From Edgar Allan Poe to Wordle – 3 Part Journey

PART ONE — Poe & A Bug

It’s not his most famous work. You may have never even heard of it. Published in 1843, it sits as just one in a collection of the great writer. During his day, it was one of his most popular works and it won an award of $100 – possibly the largest single amount paid to Poe in his lifetime. Not read as much today, Poe’s work The Gold Bug impacts us in so many ways. This story tells of a man bitten by a golden bug, thus the title, duh. When the man’s servant thinks his master is going mad, he calls a friend over for assistance.

Soon the bitten man and the friend, discover a secret message, using invisible ink and codes and letters, that leads to skull in a tree and eventually a hidden treasure buried by Captain Kidd, notorious pirate. This fiction detective story taps into a then popular hobby of cryptography – deciphering codes and secret messages.

Here … have a go at the code …


The story behind The Gold Bug, though interesting, is not the point today.  Let’s go to the next leg of our Journey

PART TWO — An Unemployed Architect

About a hundred years after the Poe’s work was published, Alfred Butts from Jackson Heights, Queens lost his job as an architect. He tried a few other ventures. Eventually he took a part-time job as a statistician. And, he decided to invent a game he could sell.  He got the idea from reading Poe’s work, The Golden Bug. Taking letters, codes, spelling, and statistics into account, it took him seven years to come up with his game. He sampled over 12,000 letters, 2,400 words and took into account a mathematical analysis of letter and word use in the New York Herald Tribune and the Saturday Evening Post. Interestingly, Butts did not like to spell.

He made tiles for letters, eventually added a board. Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley rejected his game, which he first called Lexico. So he made and sold the game himself.

Later, He began to work in cooperation with James Brunot, who expanded production … and renamed it … Scrabble. They lost money for the first few years. 

BUT … In 1952, in walks a Macy’s Store representative and ordered thousands and thousands of sets. Brunot couldn’t keep up with production. Expansion, Mass Production, Scrabble as the Christmas toy of the year, and more. The rest is history. 

Till today. Now the next leg of the journey.

PART THREE … Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

There have been plenty of people trying to modernize, add twists, digitize the original game. Especially now in the digital age. Games such as Paperback, Bananagrams, Spell Smashers, Words with Friends, Letterpress, and now Worldle have grabbed peoples attention.  

I haven’t gotten into Wordle yet, but according to my FB timeline – many of you have. But I do play the Scrabble app. I enjoy the original game, and I am grateful for the imagination and marketing of several people along the long journey of the game.

And in the end … we owe all of this to the warped thinking of a macabre author by the name of Edger Allan Poe.


Connecting this to my life journey. God created the Church (read Acts 1-2) and the original is wonderful, powerful, and life changing because of the wonderful, powerful, life changing God who protects, empowers, and provides along the Church’s journey. Many have tried to imitate it over the centuries. Some might modernize it, go digital with it, and even twist it. Getting more people involved and aware is great – possibly even noble (well, not the twisting part!) Yet, it is the original work of God that will last. And the key parts of the Church will never change.

The Mandate is still the same – Be His witness and make disciples.

The Message is the same – the Good News of Jesus Christ

And Man’s Need is still the same – Men need saving and the Church people need the Spirit’s presence and power.

Thank you Edgar Allan Poe for this reminder.

Interesting Scrabble Facts and History (much discovered from this website)


  • Three out of every five American households has a Scrabble game 
  • There are an estimated 1 million Scrabble tiles lost in the world — somewhere.
  • The North American record for high scoring tournament game is 803 points
  • Benjamin Woo discovered a way to earn 1782 points – the highest possible score — for OXYPHENBUTAZONE. He played it across the top of the board, hitting three Triple Word Score squares while making seven crosswords downward.
  • John Chew, co-president of the North American SCRABBLE Players Association (NASPA), got death threats when he removed the two-letter word ‘da’ from the Scrabble Dictionary
  • Richard Nixon regularly played Scrabble in the White House. Other aficionados included Queen Elizabeth, John Travolta, and Mel Gibson
  • Every hour, people start at least 30,000 Scrabble games





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