Born On This Day: Charles Fort

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I believe nothing of my own that I have ever written.
–Charles Fort

Charles Fort (1874-1932) was a writer and researcher whose works on anomalous phenomena was highly influential not only on future generations of investigators but pop-culture as well.

Fort spent his life digging through stacks of books, amassing piles of newspaper clippings, and cataloging all manner of recorded unexplained events in human history—driven by the belief that scientists and other authorities wanted to hide and blot out the existence of these uncanny occurrences that they failed to explain.

As he wrote in The Book of The Damned (1919), probably his most famous work:

A procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.
Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You’ll read them — or they’ll march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten.

The Book Of The Damnedwhich you can read here, if you’re curious—is both a literal catalogue of various weird and unexplained occurrences (of the “rain of animals,” mysterious disappearances, and UFO variety) and a wry commentary on/critique of the notion of “objective science.”

But the skepticism he showed towards the “approved” findings of the scientific luminaries of his day he also applied to himself, insisting that he “believed nothing.” From his 1931 book Lo!:

I believe nothing. I have shut myself away from the rocks and wisdoms of ages, and from the so-called great teachers of all time, and perhaps because of that isolation I am given to bizarre hospitalities. I shut the front door upon Christ and Einstein, and at the back door hold out a welcoming hand to little frogs and periwinkles. I believe nothing of my own that I have ever written. I cannot accept that the products of minds are subject-matter for beliefs. But I accept, with reservations that give me freedom to ridicule the statement at any other time, that showers of an edible substance that has not been traced to an origin upon this earth, have fallen from the sky, in Asia Minor.

And I guess this might be a point about Fort and his work that has sometimes been misunderstood. He didn’t just believe “everything,” this cliche of the wild-eyed paranormal/UFO investigator. But he did note the tendency to “erase” bits of science and history that did not fit into neat little boxes, in the attempt to preserve certain theories and worldviews.

Charles Fort put a spotlight on these “inconvenient” anomalies, but left the interpretation of such up to the reader—with the caveat that it might be impossible to ever find a singular, irrevocable Truth.

Fort’s work is continued today by countless researchers, The Fortean Society created in his honor, and even in the guise of various characters in science-fiction who doggedly and obsessively “chase” the paranormal. If you are not familiar with his work and his legacy, now might be a good time to start.

More to read about on Butterfly Language:
The One Where Philip K. Dick Publicly Announced The Existence Of The Matrix
On This Day The World Didn’t End: The Harold Camping Story
Why I Write About The Future