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Rajah Raboid and the Business of Mystery

This post was written by Brendan Bachmann, a visiting library science student from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

Horoscopes have long been popular with those hoping for a glimpse of their future. Indeed, some individuals have made a business of the mystical, profiting from people’s curiosity of the unknown. A horoscope pamphlet that has recently come into our collection is the product of one such astute businessman, Rajah Raboid. Born Maurice P. Kitchen in 1896, Rajah was a mentalist, magician, and all-round purveyor of the mystical arts.

According to the book, The Mind Readers: Masters of Deception, Raboid started his career as “Ray Boyd,” a carnival magician. During this time, he observed mentalists doing their acts and decided he could perform them better. He changed his name shortly afterwards and began his career in mentalism, becoming a “mind-reader from East India,” despite having been born in New Orleans. He started a radio show using Mexican radio to avoid any legal problems that might result. Listeners sent money and questions for him to answer, and the program became so successful he allegedly made $66,000 in a single week. However, radio was not his only domain. He regularly sold out shows in New York City and elsewhere, held readings and performances, and received money from book sales and endorsements in businesses, fully capitalizing on his popularity. 

The Book of Mystery pamphlet in our collection cost $1 at the time of publication, likely in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and claims to contain “the readings of your life from the cradle to the grave.” The horoscopes themselves use slightly different language from today, but the highly ambiguous nature of their advice is definitely familiar. For my sign, Virgo, some observations include “your greatest faults are worry, anxiety, fretting and impatience,” “you are now watched by a person that has the power to do you a great favor or much evil,” and “there is a change of residence for you in the coming year, also an increase in money over the present income.” I certainly hope that the last one is true! Rajah Raboid’s business acumen is immediately evident in this pamphlet. Every horoscope ends by advising the reader to turn to page one if they want to learn more about their future, where a crystal gazing ball is advertised for the price of $10. Also advertised are palm reading charts and the “Great Isis Lucky Stone,” both with extravagant promises of their power to bring good fortune.

Rajah Raboid became quite wealthy as a result of his popularity, buying a mansion and even a church in Miami Beach, Florida. He also seemingly got into property development, selling a new hotel and villas in the region in later years. He died of cancer at his home in 1962.

 

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