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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fortean Book Review (Literally!)

    The last couple of day's have been pretty rough for your friendly neighborhood Closet Anomalist (have I always referred to myself in the third person?), as such the last couple of posts have suffered and by association so has the blog. But never fear tonight will be the return to the Forteania you have come to know and love(?). I mentioned earlier on Twitter that I would be reviewing what I considered to be one of the most important books that anyone interested in Fortean phenomena could read. So much so that I think, along with Mac's 'The Cryptoterrestrials',  should be considered as required reading for those just entering the field. As an aside I sometimes imagine that a Fortean college level course would use the two as textbooks for their classes, but I digress.
    However I technically lied as it is not simply one book, but is in actuality four books that I will be reviewing tonight. They are, of course, Charles Fort's; The Book of the Damned, New Lands, Lo!, and Wild Talents. Technically they were once four separate volumes but you can now purchase them in one volume from your local bookstore as I did. The collection that I have is called The Book of the Damned; The collected works of Charles Fort. It has all four books plus an introduction to the text by Jim Steinmeyer, so if you are looking to purchase the book I highly recommend it. I say purchase it because with the exception of The Book of the Damned, which is now in the public domain, the other books are still subject to copyright. (I will have some links available at the end for you to follow to legally download The Book of the Damned, while you can purchase fairly inexpensively the other three books.)

    It should be pretty apparent that had I not read these books, which was sadly only done relatively recently, I would likely not be doing this blog at all. It is true that before I had read his books I was already interested in many of the things that I now call Fortean phenomena, even before I had heard of that word. Fort is definitely the inspiration for how I look at not only the paranormal, but also science, religion, and really life in general. I think he says it best in the opening line of The Book of the Damned;

“A Procession of the damned. By the damned, I mean the excluded. We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded”

    That's pretty sweet quote to open a book with I think, what it shows is really an introduction to all four of the books. They are comprised of the research that Fort undertook at the New York Public Library pouring over old newspapers and scientific journals. Through this he found a lot of bizarre data   that science, rather than dealing with in an open way, through into the 'attic' of scientific inquiry. Ostensibly hoping that no one would ever look at it, or that it would never again see the light of day. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending upon your opinion) Fort not only found it, he painstakingly cataloged all of the data that he could uncover.  Here is just a sampling of what he 'discovered'; Fortean Falls, that is falls of fish, frogs, or other small mammals seemingly from cloudless skies. So called 'Sky quakes' where the sky literally seems to rumble and make noises not unlike those heard during earthquakes. The great airship mystery of the late 19th century, which some would argue makes it one of the first UFO books. And the coining of the word 'teleportation' is often attributed to him because his documentation  of the accounts of persons who disappear from one side of the planet only to mysteriously turn up on the other side, often within minutes of when they left.

    Really it's hard to imagine what shape, if any, the modern fields of the paranormal or ufological would look like were it not for the works and long lasting influence that  Fort has had on both. All four of these books are definitely some of the most important works on the topics of the paranormal and ufology possible ever written. If you haven't read them yet, you really should do yourself the favor and pick them up, I promise you wont be disappointed. And who knows, maybe you will start calling yourself a Fortean Philosopher as well?

For The Book of the Damned in PDF or doc format you can follow these links.

Project Gutenburg 

Alternatively it is also available as a free audio book here.



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