What's Inside the Mystic Seer
It's a pretty good bet that the original Twilight Zone Mystic Seer prop was built over the guts of an actual "Ask Swami" fortune telling machine. Having built many Mystic Seer replicas, I can tell you that the dimensions are correct and that the coin and fortune slots as well as the napkin openings match up exactly where you would expect them to be.
The original Ask Swami machines were built by the F.E. Erickson Company, out of Sacramento, CA. A Patent for the design of a "Dispensing device" was filed onApr 13, 1953 and issued onMay 27, 1958 under US Patent #US2836325 A. The inventors are listed as Fred Erickson and Loyal K. Roe. To the left is page 1 of the patent drawing. Even the paper slips are shown in the illustration (Fig. 2).
I just love patent drawings. Even modern day patent drawings are done in a style reminiscent of the later 1800's Victorian period. Click the picture for a larger image.
An earlier version of the Ask Swami machine was granted a Design patent (#D163171) and had a small window to display the "fortune". This limited the number of "answers" which could be displayed and would not have provided the interaction needed for us in the Nick of Time Twilight Zone episode.
Below is a picture of what one looks like in real life. You'll notice the positioning of the coin slot, lever and the fortune slot line up with those on the Mystic Seer in the right hand picture. Even the lock is in the right spot. I picked one up on eBay as they pop up once in a while
Now imagine if you will, the Mystic Seer outer enclosure built over the Ask Swami Machine. It's even easier if you remove the stainless steel center cover, the Mystic Seer could be built around the same innards used in the Ask Swami.
Now here another view showing the Ask Swami machine with the center cover removed. In this picture, you can see where the fortune slips are located and how the napkin holders are separate from the rest of the fortune dispensing machanism.