Saturday, March 19, 2011

Meet Charles Fort

Oftentimes I will use the word "Fortean" to describe things such as UFOs, cryptids, ghosts, or the other various and sundry phenomena that fall loosely into the category known as "the paranormal."  I realized last night that a few of you might not know what "Fortean" means.  Fear not.  I'll explain.

Charles Fort was an American writer in the early 20th Century.  He spent an inordinate amount of time in the New York City library sifting through scientific journals, searching for odd occurrences that could not be explained by conventional science.  My kind of guy.  In 1919 he published the book that he would become best known for, The Book of the Damned.  What Fort meant by "damned" was the reaction to the stories he relates.  Subjects such as disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, the "Devil's Footprints" case in England of 1855, and early accounts of UFOs...all of them extenuated and thereby damned by the scientific establishment.

Fort was not only ahead of his time in terms of the phenomena he researched, but in his overall philosophy regarding it.  Here are a few of his frequently maintained points:

-The boundaries between science and so-called pseudoscience are fuzzy.
-Everyone, even scientists, are prone to irrational thinking at times.
-Facts are objective, the interpretation of them is subjective.
-Society decides what research is "acceptable" or "damned" (intellectual correctness, anyone?)
-There can be more than one theory that explains a given data set.

A modest cult following began to form around the writings of Charles Fort.  Sadly, he did not live to see his own legacy matriculate.  He died at age 57.  Ever since, subject matters that are repelled by mainstream thinking have been called "Fortean."  Those who pursue said research are called "Forteans."  Fort had a great influence on paranormal investigators for sure, but he also had a notable affect on fiction writers such as Philip K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson.  Not too shabby for a "crank" as the critics called him.

Every field of study needs its maverick, its brave pioneer.  Charles Fort is such a man for paranormal studies.  He passionately delved into bizarre topics when all logic would dictate otherwise.  He deliberately chose "the road not taken," selecting a life of hardship by attempting to publish and sell books on subjects that were sure to bring him ridicule and scorn.  Yet these rejected texts became cornerstones for future research.  Now, anyone who watches the skies for UFOs or combs the Northwest for undiscovered primates owes a debt to Charles Fort. 

In heavier news, Operation Odyssey Dawn is now underway in the skies over Libya. 
Read all about it.

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1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, Ghost Dogg said: "Thanks. Had no idea what "Fortean" was. Now I do."


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