A Year: Day to Day Men: 6th of August

A Bed of Flowers

August 6, 1874 was the birthdate of American writer and researcher, Charles Hoy Fort.

During 1915, Charles Fort, an experienced journalist with wit and a contrarian nature,  began to write two books, titled “X” and “Y”, the first dealing with the idea that beings on Mars were controlling events on Earth, and the second with the postulation of a sinister civilization in existence at the South Pole. These books caught the attention of writer Theodore Dreiser who attempted to get them published, but to no avail.

Discouraged by this failure, Charles Fort burnt the manuscripts, but was soon renewed to begin work on the book that would change the course of his life, the 1919 “The Book of the Damned”, which Dreiser helped to get published. The title referred to “damned” data that Fort collected, phenomena for which science could not account and that was thus rejected or ignored.

For more than thirty years, Charles Fort visited libraries in New York City and London, assiduously reading scientific journals, newspapers, and magazines, collecting notes on phenomena that were not explained well by the accepted theories and beliefs of the time. He marveled that seemingly unrelated bits of information were, in fact, related. The notes were kept on cards and scraps of paper in shoeboxes, in a cramped shorthand of Fort’s own invention.

From this research, Charles Fort wrote four books. These are: “The Book of the Damned” published in 1919; the 1923 “New Lands”, a theory on the Super-Sargasso Sea: “Lo!“ published in 1931 dealing with astronomy and teleportation;  and the 1932 “Wild Talents” describing Fort’s new theory of psychic and mental powers.

Examples of the odd phenomena in Charles Fort’s books include many occurrences of the sort variously referred to as occult and paranormal. Reported events include: teleportation; the falling of frogs and fishes from the sky; spontaneous human combustion; ball lightning; levitation; unexplained disappearances; and giant wheels of light in the ocean, among others. His books offered many reports of out-of-place objects found in unlikely locations and out of their place in time. He was an early proponent of extraterrestrial spacecraft and the first to explain human appearances and disappearances by the hypothesis of alien abduction.

Suffering from poor health and falling eyesight in the early 1930s , Charles Fort was pleasantly surprised to find himself the subject of a cult following. The Fortean Society was initiated at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel in New York City on January 26, 1931 by some of Fort’s friends, many who were also writers. Fort rejected the official society but met informally with many members. Distrusting doctors, Fort did not seek medical assistance for his worsening health. After he collapsed on May 3rd of 1932, he was rushed to the Royal Hospital in the Bronx, dying only hours afterward, most likely from untreated leukemia. He was interred in the family plot in Albany, New York. More than 60,000 of his handwritten notes are in the New York Public Library.

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