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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Restoring the Lost Sense

March 23, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1887 issue of Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours magazine.  The caption reads: "Now a weird sight presented itself."

An illustration from an 1879 issue of Arthur's Home magazine.

March 22, 2014 (permalink)

[For Clint Marsh.]  Telling the time by puffing on a dandelion from Arthur's Home Magazine (1863).  The caption reads: "The Dandelion Clock."

March 19, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1887 issue of Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours magazine.

"'Tell me,' she said, imploringly; 'I can bear anything but suspense.'" (The Quiver, 1886.)

She's right!  "Suspense kills like nothing else.  Suspense is a slow poison that eats into your system and gradually erodes your body, mind, heart and soul" (N. Sampath Kumar, Love on Velocity Express, 2010).

March 18, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1885 issue of Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours magazine.  The caption reads: "Everything about her seemed to swing into space."

Top illustration: "Please turn you head away.  Don't look—don't!" (The Quiver, 1886).
Bottom illustration: "The rejected alms." (The Letters of Charles Dickens, 1893.)

We find an explanation in Frank Crane's Just Human (1915): "Most so-called charity is evil.  It is bad both ways.  It deceives the giver by a false salve to his conscience. ... The gift is also a curse to the recipient.  It destroys self-respect. Both takers and givers of charity are debased."


March 17, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from The Sociable Ghost by Olive Harper (1903).  The caption reads: "With a smile of ineffable sweetness she vanished."

March 16, 2014 (permalink)

"Forget it, forget it!": an illustration from The Sociable Ghost by Olive Harper (1903).

March 15, 2014 (permalink)

Conjuring the spirit of devolution: an illustration from a 1907 issue of Punch magazine.

March 14, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1867 issue of Punch magazine.

March 13, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1897 issue of Century Illustrated magazine.  The caption reads: "Spirit Photograph taken by the author. Yours in magic and mystery, Henry Ridgely Evans."

"The red letters of the calendar seemed to glow before Lottie's eyes" (The Quiver, 1886).

But how?  We explained all a few years ago in this helpful diagram.

Why is this judge condemning a chair to "the chair" (as it were)?  Well, illegal furniture can include "settees, sofas, chairs and beds" (Splam! Successful Property Letting and Management, 2008).  Our illustration appears in The Windsor Magazine, 1908.

March 12, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from The Deer Smellers of Haunted Mountain by John J. Meyer (1921). The caption reads: "Hunting for apartments and vacant perfect worlds in the space deeps of the universe."

Suydamandgomorrah notes: "I've heard the space deeps of the universe are the new Bushwick."

March 11, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from Saturday Magazine (1837).  The caption reads: "Satan playing at chess with man, for his soul."

March 9, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1877 issue of Little Wide Awake magazine.

March 7, 2014 (permalink)

A phrenology patient is inspired to check for bumps on his dog's head in this illustration from Arthur's Home Magazine, 1861.  The subspecialty of veterinary phrenology was rare but not unknown.  The strange history of an elephant phrenology is told in Jan Bondeson's The Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History.

An illustration from a 1917 issue of Saturday Evening Post magazine.  The caption reads: "Wilberforce Shadd thrilled at the touch of the magic paper."

March 2, 2014 (permalink)

"He sat down, with the feeling of having digged [sic] a pit for another and fallen into it himself."  This we find in The Lady's Realm, 1899.


"As anyone who's ever been to a New York party knows, scoring a comfortable seat is about as easy as landing the apartment in the first place." —New York Magazine, July 14, 1997

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