This strange little box was the box that foretold great things.

My friend Bill asked me to make it for an “experiment” he wanted to perform. He gave me some general instructions, and I whipped it up with the few available tools. It was supposed to look crude, but it is crude. My skills were nothing to brag about in 1968. He filled the box with scraps of birch bark on which he had scraped a series of symbols. I knew right away that he would get involved in another one of the hair-brained physic bunkos he had picked up from our sometimes con artist friend John.
But no, Bill insisted that he had thought of this one himself. He called it Corticimancy – telling the future from pieces of bark.
You always want to test something like this in a friendly environment. So Bill decided to try it on a Friday night, at our friends Bob and Chris’. John had prepped Bill on the sort of techniques stage mentalists used to inform the “fish” of things you should not know about them. Bill would spice it up by lighting pieces of the birch bark on fire after they asked for some future prediction. Of course, he’d make up the answer.

Everything went well initially. We had moved outside to the roof for the bark burning part of the Corticimancy. Bill asked for the future prediction question. Our friend Abby asked, “What’s going to happen at the Democratic National Convention?” Bill smiled, lit a match, and applied it to a long curling strip of bark. The bark flared up brightly, and Bill promptly dropped it onto a pile of someone’s newspapers, We now had an actual fire on the roof. The answer to the question was forgotten as we worked to put out the fire. After this, we lost track of the fortune-telling and went downstairs for beers.
Two days later, the 1968 Democratic Convention opened, and the streets of Chicago erupted.
We never heard another word about corticimancy.

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