Lemony Snicket Wiki
Lemony Snicket Wiki

The Volunteer Fire Department (V.F.D.) utilizes several codes for communication between Volunteers. After the schism, however, both sides continued to use the same codes, so it is nearly (yet not entirely) impossible, to tell if the person using the code is on the fire-fighting or the fire-starting side.

Secret Codes


It is quite common among V.F.D. Volunteers to use special names for items used by the organization, in order to alert other Volunteers of their allegiance or to signify that something is important to the organization. These names are generally three words long, and will form the initialism "V.F.D." Some of these names have, however, proven to be red herring, such as Very Fancy Doilies, the Village of Fowl Devotees, and the Volunteers Fighting Disease.

Note: For a complete list of the uses of the initialism "V.F.D.," see the List of VFDs.


Main article: Anagram

An anagram is a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. Throughout the series, anagrams are often used by volunteers like Lemony Snicket and Beatrice and by fire-starters such as Count Olaf, for purposes such as hiding identities and sending coded messages. For example, "Count Olaf" can become "Al Funcoot" or "Flacutono", and "Lemony Snicket" can become "Loney M. Setnick" or "My Silence Knot".

For a complete list of anagrams used in the series, see Anagram.

Librarian Code

Main article: Librarian Code

This code should be used when a volunteer is approached by an old man with neatly trimmed gray hair and a mustache that turns up at the ends, who is wearing a flowered shirt, striped tie, tweed coat, plaid slacks with a sharp crease, and shined shoes. The dapper man will ask the volunteer, "Well, young lady, have you been good to your mother?" meaning, "I have a message for you." If the volunteer replies, "The question is, has she been good to me?", the librarian will deliver the message.

The librarian will always refer to the receiver as "young lady", even if the volunteer is neither female nor young.[1]

Mamba du Mal Snake Code

Main article: Mamba du Mal Snake code

This code is used by both Mamba du Mal Snakes and crickets trained by V.F.D. An excerpt from The Mamba du Mal: A Snake That Will Never Kill Me by Tony "Mommy" Eggmonteror gives the following information:

More pleasant to contemplate, however, are the snake's excellent communication skills. Certain specimens of the Mamba du Mal have been trained to recite certain phrases in an encoded form of English so they might be employed as guardians of crucial headquarters. A mamba du mal hissing the phrase "Summer is" for instance, is communicating a coded version of the phrase "Enemies are nearby." The hissed phrase "over and gone" translates to "probably in disguise," and the mamba has been known to hiss the word "dying" as a code for "Beware of arson." The only other creature with communication skills sufficient to convey these messages is the common grass cricket.[1]

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography contains the following excerpt from Charlotte's Web:

The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad, monotonous song. "Summer is over and gone," they sang. "Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying."
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year–the days when summer is changing into fall–the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.

If, in fact, these crickets were speaking in code, they would have been attempting to relate the message "Enemies are nearby, probably in disguise. Enemies are nearby; beware of arson."

Mozart's 14th Symphony

Main article: Mozart's 14th Symphony

This song, when whistled, is said to be a coded song. It is required for someone to be able to whistle it for the coded play, The World Is Quiet Here.


There are two known codes used during recruitment. The first, "If there's nothing out there, then what was that noise?" is generally spoken by a soon-to-be Volunteer on the night of his or her recruitment. The second occurs when a taxi driver attempts to show his passenger a photograph of a baby.

Sebald Code

Main article: Sebald Code

The Sebald Code is a code created by Gustav Sebald. It is known to have been used in Sebald's movie script for Zombies in the Snow, but it is also widely used in letters between volunteers.

The beginning of a coded passage is signaled by the ringing, or mention of the ringing, of a bell. The first word to come after this signal is the first word of the coded message. Every eleventh word after this first word is another part of the coded message, making it so that ten uncoded words fall between every coded word. This pattern continues until the first bell stops ringing, a second bell rings or a bell's ringing is again mentioned.[1]

Stained maps

This code is used by Volunteers to indicate an important location on a map without outright stating that said location is important. Such a location is denoted by a dark stain on the map in the place where it is located. This code is first seen on one of the maps in Olivia Caliban's fortune-telling tent at Caligari Carnival, wherein the stain indicated the location of the V.F.D. Headquarters.

Verbal Fridge Dialogue

Main article: Verbal Fridge Dialogue

Verbal Fridge Dialogue is a code used by V.F.D. Volunteers to send messages to other Volunteers in the event of a fire. What follows is an official explanation of the use of this code. Any words in brackets are assumed.[2]

In the e[vent of a con]flagration resulting in the destruction of a sanc[tuary, volun]teers should avail themselves of Verbal Fri[dge] Dialogue, which is concealed accordingly.
Verbal Fridge Dialogue is an emergency communication system that avails itself of the more esoteric products in a refrigerator. Volunteers will know such a code is being used by the presence of very fr[esh dill.] The receiver of the message should find his or her initials, as noted by one of our poet volunteers, as follows:
The darkest of the jams three,
contains within the addressee.
If necessary, the dialogue uses a cured, fruit-based calendar for days of the week in order to announce a gathering. Sunday is represented by a lone [olive. Saturday is represented by seven olives.] Any spice-based condiment should have a coded label referring volunteers to encoded poems.

Vernacularly Fastened Door

Main article: Vernacularly Fastened Door

A Vernacularly Fastened Door is a device used by the V.F.D. to lock a door. The door can only be opened by entering the correct set of words into the device.[2] These words are often the answers to a series of questions determined and shared in advance.[3]

Verse Fluctuation Declaration

Main article: Verse Fluctuation Declaration

Verse Fluctuation Declaration is a code used by changing some of the words in a work of verse. The volunteer reading it will notice the mistakes and find the message. Versed Furtive Disclosure, a collection of poems found by Klaus in the Gorgonian Grotto, gives the following example of the code:

If a volunteer used the name of the poem "My Last Duchess," by Robert Browning in a coded communication, the title might instead be "My Last Wife," by the poet "Robert Bowning" instead of Robert Browning. Filling in the mistakes would spell out "Duchess R".

This code was used later in The Grim Grotto, in a Volunteer Factual Dispatch sent to the Queequeg by Quigley Quagmire. He used the sixth stanza from "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll (in Through the Looking-Glass), and one stanza from T. S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land".[4] His message follows:

Coded Versions:
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The walrus did beseech
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the movie theater."
At the pink hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a pony throbbing party...
Actual Versions:
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The walrus did beseech
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach."
At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting...
Briny Beach
violet taxi waiting

The World is Quiet Here

"The world is quiet here" is the proper response of a Volunteer when they are approached by someone who says, "I didn't realize this was a sad occasion."[1] Hal tried to use this code when he talked to Mr. Remora at the Hotel Denouement.[3] It is also the V.F.D. motto, and represents how the diligent volunteers must use the code.

This phrase is the V.F.D. motto and can be seen on the archway above the entrance to the V.F.D. Library at the Headquarters in the Mortmain Mountains.[2] It is also the password to enter the Queequeg, a submarine owned by Captain Widdershins.[4]

This phrase was used for the title of a V.F.D play, which had coded parts, but was changed to One Last Warning to Those Who Try to Stand in My Way by Count Olaf, or "Al Funcoot".

Every Single Other Last Word

In File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents a simple code is mentioned: "eliminating every other word from a speech in a play results in a secret message". An example is given from Mother of Icarus with the decoding stating "there is nothing to report at this time stop looking for a message". It is not stated if this is a V.F.D. code or one used by some other organization.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 PROSE: Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 PROSE: The Slippery Slope
  3. 3.0 3.1 PROSE: The Penultimate Peril
  4. 4.0 4.1 PROSE: The Grim Grotto
  5. "Nervous Wreck" alternate conclusion found in physical book version of File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents – not included in ebooks or audiobook