Wild Talents

Wild Talents
Catalog # SKU1699
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Charles Fort


Wild Talents

Large Print Edition

Charles Fort

Charles Fort was a crank in the best sense of the word. Lovecraft and the X-files can't begin to compete with the spooky stuff he uncovered. In the early twentieth century he put together great quantities of exhaustively documented 'puzzling evidence' (in the words of David Byrne), data which science is unable or unwilling to explain. Forts' books gave me nightmares when I read them when I was seven. Strange items drop from the sky, bizarre artifacts turn up in unexpected places, stars violate the laws of astronomy, giant clouds blot out the moon and the sun trembles in the sky. Is the world inside out? Is it flat? Or maybe shaped like a giant spindle?

What does it all mean? He drops cryptic, breathless hints such as "I think we're property." and "I think that we're fished for. It may be that we're highly esteemed by super-epicures somewhere." Whatever you think about this information, you will at some point while reading Forts' books feel like the foundations of your reality are slipping slightly to the south...

Consider yourself warned!


YOU KNOW, I can only surmise about this -- but John Henry Sanders, of 75 Colville Street, Derby, England, was the proprietor of a fish store, and I think that it was a small business. His wife helped. When I read of helpful wives, I take it that that means that husbands haven't large businesses. If Mrs. Sanders went about, shedding scales in her intercourses, I deduce that theirs wasn't much of a fish business.

Upon the evening of March 4th, 1905, in the Sanders' home, in the bedroom of their housemaid, there was a fire. Nobody was at home, and the firemen had to break in. There was no fireplace in the bedroom. Not a trace of anything by which to explain was found, and the firemen reported: "Origin unknown." They returned to their station, and were immediately called back to this house. There was another fire. It was in another bedroom. Again -- "Origin unknown." The Sanders', in their fish store, were notified, and they hastened home. Money was missed. Many things were missed.

The housemaid, Emma Piggott, was suspected. In her parents' home was found a box, from which the Sanders' took, and identified as theirs, 5, and a loot of such things as a carving set, sugar tongs, table cloths, several dozen handkerchiefs, salt spoons, bottles of scent, curtain hooks, a hair brush, Turkish towels, gloves, a sponge, two watches, a puff box.

The girl was arrested, and in the Derby Borough Police Court, she was charged with arson and larceny. She admitted the thefts, but asserted her innocences of the fires. There was clearly such an appearance of relation between the thefts and the fires, which, if they had burned down the house, would have covered the thefts, that both charges were pressed.

It is not only that there had been thefts, and then fires: so many things had been stolen that - unless the home of the Sanders' was a large household -- some of these things would have been missed -- unless all had been stolen at once. I have no datum for thinking that the Sanders lived upon any such scale as one in which valuables could have been stolen, from time to time, unknown to them. The indications were of one wide grab, and the girl's intention to set the house afire, to cover it.

Emma Piggott's lawyer showed that she had been nowhere near the house, at the time of the first fire; and that, when the second fire broke out, she, in the street, this off-evening of hers, returning, had called the attention of neighbors to smoke coming from a window. The case was too complicated for a police court, and was put off for the summer assizes.

Derby Mercury, July 19 -- trial of the girl resumed. The prosecution maintained that the fires could be explained only as of incendiary origin, and that the girl's motive for setting the house afire was plain, and that she had plundered so recklessly, because she had planned a general destruction, by which anything missing would be accounted for.

Again counsel for the defense showed that the girl could not have started the fires. The charge of arson was dropped. Emma Piggott was sentenced to six months' hard labor, for the thefts.

Upon Dec. 2, 1919, Ambrose Small, of Toronto, Canada, disappeared. He was known to have been in his office, in the Toronto Grand Opera House, of which he was the owner, between five and six o'clock, the evening of Dec. 2nd. Nobody saw him leave his office. Nobody -- at least nobody whose testimony can be accepted -- saw him, this evening, outside the building. There were stories of a woman in the case. But Ambrose Small disappeared, and left more than a million dollars behind.

Then John Doughty, Small's secretary, vanished.

Small's safe deposit boxes were opened by Mrs. Small and other trustees of the estate. In the boxes were securities, valued at $1,125,000. An inventory was found. According to it, the sum of $105,000 was missing. There was an investigation, and bonds of the value of $105,000 were found, hidden in the home of Doughty's sister. All over the world, the disappearance of Ambrose Small was advertised, with offers of reward, in acres of newspaper space. He was in his office. He vanished.

Doughty, too, was sought. He had not only vanished: he had done all that he could to be unfindable. But he was traced to a town in Oregon, where he was living under the name of Cooper. He was taken back to Toronto, where he was indicted, charged with having stolen the bonds, and with having abducted Small, to cover the thefts.

About the Author: Charles Hoy Fort

Charles Fort (1874-1932) fancied himself a true skeptic, one who opposes all forms of dogmatism, believes nothing, and does not take a position on anything. He claimed to be an "intermediatist," one who believes nothing is real and nothing is unreal, that "all phenomena are approximations one way or the other between realness and unrealness." Actually, he was an anti-dogmatist who collected weird and bizarre stories.

Fort spent a good part of his adult life in the New York City public library examining newspapers, magazines, and scientific journals. He was looking for accounts of anything weird or mysterious which didn't fit with current scientific theories.

He collected accounts of frogs and other strange objects raining from the sky, UFOs, ghosts, spontaneous human combustion, the stigmata, psychic abilities, etc. He published four collections of weird tales and anomalies during his lifetime: Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents (1932). In these works, he does not seem interested in questioning the reliability of his sources, which is odd, given that he had worked as a news reporter for a number of years before embarking on his quest to collect stories of the weird and bizarre. He does reject one story about a talking dog who disappeared into a puff of green smoke. He expresses his doubt that the dog really went up in green smoke, though he doesn't question its ability to speak.

Fort did not seem particularly interested in making any sense out of his collection of weird stories. He seemed particularly uninterested in scientific testing, yet some of his devotees consider him to be the founding father of modern paranormal studies. His main interest in scientific hypotheses was to criticize and ridicule the very process of theorizing. His real purpose seems to have been to embarrass scientists by collecting stories on "the borderland between fact and fantasy" which science could not explain or explain away. Since he did not generally concern himself with the reliability or accuracy of his data, this borderland also blurs the distinction between open-mindedness and gullibility.

Fort was skeptical about scientific explanations because scientists sometimes argue "according to their own beliefs rather than the rules of evidence" and they suppress or ignore inconvenient data. He seems to have understood that scientific theories are models, not pictures, of reality, but he considered them to be little more than superstitions and myths. He seems to have had a profound misunderstanding of the nature of scientific theories. For, he criticized them for not being able to accommodate anomalies and for requiring data to fit. He took particular delight when scientists made incorrect predictions and he attacked what he called the "priestcraft" of science. Fort seems to have been opposed to science as it really is: fallible, human and tentative, after probabilities rather than absolute certainties. He seems to have thought that since science is not infallible, any theory is as good as any other. This is the same kind of misunderstanding of science that we find with so-called "scientific creationists" and many other pseudoscientists.

Apparently, Fort was a prolific writer. He is said to have written ten novels, but only one was published: The Outcast Manufacturers (1906). One of Fort's amusements as an adult seems to have been to speculate about such things as frogs falling from the sky.

He postulated that there is a Super-Sargasso Sea above the Earth (which he called Genesistrine) where living things originate and periodically are dumped on Earth by intelligent beings who communicate with secret societies down below, perhaps using teleportation.

Fort had very few friends, but one of them, Tiffany Thayer, created the Fortean Society to promote and encourage Fort-like attacks on science and scientists.Ê When Fort died in 1937, he left over 30 boxes of notes, which the Fortean Society began publishing in the Fortean Society Magazine. In 1959 Thayer died and the Fortean Society came to an end. Others, however, took up the torch. There are many Fortean groups, but it is worth noting that Fort opposed the idea of a Fortean Society. He thought that such a group would attract spiritualists and crackpots.

... And sure enough...

Softcover, 8¼" x 10¾", 205+ pages

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