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, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, 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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July 18, 2019 (permalink)

We're delighted that J. Keith Vincent called our One-Letter Words: A Dictionary a "chrestomathy" at a symposium about the Japanese author Edogawa Ranpo and whether or not a person could craft an entire narrative out of a single letter of the alphabet.  "If Craig Conley could come up with thousands of meanings for the 26 letters of the alphabet, whos to say how many stories might not be condensed into any one of those letters?"  Here's how Vincent's paper begins:

I recently ran across a curious dictionary of nothing but one-letter words. The author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary spent fifteen years compiling 275 pages of definitions of words consisting of only one letter.  This is the dictionary, as one reviewer put it, for anyone who has forgotten that Z was the Roman letter for 2000.”  It also reminds us that Xhas no fewer than seventy meanings in addition to “10,including everything from wrong” (“batsuin Japanese as wellto the place where ones signature on a ballot should go, to a rating for an adult movie, a power of magnification and, of course, the symbol for a kiss.

I discovered this little alphabetical chrestomathy because its author, Craig Conley, cites as his inspiration a story by a detective novelist that I have written about and translated. Its hard to pinpoint exactly when I first got the idea to write a dictionary of one-letter words,Conley writes. But I remember once hearing about a bizarre Japanese crime novel from 1929, The Devil’s Apprentice by Shiro Hamao, and how the entire work consisted of a single letter. The single letter was obviously a written correspondence, but I initially envisioned a single letter of the alphabet. And I marveled at how bizarre indeed it would be to write a detective story that all boiled down to a solitary letter of the alphabet!

Hamaos story is indeed taken up by a single letter. It is written by a man in jail for murder, and addressed to his former lover, who is also the prosecutor trying his case, and whom the alleged murderer blames for leading him astray into homosexuality and other crimes. Conleys productive misinterpretation of the story as a novel consisting of a single letter” (一つとの文字) rather than a single letter” (一通の手紙) is a great example of what can be gained, rather than lost, in translation. The misunderstanding, based on single scrap of text without context, opens his mind to the signifying capacity of single letters and leads him to produce his dictionary of one-letter words, like some queer companion volume to George Perecs La Disparition, a detective novel that was famously written without ever using the letter e.

Might it be possible to tease a narrative out of just one letter? A single characterone would have—protagonist perhaps. If not a majuscule, a miniscule character, one who could at least play a minor supporting role in a drama to which our imagination might supply the rest. Conley continues, I imagined some sort of gritty retelling of Nathaniel Hawthornes novel The Scarlet Letter, where a bloody letter A serves as the only scrap of evidence to unravel a seedy tale of adultery, heartbreak, and murder.If Craig Conley could come up with thousands of meanings for the 26 letters of the alphabet, whos to say how many stories might not be condensed into any one of those letters?

It was with such silly thoughts in my mind that I happened across a story by Hamao Shirō’s good friend Edogawa Ranpo. The story is titled Monogram” (モノグラム) and Ranpo wrote it in 1926. As the title suggests, Monogramis a story about letters in their singularity. And although the story is written using many more than one letter, a close reading of Ranpos text shows that it has quite a lot to say about how one might, or might not, spin a tale out of a single letter.” ...

[Link to pdf.]

#one-letter words
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June 24, 2019 (permalink)

When it comes to recursive fractal patterns that occur on higher dimensions, we're delighted that our Magic Words: A Dictionary is referenced.
#fractal #abacaba
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May 27, 2019 (permalink)

Thanks to Feminine-Faced-Salamander over at Tumblr for calling our "Separated At Birth?" category "my absolute favorite series" of web posts.  "What a collection.  It's such a fun game."
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May 23, 2019 (permalink)

Of Drinking in Remembrance of the Dead by Peter Browne, 1713.  See also this collection of 112 cocktail recipes to be drunk in remembrance of the dead: Of Drinking in Remembrance of the Dead.
#vintage book #a toast #remembrance
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May 13, 2019 (permalink)

We're delighted that Holy Mountaineering recognized us as the living corpse that we are:
The tumblr home of Professor Oddfellow aka author Craig Conley is stacked up with images from old newspaper to old yearbooks to just who knows what the hell type of images. If not “occult” per se, then definitely esoteric, Prof. Oddfellow is almost certainly a vampire (not an insult from where I’m sitting) who has accumulated a horde of knowledge he is kind enough to share with mortals. Like Prometheus, but fun.
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May 5, 2019 (permalink)

We're thankful for this 5-star review of the One-Letter Words Quiz Deck over at Amazon:
"Craig Conley is a genius and these are wonderful. Learning these pieces of knowledge will make you more interesting at parties and attractive."

#one-letter words
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May 4, 2019 (permalink)

Previously, while staying in a Los Angeles hotel casita, we were surprised to find our dictionary of one-letter words sitting atop a Red Letter Teacher's Edition Bible.  
(Is it an ironic pairing of a best-seller with a non-starter?  Or is it a visual joke, like "Alpha[bet] and Omega?)  We recall Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair (with its charming, time-bending solution to the true authorship of the Shakespeare plays) in which a motel drawer features a Gideon Bible, the teachings of Buddha, Thoughts Of St. Zvlkxand the complete works of the Bard (among other things).
#bible #dictionary #one-letter words #alpha and omega #ironic pairing
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April 29, 2019 (permalink)

We've always imagined it floating in a cloud of incense: our quiz deck of one-letter words from Pomegranate.  The dream is finally a reality, as the Tarotist and all-around wizard Holy Mountaineering unboxed the deck in his hallowed studio.  Delighted!
#one-letter words
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April 25, 2019 (permalink)

We're delighted that Dr. Rob Skinner, author of The Foundations of Anti-Apartheid, referred to us as "the imp of the internet" and tweeted a link to our curation of vintage imp imagery.
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April 9, 2019 (permalink)

We're honored by this review of our restoriation of a bizarre, rare book nearly completely lost to a fire, The Care & Feeding of a Spirit Board:

"Sometimes the most interesting bits of knowledge turn up in the places you least expect them to. Unless you are reading Professor Oddfellow. With an impish delight that belies a serious tone, Oddfellow always manages to amuse while imparting forgotten wisdom.  The Care & Feeding of a Spirit Board is a smart and delightful education." —Adam McFarland

Pictured is a tip from the book on how to use “spiritum sylvestre” to relax the dualistic tendencies of a ouija board.

#seance #ouija #spirit board #spiritum sylvestre #wood spirit
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April 6, 2019 (permalink)

It's been said that avid readers always have books at their fingertips, but the real die-hards have books on their fingertips.  Our champion on the other side of the world just snagged five of our publications.  That one pictured at the bottom left is extraordinarily rare, and we frankly can't imaging how he got it: Armchair Time Travel: How to Alter History, Today.  He also got The Care & Feeding of a Spirit BoardA Snowball's Chance in Hell, If a Chessman Were a Word: A Chess-Calvino Dictionary, and the little-known Six Degrees of Jubilation (a.k.a. Posted Chestnuts).

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February 14, 2019 (permalink)

"Prof Oddfellow always writes on a different creative level - and Astragalomancy does not disappoint. In reading between the lines you will discover far more than the subject too - a wonderful, thought-provoking and creative catalyst." Steve Drury, author of Key Mysteries
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February 6, 2019 (permalink)

The caption reads, "Isn't it wonderful?  I can imagine the end of the world like that!"  From The Judge, 1922.
#vintage illustration #end of the world #fireworks
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January 5, 2019 (permalink)

We're honored by this review of The Pencil Witch:
"Five stars.  Like the artwork, Professor Oddfellow's text is intricate and filled with beautiful mysteries un-raveled only through extended and repeat visits. If Dumbledore and the faculty of Hogwarts were to write a textbook it would something like this." —Cyril Maypencil witch
#magick #witchcraft #occult #esoteric #hogwarts #practical magic
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December 31, 2018 (permalink)

Thanks to Adam McFarland who said of our Seance Parlor Feng Shui project:
"The beauty of this book is that it can give you an understanding that is applied to all aspects of life. Everything from understanding the psychology behind the layout of the grocery store, to the proper placement of the saw in your workshop so that you aren’t conjuring demons every time you cut timber. (That happened to m... a friend of mine.)"

#seance parlor #feng shui
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December 28, 2018 (permalink)

Thanks to White Ant Crawls for saying: "Your wonderland of images is always a constant source of inspiration, amusement, and delight.  Keep up the good work. I appreciate all the time and care you put into curating."
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December 14, 2018 (permalink)

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December 4, 2018 (permalink)

We're honored that Holy Mountaineer praises us as having "the best content on the web" and encourages everyone to "please for the love of everything sacred and profane go look at [Prof. Oddfellow's] YouTube."  In Holy Mountaineer's honor, here's a silhouetted processional up the holy mountain to the Sun, from Punch, 1842.

A silhouetted processional up the holy mountain to the Sun, from Punch, 1842.
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October 26, 2018 (permalink)

From Jugend, 1913.
If you aspire to light up a room, please check out my YouTube channel and subscribe!
#vintage illustration #candles #chandelier #circle of light #art
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October 10, 2018 (permalink)

We're delighted to hear this early reaction to our book of 112 spooky drink recipes, Of Drinking in Remembrance of the Dead.  Even better, a copy of our book was gifted to Chicago's Club Lucky by a time traveler!
#witchcraft #occult #book lover #cocktails
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