23 Skidoo: The Occult Topography of Manhattan
6341. Then was it that watertight door, which you see on the plan is in the alleyway, which is in front of your room?
- I am not sure, but I think it is No. 23 door.
6342. I do not know their numbers, but was it the one just forward of your room?
- Yes, in the alleyway.
6343. And you actually saw them doing that?
- Yes, they were working on it.
6344. You are quite right; it is No. 23 door?
- We used to call it the skidoo door, on account of the number. That is how I remember the number.
6345. (The Commissioner.) I do not understand that?
- It is an American joke.
6346. Will you explain it?
- I could not explain it, my Lord.
6347. (The Solicitor-General.) At any rate, it connects No. 23 with something about skidoo?
-(From the transcript of the Titanic Inquiry).
"Perhaps the first truly national fad expression and one of the most popular fad expressions to appear in the U.S"
“23 skidoo combines two earlier expressions, "twenty-three" (1899) and "skidoo" (1901), both of which, independently and separately, referred to leaving, being kicked out, or the end of something. "23 skidoo" quickly became a popular catchphrase after its appearance in early 1906.”
23 Skidoo is quite possibly one of the earliest national memes, a cultural gene spreading from person to person, taking on a life of its own, in such a virulent manner that its origins were completely occluded even during its heyday. Due to my own numerological fascination with the number 23, I recently began to explore some of the strange coincidences surrounding the phrase, and the events in which it seems to make an appearance. And once again, I have found myself in a bizarre matrix of synchronicity and impossible chance. Like a key, this magic incantation opened up a phantom topography underlying Manhattan, an occult constellation, that I can still hardly believe myself.
I am a collector of coincidence. And even if you disagree with my interpretation of these coincidences, at the very least you will learn something.
(I would like to thank both my friends Unconcious Abyss and Sha Rokos Basilisk for helping with this).
Before we begin, if you haven’t already, read my Witch House article, to understand my perspective on magic as theater (or vice versa).
This exploration began on a whim. I came across a term I had come across before, 23 skidoo. I have always had a deep interest in the occult numerology behind the number 23, and so when I discovered that 23 Skidoo was "perhaps the first truly national fad expression and one of the most popular fad expressions to appear in the US” I had a strong suspicion there was something to be found there. I quickly discovered that I was not the only one who sensed an occult potentiality imbued in the phrase. Mr Aleister Crowley, the most infamous occultist of the 20th century, also took such an interest. Here is Chapter 23 of Crowley’s “The Book of Lies.”
Curious. Here is Crowley’s commentary on the chapter:
You will refer back to this passage later. But it is worth pointing out that Crowley is hinting at something sexual here, and a collage of occult meaning and symbolism.
I began to do a little more research and found one of the possible explanations of the phrase 23 Skidoo, originates from the flatiron building in New York City.
The most popular theory, however, has its roots in the heart of the Flatiron district, at the intersection of Fifth Avenue, Broadway and – naturally – 23rd Street.
The relative positions of those streets, the adjacent expanse of Madison Square Park and the triangular shape of the Flatiron Building when it was completed in 1902 all had the effect of increasing the velocity of winds that came swirling through the neighborhood. Otherwise gentle breezes gathered strength and often wreaked havoc with the long dresses that were then fashionable, lifting skirts well above a lady’s shoetops. At a time when even “a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking,” the possibility of a peek provided great sport for local idlers, wiseacres and even precocious young lads who should have been averting their eyes instead of whooping with glee when an ankle flashed into view. The police, or Roundsmen as they were then known, combined gallantry with crowd control and were said to disperse the Peeping Toms by giving them “the 23 skidoo.”
The “23” part of that theory is self-evident (23rd Street), while “skidoo” is likely a derivative of “skedaddle,” a verb implying a very quick departure, and the sooner the better.
Now look at a postcard from the era:
So, this building is constructed which quite literally shifts the flows of energy in the city, the weather patterns in the area (magical undertones should be obvious), and by uplifting women's skirts engenders a sexual undercurrent to the space. Associating the phrase and the location with an explicitly sexual charge to all those who use it. But even more, it seems the building directly led to a death. A strong gust of wind, produced by the flatiron’s shape, threw a delivery boy from his bicycle in front of a moving car… (link).
I could now see why Crowley took an interest in the phrase, and anyone with even the slightest understanding of this stuff should be able to see why as well. And what’s more, the flatiron building from the ground appears explicitly phallic, resembling an obelisk, which is made quite clear in the first postcard. Crowley’s understanding of the occult was inherently sexual, sex magic was in his mind the highest form of magical operation, and so it is no wonder this particular phrase resonated with him. In his commentary on Chapter 23, he makes the phallic element very clear, and states that OUT is practically identical to the formula IAO, “the principal and most characteristic formula of Osiris.” And of course, he associates it with the 5th card of the tarot, the Hierophant, and also the pentagram.
So I decided to look into the flatiron building itself. And that’s when I realized the building was designed by our dear old friend Daniel Burnham. Burnham, was one of the lead organizers of the 1893 Chicago World Fair and the man who designed the old Masonic Temple building in Chicago. This should be throwing up red flags already.
The building was originally called the “Fuller Building,” as it was commissioned to serve as the Fuller company’s headquarters. The company was of course named after its founder, George A Fuller. Here is an interesting article detailing his funeral.
What mysteries does this odd building hold? Well, from simply the address alone we are met with many Crowleyian coincidences.
The flat iron buildings’ front point is at the intersection of 23rd Street and 5th Avenue. (In his commentary of 23 Skidoo he associates it with the 5th card of the tarot). The address of the building is 175 5th Avenue. 175 is another number important to Crowley, as its in his Liber 175 where he describes the process of uniting oneself to a deity.
“This is the book of Uniting [Oneself] to a particular Deity by devotion,” reiterates Crowley in Liber 175 itself. “Concerning the ceremonies… prepare a powerful Invocation of the particular Deity… let it be known that this method is adaptable to the necessities of all. … let him take anything soever, and consecrate it … let him consecrate each thing that he useth to the service of that particular Deity.” Meaning: This is a ceremonial invocation (the act of invoking or calling upon a deity, spirit, etc., for aid, protection, inspiration, or the like).
Behind the building, is 22nd street, and the building has exactly 22 floors. 22 of course is the number of Tarot cards in the Major Arcana, and 22 paths in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.
Also, the other street intersecting with the building is Broadway. “The way out is the way Get OUT.”
Another interesting point to consider. “Skiddoo” in ordinal gematria produces a value of 77, one of the most magically charged numbers in occultism. And 23 + 77 = 100, giving 23 Skiddoo a sense of even perfection.
At this point, you may be thinking, “What the hell is Pope Head getting at here?” Indeed, right now this is all just a tenuous coincidence. But stating this was necessary before dropping a bombshell that transcends all possible coincidence.
As I was researching this building, I stumbled upon a fact that astounded me.
At the top of the building are two twin statues, above Solomonic-looking pillars.
So, we have our ominous terracotta cherubim serving as the genii loci, the “guardian spirits” of the building. The address is 175 5th Avenue, and Liber 175 was about “Uniting [Oneself] to a particular Deity by devotion.” But sometime in the 80s, the statues were taken down. And here, my friends, is where it all gets strange. I stumbled upon the day in which new twin balustrades and statues were erected upon the flatiron building.
On September 11, a day charged with ritual significance, twin buildings are destroyed in lower Manhattan, while two new pillars go up, and two twin guardian spirits are erected above the intersection of 23rd and 5th.