Perhaps most everyone listening to this show is familiar with the term "Fortean," meaning something related to the paranormal, the supernatural, or just generally strange phenomena. But where did that term come from? How did "Forteana" come to describe many of the topics we cover on the podcast? We owe that cognomen and a good deal of our inspiration for our reportage to the work of one man, Charles Hoy Fort. Fort (b. August 6, 1874 - d. May 3, 1932) was a journalist, author, and researcher best known for his collection of accounts of extraordinary incidents and bizarre phenomena. These reports and Fort's commentaries and speculations on them mostly ended up in four books: The Book of the Damned
(1919), New Lands
(1931), and Wild Talents
(1932). Within these volumes of nonfiction are found testimonies of rains of meat, frogs, blood, manna, black rain, and unbelievably large stones, poltergeists and spontaneous human combustion, vampires, animal mutilations, UFOs, and alien abductions – anomalies we're familiar with nowadays. Fort is also widely credited for coining the term "teleportation." However, there were likely no other compilations of these incredible tales in Fort's time or before, aside from local newspaper reports. For that reason alone, those of us who are fascinated by such subjects owe him a debt of gratitude. For over 30 years, Fort pored over magazines, books, newspapers, and scientific journals in New York and London libraries and had amassed thousands of notes on odd occurrences. By his own account, Fort would become discouraged by the futility of his endeavors and purpose and claimed to have tossed into the wind around 48,000 notes once while sitting on a park bench at The Cloisters in New York City. Yet his defiance at the dismissal or ridicule from contemporary scientists, or the mystification by religious thinking about these happenings, kept him working until the end. Fort's theories about the causes of such impossibilities would evolve or vacillate throughout his oeuvre, sometimes even within the same book. Whether speculating that the paranormal is the prank of some kind of "Cosmic Joker," to these aberrations being the vestigial byproducts of extraordinary primordial human survival skills, Fort remained compelled by their occurrences regardless. As suggested by the title, The Book of the Damned
, Fort postulated that the facts of these cases were "damned" to be excluded by science. Yet no amount of scoffing from anyone would keep the data from these baffling events from proceeding – "they'll march" on, and so did Charles Hoy Fort. We're glad that they, and he, did.
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