Fort, Charles

Charles Fort
Charles Fort (1874–1932) New York author Charles Fort is one of the best-known researchers into unusual phenomena. In fact, two words related to the investigation of the paranormal are derived from his name: forteana, which are strange, seemingly inexplicable things or events; and forteans, people who study such things and events. He also inspired several organizations devoted to forteana.

Fort first became interested in the paranormal while working as a news reporter and novelist. At the time, he was having trouble getting his work into print, and he found it a tremendous struggle to support his wife, Anna Filing. He started searching libraries for story ideas, and he soon found himself becoming obsessed with collecting reports and firsthand accounts of seemingly unexplainable phenomena, such as strange rains, spontaneous human combustion, and the sightings of mysterious beasts. Then, in 1916 and again in 1917, he inherited money that allowed him to concentrate on compiling some of these stories into a publishable form.

When he had a final manuscript, his friend, famed novelist Theodore Dreiser, convinced his own publisher to put Fort’s work into print. The resulting work, Book of the Damned (1919), was the first of four published works; Fort’s other collections were New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents (1932). All included his own commentary and theories related to the tales he was presenting, though his books’ primary purpose was to let people know about unexplainable things and incidents that he believed science had ignored.

Fort had long criticized scientists for their methods of investigating paranormal phenomena, suggesting that they let their beliefs influence which data they accepted as valid and which they ignored. (In fact, the title of his first book came out of this belief; the word Damned refers to paranormal incidents that Fort believed had been cast down, or ignored, by scientists who only cited evidence that supported their preconceived notions.) He also enjoyed attacking scientists whenever they made predictions or proposed theories that later turned out to be false. In response, scientists and other intellectuals ridiculed Fort’s work, though it was popular with the general public.

In 1920, while in London, England, doing research at the British Museum, Fort received additional criticism for making the suggestion, in four letters to the New York Times, that extraterrestrials had been visiting Earth for years. In 1932 a close friend, Tiffany Thayer, decided to create an organization dedicated to promoting and adding to Fort’s work, including his attacks on scientists. Called the Fortean Society, it remained in existence until 1960, the year after Thayer died. Five years later another organization rose up to continue its work, the International Fortean Organization (INFO), which publishes a quarterly journal called the INFO Journal. However, Fort was not a member of the Fortean Society because he was opposed to participation in any organized group.

SEE ALSO:

  • Fortean Society and International Fortean Organization
  • Fortean Times
  • Strange Rains

SOURCE:

The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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