August 6, 2012 marks the 138th birthday of the great cataloger of the strange and unusual Charles Fort. Writing in the early 20th century, Fort would pen a total of seven books in his lifetime. Two early works, X and Y, were sadly never published as the author burned them during one of his many bouts of depression. Another title, The Outcast Manufacturers, was a fiction book that enjoyed some moderate success. The works that have made him rather famous (or infamous depending upon who you ask) are The Book of the Damned, New Lands, Lo!, and Wild Talents. Through the use of the New York Public library, Fort set about to dig up the data he felt that science had too long neglected. Almost right from the beginning Fort laid out his intentions pretty clearly. In his first work, The Book of the Damned, Fort wrote:
“A Procession of the damned. By the damned, I mean the excluded. We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded”
Browsing through scientific journals and newspapers, Fort stumbled upon may curios items of ‘damned data’ that it seemed the scientific world wanted nothing to do with. Falls of fish and stones from the sky, Rains of blood and flesh, all in a time before man had achieved the power of flight. People disappearing and reappearing, poltergeist phenomena, the ancient astronaut theory. With few exceptions Fort wrote about all of what is considered paranormal phenomena. Fort didn’t just stick it to the scientific community (or the religious community for that matter) by regurgitating dry statistics. Instead Fort had many wild theories about the world that he may or may not have himself believed. He was, perhaps above all else, a humorist.
If you wish to get to know Fort better, and understand what it means to be a Fortean, I would highly recommend that you pick up Jim Steinmeyer’s excellent biography on Fort entitled Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural. Steinmeyer also wrote the edition of Charles Fort collection that I use called The Book of the Damned: The Collected Works of Charles Fort. I would say pick them both up and give them a read. I’ll leave you with one finally quote by Fort, as it’s easily one of my favorites:
“Witchcraft always has a hard time, until it becomes established and changes its name. We hear much of the conflict between science and religion, but our conflict is with both of these. Science and religion always have agreed in opposing and suppressing the various witchcrafts. Now that religion is inglorious, one of the most fantastic of transferences of worships is that of glorifying science, as a beneficent being. It is the attributing of all that is of development, or of possible betterment to science. But no scientist has ever upheld a new idea, without bringing upon himself abuse from other scientists. Science has done its utmost to prevent whatever science has done.”