The Book of the Damned
By Charles Fort
Horace Liveright, Publisher
Boni and Liveright, Inc., New York
Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932) was an iconoclast.
An impoverished newspaper writer from the age of eighteen, Fort spent his early twenties travelling the world on about eighty cents a day. He lived for many years in London, and spent much of his time there in Bloomsbury at the British Museum, where he researched and studied all that he could. He was an avid note-taker.
Returning to America, Fort married and settled down in New York, working as a journalist and a writer of fiction for newspapers and periodicals. At age forty-two, he came into a modest inheritance, and it was at that point that his life's work truly began.
In scientific research, much as in life, some discoveries can be made only through the exercise of inhuman patience. Charles Fort sat at a table in the New York Public Library every working day for over twenty years, reading and re-reading the back files of every scientific journal, old periodical, newspaper and manuscript that he could find. Whenever he found something out of the ordinary and not conventionally explainable, he made a note of it. Eventually he had thousands of these notes, written on little slips of paper, filed in shoeboxes.
From these notes, and those he wrote while studying in the British Museum, came Fort's four books: The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931) and Wild Talents (1932). In them, he organizes and comments upon a wide host of phenomena: flying saucers before the invention of aircraft; strange noises in the sky; falls of frogs, fishes, worms, shells, stones, blood, metal objects; red rains and black rains; discrepancies in the schedules of comets; sightings on and around Mars and the moon; disruptions of gravity; poltergeists; stigmata; spontaneous human combustion; the occult, and many other freaks of nature and the supernatural that have been explained away or disregarded by science.
Fort's term for all of these things is the Damned. His writings, which are absolutely replete with citations from his source material, describe these phenomena in what is, at times, one of the most brilliant literary styles of the early 20th Century. Fort himself never really explains any of his findings, beyond making vague hints at an organic universe, and extraterrestrial "super-structures" that exist in the farthest reaches of our atmosphere and beyond.
His work was greatly admired by many literary contemporaries and other regarded thinkers, such as Clarence Darrow, Havelock Ellis and Theodore Dreiser. Later, his books influenced the development of science fiction in what are regarded as "Fortean themes." While Fort's unique style of documented skepticism is still considered by many today as a "must-read", there are those who dismiss Fort as a crackpot journalist. I think he would find that amusing: that among his detractors, he himself is considered to be among the damned.
The Book of the Damned concerns itself mainly with phenomena that has been reported as having fallen from the sky. Like most of Fort's writings, it is useful as much as a reference as it is a linear narrative. Read straight through from beginning to end, or pick and choose from the chapters as you will — Fort would have approved of this: he wrote, "One measures a circle, beginning anywhere."
The chapters noded here on Everything2 are from the text of the original first printing in 1919, and are outside of copyright protection. Any errors, omissions or spelling anomalies are those of the original author, and have been authentically reproduced. As the content of the book is not my original work, I do not feel that I should have a node count benefit from its existence in the nodegel. Consequently, I had the chapter nodes moved to a separate account in March of 2002.
I dedicate the two weeks I spent carefully transcribing2, marking-up and hard-linking the 28 chapters of this book to the noble noders who have participated in the Everything Literature project, as well as the countless volunteers of Project Gutenberg.
Let's begin Chapter Index:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
1 Small portions of which were condensed and paraphrased from Damon Knight's Introduction to the Dover Edition of The Complete Books of Charles Fort (1974), and from the liner notes of that edition (author unknown).
2 Transcription was greatly aided by Mr. X, a consulting Resologist.
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