(Investigator 85, 2002 July)

Stigmata, psychic abilities, ghosts, spontaneous human combustion, UFOs, weeping statues, fish falling from the sky. These and other anomalous phenomena are the stuff of Fortean Times magazine. They were also the stuff of Charles Fort's life.

Charles Fort (1874-1932) spent much of his time in the New York City public library and the British Museum to search newspapers and magazines for reports of weird and mysterious occurrences. He published his findings in four books:

Fort was not a skeptic. He simply gathered reports which he rarely questioned or investigated. These included astral projection, auras, blindfold chess, clairaudience, clairvoyance, eyeless sight, firewalking, glossolalia, human calculators, levitation, mental mathematics, photographic memory, poltergeists, psychokinesis, super memory, monstrous creatures, telepathy.

Fort opposed the dogmatic acceptance of natural laws being discovered by science. The purpose of his research therefore seems to have been to embarrass scientists by obscuring the boundary between fantasy and fact. His book New Lands, for example, attacked astronomers whom Fort said are "led by a cloud of rubbish by day and a pillar of bosh by night." His book Lo! introduced teleportation and the notion of a living universe. And Wild Talents, completed shortly before Fort died and published posthumously, was about psychic abilities.

Fort apparently regarded scientific theories to be equivalent to myth and he liked to point out refutations of theories and also wrong predictions by scientists. His own explanations were themselves often silly. To explain frogs or fish falling from the sky he postulated the existence of an ocean, the Super-Sargasso Sea, above the Earth.

Fort had one novel published – The Outcast Manufacturers (1906). He wrote nine others and also his own biography but destroyed his notes.

A short summary of Charles Fort's life:

Born to a Dutch immigrant family who managed a grocery store.
Left home and worked for a New York newspaper.
1893-1896 Travelled around Great Britain, Europe, South Africa, USA
Married Anna Filan.
1897-1900 Wrote ten novels and his biography.
1906-1915 Searched journals and newspapers in New York library.
1920 Burned his collection of "40,000 notes".
1921-1928 Lived in London.
1929 Moved back to New York.
Died May 3, possibly of leukemia.


Fort did not found any society for promoting his investigations as he felt it would attract spiritualists and crackpots. When he died, however, Fort left 30 boxes of notes. A friend, Tiffany Thayer, founded the Fortean Society and published much of this material in Fortean Society Magazine later renamed Doubt.

The Fortean Society ended when Thayer died in 1959 but others continued the idea:

Fortean Times magazine explores "the wild frontiers between the known and the unknown".
INFO published by the International Fortean Organization has stories about anomalies in astronomy and other sciences as well as reports on hoaxes, cryptozoology, etc.
Pursuit – magazine about strange things published by The Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU).
Anomalist – highlights mysteries in nature and science.
Strange – magazine about all aspects of the strange and anomalous.
Sourcebook Project – a catalogue of anomalies founded by William R Corliss.
Science Frontiers – a newsletters by W R Corliss with summaries of reports about scientific anomalies.


Garner, M (1957) Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.
Knight, D (1974) The Complete Books of Charles Forte.
Rickard, B (1997) Charles Fort: His Life and Times.