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 OneLetterWords.com.
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
Precursors

Today — July 30, 2016 (permalink)

"That's blood, Mother" -- a precusor to Norman Bates' "Mother! Oh, God, Mother! Blood! Blood!" in Psycho.  From English Illustrated, 1907.
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Here's a precursor to the amateur singing shows like Idol and The Voice.  The caption reads, "Then all at once, without assistance, the afflicted creature found relief.  And since then the Tune's been all over everywhere upside down and downside upmost, besides other ways."  From Judy, Or The London Serio-Comic Journal, 1875.
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July 26, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to what happens in Olenberg staying in Olenberg.  By Clifford Howard, 1911.
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July 25, 2016 (permalink)

"An awkward thing to have about if anything were to happen" (Harper's magazine, 1917) -- a precursor to Frank Henenlotter's cult film Basket Case and the basket's cameo in the film Brain Damage.
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July 20, 2016 (permalink)

Here's an ancient precursor to the finale of Michael Jackson's "Thriller," in which the protagonist turns around to scare the audience a second time by revealing yellow eyes.  The Japanese yokai demon Shunoban (or Zhu-no-Bon, しゅのばん) scares people twice.  The first time he simply reveals his bright-red monster face and horn to startle his victims and cause them to flee.  He gives chase, then disguises himself as someone providing assistance.  Having lulled his target into a false sense of security, with his back turned, he goes back to his monster face and frightens the person a second time by looking over his shoulder.  (Haunted by the fear of seeing that face once again, victims ultimately die of fright 100 days later.)  These events occur in the same order in the short film "Thriller," with Michael Jackson's character turning into a monster, giving chase, disguising himself as a rescuer, and then, after turning his back, looking over his shoulder to display demonic eyes.  The yokai card in our illustration is from the very charming Obake No Karuta deck, available via Amazon Japan.  We're translating the Japanese texts that come with each card — e-mail us if you'd like those translations.  (Our e-mail address is at our "About the Author" link.)

The yokai Shunoban, しゅのばん (left) and Michael Jackson (right)
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Here's a precursor to Kirsty MacColl's song "In These Shoes?"  The caption reads, "Not in these shoes."  From Fun magazine, 1879.
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July 16, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a 1917 precursor to filmmaker David Lynch, by Evans for the Baltimore American, reproduced in Cartoons Magazine.
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Here's a precursor to the manga character Naruto, from Two Little Savages by Ernest Thompson Seton, 1922.

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July 12, 2016 (permalink)

This "Cobweb Ghost" is an ancestor of the Haunted Mansion's attic bride.  From Judy, Or The London Serio-Comic Journal, 1876.  (We're delighted to have contributed this item to this post over at Long Forgotten Haunted Mansion.)
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July 6, 2016 (permalink)

Before there was Roz Chast, there was Chas. Ross.
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July 4, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to Haruli Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, with its library of unicorn skulls containing dreams.  "As it appears, though dead so long / Each scull is found to have a tongue."  From The English Dance of Death, from the Designs of Thomas Rowlandson, 1903.
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June 29, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to a Koopa attacking Mario and Luigi.  From the September 1938 issue of the Old Line magazine, as scanned by the University of Maryland Libraries.  Previously, we uncovered a vintage Koopa sitting by a Warp Pipe.
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June 28, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to a scene in the hilarious British series People Like Us, in which a proposed building is discovered to be "facing the wrong way."  In Punch, 1877, "The front's behind!"
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June 21, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to performance artist Leigh Bowery.  "New idea for a fancy ball.  Shave your head, and go as a phrenological bust."  From Punch, 1878.
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June 19, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the animated busts in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, from Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," diagrammed in Stephen Watkins Clark's A Practical Grammar, 1864.

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June 18, 2016 (permalink)

Here are precursors to "We Invert the Light," the darkly cinematic soundscape by AnakhronikoN.  Our illustrations are from El Mundo Físico by A. Guillemin, 1882.
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June 16, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to B. Kliban's Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head.  From An American Family in Germany by John Ross Browne, 1866.
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June 13, 2016 (permalink)

Nearly 20 years before the debut of the Candy Land board game, the Fizz-O-Mint Life Savers vehicle (c. 1930, Queensland) navigated the Candy Cane Forest, evaded the Molasses Swamp, and scaled Gum Drop Mountain.
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June 11, 2016 (permalink)

Before handy phone cameras, people had to sketch their surreptitious pictures.  From Punch, 1867.
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June 2, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the 1987 "This Is Your Brain on Drugs" anti-narcotics campaign, which showed an egg frying in a pan.  "Neuropatia" is by Fernando Calleja for Cosmópolis, 1929.
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Original Content Copyright © 2016 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.