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The Fidelity Exchange
May 2001
Page 8

What's in Store? Ask Cryptique!
by SARAH CLAPP

BOSTON, MASS. – Having trouble finding that coffee can full of hundreds that your late uncle buried in the backyard? Fidelity Management & Research Company's (FMRCo) Robert Murch and Gary Halteman may be able to help!

A place in history
Salem, Mass.-based Spirited Ventures Inc. (headed by Murch, a research coordinator, and Halteman, a fund data analyst) announced the release of its first talking board, Cryptique, in March. Talking boards, most popular being Ouija,TM first appeared in Europe in the mid-1800s but did not debut in America until the 1890s. In their earliest days, talking boards were seen as a tool or apparatus for "indicating persons' thoughts by agents of electricity." It was not until Allan Kardec's novel Le Livre des Mediums that there was any reference to the occult or spirits doing the "talking."

Spirited Ventures' concept for Cryptique has been seven years in the making, starting out as a hobby for Murch. With over 300 boards in his collection dating back to the 19th century and a Web site educating people on the different types of boards and their historical significance, Murch felt that creating Cryptique was the next logical step.

An audience in place
"Talking boards have been around America for about a hundred years. Many times they are marketed to only one audience or are of poor quality," noted Murch. "We wanted to broaden our customer base, yet appeal to the traditional users without sacrificing the look and integrity of the board."

Halteman, who joined Spirited Ventures in 1997 providing market research for the company, agrees. "In our research, we've found that talking boards are marketed to an age demographic of 8 to 12 years. We wanted to broaden our market base to three groups – the Salem tourist, the high school and college crowd, and the new-age population – while providing them with a quality board."

Currently, Cryptique is being sold through the Spirited Venture's Web site, www.cryptique.com, but eventually Murch and Halteman would like to phase out Web sales and make Cryptique available only through retail shops. The Web site will then serve as a tool for education, information, and support. "Our goal is to provide a complete talking board experience," said Murch.

Spirited Ventures has a growing reputation as a leader in its field. In 1999 DreamWorks Studios hired Murch and Halteman as talking board experts for the film, "What Lies Beneath." Locally, they have been featured in the Salem Evening News and the Jewish Advocate. Where does the future lie for Spirited Ventures? Maybe that is a question better left for Cryptique.