APPENDIX TZADDI: 23 SKIDOO
Linguists and etymologists have had much exercise for their not-inconsiderable imaginations in attempting to account for this expression. Skidoo has been traced back to the older skedaddle, and thence to the Greek skedannumi, "to disperse hurriedly." The 23, naturally, has caused even more creative efforts by these gentry, since they are unaware of the secret teachings of Magick. One theorist, noting that Sidney Carton in Dickens' Tale of Two Cities is the twenty-third man guillotined in the final scene,* guessed that those playgoers who were eager to get out of the theater before the crowd counted off the executions and skidoo'd toward the exits numbered 23. Another eminent scholar assumes that the expression has something to do with men hanging around the old Flatiron Building on Twenty-third Street in New York City- a notoriously windy corner- to watch ladies' skirts raised by the breeze; when a cop came, they would skidoo. Others have mused inconclusively about the early telegraph operator's signal of 23, which means (roughly) "stop transmitting," "clear the line," or, to be crude, "shut up," but nobody claims to know how telegraphers picked 23 to have this meaning.
* A literary reference which Simon Moon, with his modernistic bias, overlooked.
The mystery's real origin is a closely guarded secret of the Justified Ancients of Mummu, which Simon had not attained the rank to learn. Dillinger, however, had attained this rank, and uses the formula quite correctly in the bank robbery scene in the Third Trip. It was printed by "Prater Perdurabo" (Aleister Crowley) in The Book of Lies (privately published, 1915; republished by Samuel Weiser Inc., New York, 1970). The text of the spell makes up the totality of Chapter 23 in that curious little book; and it reads: