld, Isaac Fuld's grandson. Both Kathy and Stuart had similar questions about their family and through those questions were able to bridge a century and bury the hatchet. With Robert's urging, Kathy called Stuart and the family feud was over. Though the Fuld family often credits him with ending the feud he prefers to credit them and the Ouija board. Robert Murch is the Fuld family's personal historian and is considered the foremost expert on the history of William Fuld and the Ouija board.

In 1998 Murch tracked down Col. Washington Bowie's grandson, Washington Bowie V. Col. Washington Bowie was one of the founders of the Kennard Novelty Company, the first company to manufacture the Ouija board. The Colonel's son Washington Bowie IV served as the company's Chicago manager and general council. Wash Bowie V gave Murch unprecedented insight into his father and grandfather's Ouija years and shared never before seen photos of the Bowies, putting faces on two Ouija giants.

Kathy and Robert believed that between the two of them they had the perfect formula to launch the next generation of talking boards. On January 6th 1999 Kathy and Robert filed for a trademark on the word Cryptique and two copyrights on its directions and on the layout of the board. They then incorporated in Maryland under the name Thomas & Long, LLC. On October 14th 1999 they assigned the interests of those registrations to that company.

That next year Kathy decided to step back from the company and become Cryptique's biggest fan. Robert and his then fiancé now husband, Gary Halteman, incorporated in Massachusetts as Spirited Ventures Inc. On September 9th 2000 Thomas & Long, LLC assigned the Cryptique trademark and both copyrights to Spirited Ventures, Inc. They also registered a new trademark Let The Spirit Move You. This mark became Cryptique's tag line and appeared on its planchette or seer. With that move to Massachusetts Cryptique officially became “A Spirit Board from Salem, Massachusetts” which appeared on the front of its box as well.   Cryptique ceased production in 2005.

Since then Robert has consulted with Hasbro on Ouija and worked with DreamWorks Studios as their Ouija consultant on the movie What Lies Beneath, as well as on Sugar & Spice and Drive Thru. He recently consulted on Winning Moves "Ouija Classic" an officially Hasbro licensed re-make of the Ouija board from the 1990's. He has also served as the Ouija consultant on TNT's Rizzoli & Isles, A&E's Storage Wars, and on Travel Channel's Mysteries of the Museum. He has made appearances on Showtime's Bullshit!, The Travel Channel, MTV CBS Sunday Morning, the BBC, Australian radio, U. S. radio, and consulted and appeared on A&E's Paranormal State, Season 3 Episode 3, Room and Board. He has also been featured in articles published in the Associated Press, USA Today,, and various local newspapers. He is often interviewed and consulted for books and other projects dealing with Ouija or talking boards and has presented at Salem's Festival of the Dead, Beyond Reality Events, Ghost Adventures Crew Events, and Phenomevents.

With a house full of Ouija trivia and rare artifacts never before seen by the public, the time had come to build the ultimate Ouija website dedicated and told through William Fuld, “Father of the Ouija Board.” Beginning in January of 2007 in Robert Murch set about to build, which launched in December of 2007. It's inarguably the most complete Ouija history website ever created. In fact it's so well researched it's the only one backed and authorized by descendants of those men and women responsible for the Ouija board's beginnings and rise to pop icon status. The sole purpose of this website is discover and protect the Ouija board's history while setting the record straight. Until Murch's website much of what had been written was either poorly researched and in some cases just plain fiction. Murch thinks you'll agree that putting in the time to get the facts straight proves to be a much more interesting story.

In October of 2007 Robert Murch discovered Elijah Jefferson Bond’s unmarked grave in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. He then worked tirelessly with the cemetery and eventually received permission to install a gravestone for Bond. Coincidentally, it was during this process that he also located Walter Dent, Jr., Bond’s great grandnephew and Winifred Pierce, his great great grandniece. Walter Dent was 98 at the time, and he and his daughter generously gave Murch their family’s permission to erect a memorial for Bond.

Tegeler Monuments agreed to take on the project and began crafting Bond’s headstone while Murch raised the funds to pay for the memorial. Thanks to these people and Murch’s hard work there is now a place where Ouija fans can visit and pay their respects to the man who first patented a favorite piece of Americana.

2008 started off with a bang as his collaboration with Kevin Hemstock, former editor in chief of the Kent News, located Charles Kennard's Chestertown home, the very house where Kennard claimed to invent the Ouija board. The two also found location of the Voshell House where Kennard also claimed he and and E. C. Reiche made the very first talking boards in 1886.

In the summer of 2008 Robert Murch was contacted by Nick Young who's great uncle, Joe Young, co-wrote the 1920 hit "Ouija Mine." Nick, lead singer for rock-electroclash band A. I., was looking for a copy of the sheet music and Murch was happy to oblige. On January 1, 2009 Colleen Barton, the great niece of Charles Lighthiser, president of the International Novelty Company who sold the rights to manufacture the Ouija board in Canada to the Copp Clark Company in 1892, also contacted Murch. Working with descendants of those involved with the Ouija board is Murch's specialty.

Also in the summer of 2008, Robert Murch began working with Michael Albert, President of Papa's Toys, current manufacturers of he Canadian Ouija board. With the help of Albert, The Toronto Public Library, and the McMaster Library, Murch has successfully traced the Ouija through its many Canadian incarnations and documented it's development throughout Canada. Without this information much of the Ouija board's Canadian past would be lost.

Even after all that, 2008 wasn't through with Murch. He picked up an 1893-1894 Ouija Novelty Company Pamphlet which contained two letters to the trade from the W.S. Reed Toy Company and the NorthWestern Toy and Manufacturing Company both exiting the talking board business. The Northwestern letter led him to discovering a federal court case that proved Charles Kennard was behind the company and the short lived Volo board. The W.S. Reed letter raised more questions than it answered but put their Espirito board squarely in his radar. A few months later while in Toronto Murch found an article which contained an drawing of the Espirito. Thanks to the collaboration with Gene Orlando from the Museum of Talking Boards, the two were able to identify a board in Murch's collection and today everyone knows what that board is, just not how to say it.

In the Spring of 2009 two years of coordinating with Baltimore Maryland’s Mayor’s office paid off.  The Ouija factory William Fuld built at the suggestion of the board and produced them from 1919 through the 1940s was designated a historic city landmark.

In 2011 Murch stumbled on a series of letters from 1919 written by William Fuld, Charles Kennard, Washington Bowie, Elijah Bond, Leonard Hirshberg, and William Mack Reiche all addressed to the editor of the Baltimore Sun. These letters re-wrote much of the Ouija board's early years, giving credit credit to E. C. Reiche and Charles Kennard as its inventor, revealed how Ouija got it's name, and gave clues to the identity of the woman who named it, Helen Peters. Those letters also led Murch to the discover the short lived exploits in 1892 of Elijah Bond and the Ouija's disastrous introduction in London. That led Murch to unearth another long lost court case which definitively tied Elijah Bond to the Kennard Novelty Company. It also described how Bond, the man who patented the Ouija board, tragically lost the grip on the company he helped found.

As the sun set on 2011 Murch deciphered the symbols on the elusive Nirvana or Swastika board, Bond's second attempt to get back into the talking board business. By collaborating with the British Museum he was able to identify just what these symbols were and where they came from.

In 2012 Murch once again turned the talking board world on its head when his collaboration with W.S. Reed Toy collector, John Armstrong discovered that in 1886 the W.S. Reed Toy Company in Leominster, Massachusetts made a "Witch Board" and sent it to President Grover Cleveland as a wedding gift. Four years before Ouija was named!!

2012 hosted another milestone for Murch, the phenomenally successful Let the Spirit Move You - Baltimore's Mystifying Oracle event, the first-of-its-kind Ouija board exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. After almost ten years of badgering and planning and amazing collaborations with Brandon Hodge and other collectors Murch's lifelong dream came true and the Ouija board came home.

The success of the Baltimore exhibit got the attention of the Stong's National Museum of Play and now one of Murch's early Ouija boards is on display in New York in their acclaimed Game Time! exhibit which opened in early 2013. Try to visit when you can, it's an amazing place.

Shortly after that Murch tracked down Kennard's great granddaughter who graciously helped answer many of the questions Kennard left behind and even found a photo of the man that was once nothing more than a ghost. In mid 2013 Murch made contact with the grandson of Helen Peters, the woman who named the board. After years of researching the Ouija's fathers, its mother was finally revealed.

Robert L Murch Jr., resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He continues working with city officials, the historical society, museums, state and national archives, and family members to preserve Ouija's legacy and those part of its story. Today he is working with award-winning filmmaker T. Patrick Murray to create the ultimate documentary on the Ouija board. Murch is also collaborating with good friend and colleague, Brandon Hodge on a picturesque coffee-table book on the subject of spirit communication devices from their early beginnings to their modern equivalents. Titled "Talking Tables & Scribbling Spirits: A Complete History of Spirit Communication Tools," the book is slated for 2015 publication. Currently he is wrapping up which promises to be THE talking board resource on the web. What's next for Murch? You'll have to ask the Ouija board!


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Bob Murch on the Chip Coffey Show