CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.

March 5, 2017 (permalink)

From Wayfarers in Arcady by Charles Vince, 1922.

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October 27, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a postcard written by a ghost, on October 27, 1909.  The message reads, "Dear friend.  It has been a long time since I saw or heard from any of you.  Do you recognize any-one on other side.  Love to all, Ida."  This has long been a problem — those in the land of the living often have trouble discerning those who have departed to the other side.
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February 20, 2016 (permalink)

"Photography is inherently occult, a medium contacting the dead without contagion." 
—Gus Blaisdell (via Mitch Cullen)

This recalls our repository of ghostly images that were never meant to be, entitled The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine.  The specters were conjured unwittingly, through a mechanical process of book scanning.  Their portraits technically do not exist, except within this context.  To explain: in old books, frontispieces were typically protected by a sheet of translucent tissue paper.  So thorough is the Google Books scanning process that even this page of tissue paper is scanned.  The figure in the plate beneath the tissue—"beyond the veil,” as it were—emerges as from a foggy otherworld.  The frontispieces were never meant to be seen this way.  Their wraithlike manifestations have been artificially "fixed" in time by the scanning process. In essence, timeless phantasms of dead writers have been captured and bound into a new age.  And so we call this phenomenon "unforeseen art," as it constitutes an aesthetic expression without original intent.  Just as artists often credit their inspiration to a Muse, the accidental art herein is in the domain of real ghosts; every author here has departed to the Other Side.  We call it "necromancy by proxy," as the scanning machine serves as our "spirit medium" or shaman.

Pictured below, a page from our book featuring a portrait from The Confessions of a Beachcomber.  Note that the fisherman’s ghostly spear pierces the veil to make contact with the material realm.

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August 26, 2013 (permalink)

Writing and dreaming: an image and its gauzy double from Cornhill magazine, 1873.

See the explanation of our repository of ghostly images here.
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October 2, 2012 (permalink)

Portrait from The Life and Letters of George Bancroft.
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March 14, 2012 (permalink)

This portrait beyond the veil appears in Graham's magazine, 1852.

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November 27, 2011 (permalink)

Title page from The Ghost by Charles Churchill.

The hazy mirroring is due to a bleeding of the ink through the page. But how apropos: the words transcend one
plane and emerge on another. Note the period after the word ghost. This book’s title is truly a "death sentence.”

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November 23, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait of Thomas Edison from Men of Science.

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November 20, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait from Memoir of William Carey.

"The strong light rendered the apparition invisible to hiseyes.” —Justinus Kerner, "The Ghost-Seer of Prevorst”

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November 16, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait from Memoir of Maj.-Gen. George H. Thomas.

“He’s here, or it’s the ghost of his hat!” —Frank Dumont, The Cuban Spy

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November 13, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait from The Life of Captain John Smith.

"A vague, almost ghostly outline, losing itself, in shadows, among the tombs.” —Mary V. Spencer

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November 9, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait from Memoir of the Honorable Abbott Lawrence.

In this haunting, Laurence’s ghost appears four times, three of which resemble film negatives. Note also that the scanning machine has graced Laurence’s portrait with a striped aura.

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November 7, 2011 (permalink)

Praise for The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine:

I love the way Conley creates these series of what I want to call visual poems, only by default--only because there is no proper designation for a novel form. [In The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine] we experience juxtaposed images of historical and not-so-historical personages cleanly engraved and then suddenly disappearing in a xeroxial fog of reproduction, a Banquo's feast of mirrors. These visual-textual series allow Conley to create the visual analogues of the serial poem, and into these delicious confections he works some of the best quotes in the English language (and many others, translated) to create an almost Midrashically complex, anachronistic interplay between image and text that often leads the mind to question the impossible interface that occurs daily--i.e., to ask how it is that words and objects could ever even come to a sort of harmony in the first place? It begins to seem beyond us. And beyond us is the metaphysical. So the circle runs, chasing its tail like the cat in that Siouxsie and the Banshees song. —W. B. Keckler, author of Sanskrit of the Body
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November 6, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait from Memoir of Eli Whitney.

"A faint shadow stole over the room; while the countenance of the Medium had become so gloomy that the shadow seemed really only a reflection of it.” —Blackwood’s Magazine

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November 1, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait from The Autobiography of Rev. Thomas Conant.

“A dim, indistinct outline of a ghostly face staring out.” —James Coates, Photographing the Invisible

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October 28, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Title page from A Biography of François Magendie.

“A dark side without a shadow in the open air.” —The Works of John Ruskin

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October 25, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait from the biography of Hugh McAllister Beaver.

She “could barely make out his face in the gray haze.” —Kathleen O’Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear, The Summoning God

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October 21, 2011 (permalink)

~ Unsubstantiated Insubstantiality ~

Portrait from Memoir of Rev. Joseph Badger.

“The figure was ghostly pale, with indistinct features.” —Mark Alan Morris, The Ghost Next Door

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October 18, 2011 (permalink)

~ Amorphous Apparitions ~

Portrait from James Speed.

“The contours of the dark things around me are sharpening, faint features beginning to emerge.” —Eric Stone, Grave Imports

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October 14, 2011 (permalink)

~ Amorphous Apparitions ~

Portrait from Memoir of Thomas Handasyd Perkins.

“The play of light and shadows turned his craggy face into an eerie visage.” —Lori Foster

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Original Content Copyright © 2017 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.