Projects that Never Were – Part 1 – The Mystic Hand

Primum-MobileThe Naked Rabbit archives contain many unfinished and never-were projects. Some of them had difficult births and were left stillborn. Some are still lingering in half-life waiting for an extra breath to awaken them, like a slumbering golem. Some are active – mewing and crying, trying to get enough attention that they might come to fruition. For me, this is a Museum of Melancholy.

A number of these projects are games. Back in the last century The Naked Rabbit would have been known best for providing a number of computer diversions, such as the popular “Underwear Girl Game” and “The Devil’s Workshop.” These were invariably made with Adobe Director (formerly Macromind, then Macromedia – remember them?). It was a kind of rapid prototyping software designed for CD-ROMs and the like. OK, you can stop laughing now.

If only I knew something about programming! Well, now that is the trouble – I know only SOMETHING about programming, and not enough to be effective in any way. Should you be a programmer looking for trouble, I have untold treasures for you – designs and plans for apps so weird no one has made any of them YET. They say there is already an app for everything – how little they know!

In the meantime, enjoy these artifacts – a menu of sad items that will never be. Today offers a few choice glimpses into an iPhone application that would have been called THE MYSTIC HAND…


Feel free to click on pictures for larger views.

The Mystic Hand began as a kind of fortune-telling app I designed for a company that made iPhone apps. I was inspired by the cabinets at arcades in which creepy mannequins would tell your fortune. These are early renditions of such robots:

Dr. SvengaliEsmerelda test

Eventually the idea of the dummy in the case fell away and I went straight to the interface: the Mystic Hand itself, based on an old drawing by Athanasius Kircher. Here it is animating in the opening “sequence” to the app.


With the Naked Rabbit you don’t just get a design for the product. The Mystic Hand was remarkably complex for such a diversion, offering countless “fortunes” and bits of creepy advice based on simple, yet fruitful algorithms. You’d never get the same results twice in a row, certainly. It may have been simple, but it was effective…

The fortunes were all gleaned from actual mystical occult texts and systems. Not only did the Mystic Hand dish out the fortunes – they were the real deal, crafted from hundreds of years of creepy but bogus flimflammery. Once you determined the kind of fortune you wanted, the Hand would deal out ancient and spooky-looking cards from one of several magickal decks. And yes, of course the Pamela Colman Smith Tarot deck was one of them – it would be insulting not to include it. Your fortune would be laid out before you, ready for you to contemplate – or to post to various social media so your friends can marvel at the uncanny accuracy of this deceptively unassuming app.

Plus it had a great eerie soundtrack. Here are a few sounds it would make when various options were selected:

Throughout game play you would listen to this ethereal music, which would get you in the right mood to receive messages from the Other World:

The Mystic Hand also had a great “lucky number” feature to help you pick lotto numbers and such. It looked something like this:


Of all the Hand’s various features this was the one that was actually implemented. The center section showed a rotating number wheel that spun around until it slowly ground to a halt on the next, important number. There were six numbers so you could use them for Lotto if you were so inclined.

But sadly, the very talented programmer who did that work was never able to complete the project. It’s not surprising. We were both working for no pay with only a vague promise of future benefits. It’s hard to keep steaming ahead on a project with that much risk. I have no idea how many hours he lost, but I count mine with three decimal places.

Which is doubly unfortunate, because the ole MH was the one iPhone app I worked on that I thought might go places. It looked and sounded good, plus it was complex enough to provide you with the kind of somewhat-detailed information you’d like in a fortune-telling app. I could see funseekers and serious practitioners alike having a ball with this one. But the success or failure of a project is not up to me, as is perfectly clear in this case.

As it is, the assets are still ready, fresh and gleaming like the day they were born. But it slowly rots on my hard drive, like the many other plans and designs that will never be. Occasionally I take them out, look at them, AND WEEP.

O, Mystic Hand!

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