Dubbed the United States’ first ‘paranormalist’, Charles Hoy Fort was more a collector of extraordinary stories and artifacts than what we would consider a paranormal investigator by today’s standards. Even to this day, over 80 years after his death, Mr. Fort’s life still has an effect on the paranormal community.
Born in Albany, New York in 1874, he left home as soon as he turned 18 to escape the abuse of his strict, overbearing father, using it as an excuse to “put some capital in the bank of experience”’ via a world tour. After contracting malaria in South Africa, Mr. Fort returned home and married Anna Filing, a girl he had known from his childhood. He held many odd jobs during his life, especially when money was tight, but the ones he always seemed to go back to involved writing. He even spent some time as a journalist for a local newspaper.
Fascinated by stories of the strange and unexplained, Charles spent much of his life doing research in the libraries near wherever he called home. If it hadn’t been for his wife forcing him out to the cinema on a regular basis, he likely would have remained a hermit for much of his adult life. Most of his research centered around articles published in local newspapers which he then in turn collected and compiled into books.
Although Mr. Fort was a prolific novelist, only one of the ten fiction novels he wrote was ever published. While The Outcast Manufacturers received positive reviews, it was a financial flop, causing Charles to burn all of his notes and several other completed manuscripts in a fit of severe depression. His sincere love of writing won out in the end however and he soon began work on the novel that would change his life.
The Book of the Damned, published in 1919, was the first of four books in which Charles Fort compiled the stories of strange occurrences he had collected through his research. It was shortly followed by New Lands in 1923, Lo! in 1931, and Wild Talents in 1932. In each of these books, Charles wrote about such topics as poltergeists, UFOs, aliens, psychokinesis, and even teleportation, a term Fort is credited with coining.
He was particularly interested with UFOs and aliens, coming up with several theories to explain why aliens do no visit us earthlings. According to Mr. Fort, a war for Earth was fought ages ago by alien races with the winner claiming us as ‘property’. There is no need for other races to visit us as we belong to another and our masters are content to watch from afar.
Of particular interest is the book Wild Talents. Literally written up until his death from leukemia and published posthumously, the book discusses such advanced topics as the government using people with supernatural gifts as soldiers to fight in future wars. Considering the United States’ government has admitted to trying to use remote viewing to spy on other governments, Charles Fort was literally a man before his time.
Adored by his friends, Charles Fort was remembered as a kind of shy, brave, gentle giant with a booming laugh and quick wit. His wife, Anna, was so devoted to him that she lived a scant five years after his death before joining him in the afterlife. During his life, Mr. Fort considered himself a ‘true skeptic’. He neither believed nor disbelieved that anything was possible. He approached life and the many wonderful events he read about with a completely open mind, often trying to come up with reasons why these strange occurrences happened in the first place. Charles had a very vivid imagination, causing many of his invented reasons to be quite outlandish, such as his belief that there was something called the Super-Sargasso Sea in the heavens into which all lost things go. He was fond of attacking the scientists of his day for their narrow- mindedness, believing the scientific methods and theories they used to be too strict to accommodate all of the weird happenings in the world.
After his death, his friend, Tiffany Thayer, created the Fortean Society in his honor. By publishing the over 30 boxes of notes he left upon his death, Ms. Thayer hoped to inspire others to follow in Charles Fort’s footsteps and to embrace life with a completely open mind and a sense of wonder for what is possible.
Links of Interest
A Few Fortean Societies Around the World