Space Receiver - IMAI
Tales from the Haunted Toy Box
I'd been given a tip-off. A former Soviet Colonel named Stok had gone rogue.
He was cashing in Cold War spyware toys for dollars and deutschmarks.
My informer warned me that Stok was a volatile negotiator and a dangerous man. I nervously considered meeting him myself. But decided to send Mrs K to the risky rendezvous instead.
The fairground organ accompanied Lotte Lenya to the eerie melody, 'Die Moritat von Mackie Messer'. The car boot sale offered the anonymity of the moving crowd for the carousel of passing punters. It was the perfect setting for a theatre of suspicion.
A veteran of these operations, Mrs. K mingled with the horde of wheelers, dealers, traders and spies. Stok was sporting a fur hat, shabby trench coat, fake beard and rubber nose.
He was indistinguishable from the other hustlers, all brokering questionable pacts and treaties on that chilly 'cash-only' autumn morning.
Mrs. K approached Stok's stall. On the surface it had the usual car boot sins-for-sale...
....electric toasters which had secretly burnt out like old spies, counterfeit DVDs with poorly printed sleeves, genuine fake-gold wrist watches for whom time would forever stand still, and of course the ubiquitously sad cuddly toy hoping to be reunited with its long liquidated owner.
Observing the protocols of the game, Mrs K smiled and gave the appropriate codewords. Stok furtively hushed her to the side of his stall.
The rumours were true, he had the merchandise. Grinning like a fatman in a kebab shop Stok revealed his pièce de résistance... the Space Receiver!
Our Intel was sketchy. We only knew that it was produced by master model makers IMAI, probably during the Cold War? It was issued in plastic kit form with assembly blueprints.
The box features vivid artwork, spotlighting all of the iconic connotations and cliche signifiers of a good spy thriller.
The package suggests that this unusual toy was designed to pick up and amplify secret conversations.
Box illustration and blue prints show that this versatile eavesdropping device could also be wired to a transistor radio for use as a microphone... to give an uncensored voice to dissident exiles... who could now drown-out and agitate their helpless parents with this secret sonic weapon.
The Space Receiver looks like a futuristic ray gun. However, Marx double agent, Mike Hazard, used a similar design in the 1960's. It was known as the Sonar Machine Pistol. Hazard's 1/6 Sonar Machine Pistol, and the full size Space Receiver, display curious similarities.
Both share a handgun design, with pistol grip and trigger. Both have a parabolic cone and plug-in earphones.
After acquisition, our example was studied, then secured in the vault, where it remains unopened, untested and under guard. Our study into the design and distribution of the highly secretive Space Receiver is ongoing... and our conclusions are as yet... well, inconclusive!
An old agent once told me that the spy game is a lonely game. At one time, maybe... but not now. In our conspiranoid technocracy we're never really alone. George Orwell wrote, ''If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself''. I suspect Mr. Orwell was right... you never really know whose tuning in on your frequency.