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All Signs Point to Lies Lies Lies!

The Magic 8 Ball is as iconic as a real 8 ball. If you didn’t have one, you at least know what it is. It’s been referenced in television, films, comics, books, and pretty much any other form of media there is. The phrase “reply hazy, try again” is unmistakably rooted to the Magic 8 Ball.

The Magic 8 ball has been around in some form since the mid 40s. The manufacturing company has changed several times over the years, from Alabe Crafts, to Ideal to Tyco and finally to Mattel, who owns the brand now. The design has remained very consistent. It is simple and elegant: black ball, the number 8, and a window, where you can see an icosahedron that has one of twenty possible answers to your questions. Although I don’t remember 20 answers when I was a kid.

I got mine sometime in the mid-eighties. It was one of the last remaining “childhood staples” that I remember getting. My mom was one of those “every kid should have a _____” type of people, which meant things like bike, Etch a Sketch, Magic Snake, dart board, so forth.

On the other hand, I never had skates or a skateboard, because she wanted all of my face parts to remain in the same general position.  

There was something oddly calming about shaking the Magic 8 ball and waiting for your answer. You’d think the novelty would wear off, but if its just sitting there and you have some thought buzzing around in your head, it’s very hard not to shake the thing and get a response.

“Will I get an A on the test tomorrow?”


“Will I get a toy tomorrow?”


“Will a black hole suddenly blossom near the Earth, destroying our planet and sending us all careening into the airless void of space?”


“Cheeseburgers for dinner tonight?”


You son of a…

I do still have mine, mainly because I am an insane pack rat that keeps everything. The last time I checked on it, the liquid inside (dark blue dyed alcohol) had mostly dried up, so the prognostication abilities of the ball had long since given up the ghost.

If I am being completely honest, I think the 8 ball probably got tired of me asking if the girl I was obsessed with at school liked me. (I was 10. Sue me.) (I never found out.)


I say this because there are apparently 20 different responses the ball can give you, but at one point I got “Oh for god’s sake, no, she hates you, she burns pictures of you and chants around a fire in her front yard, she made a tiny doll of you and sticks pins in it, so stop asking me, you damned idiot,” which is not at all one of the authorized responses, and was pretty hard to read, because that was a lot of words for such a small triangle.

The best thing about such an item is that if you don’t get the response you want, you can always shake it again and give it another try. Sometimes I did that even if I got the response I wanted. It didn’t hurt to get some kind of confirmation.

Or alternate opinion.

Best two out of three.

Three out of five…

You stupid ball. Why do you hate me?

Sure, I can say in the clear light of adulthood that I never really assigned the 8 ball any real magical abilities to tell me the future. I can say that it was with great pragmatism that I read every answer with a grain of salt.

I can say that, but I can also remember shaking that ball and being pretty damned disappointed if I didn’t get the response I wanted.

That’s perfectly normal, right?

Right, Mr. 8 ball?


…I’d rather not.