Charles Hoy Fort – A Selected Bibliography

Terry Harpold
Department of English
University of Florida

Charles Hoy Fort
Charles Fort at his super checkerboard (c. 1930)
Source: Knight, 1970

Who was Charles Fort?

From about 1906 until his death in 1932, Charles Hoy Fort (b. 1874), a self-educated newspaperman, modestly-successful short story writer, unsuccessful novelist and inventor, and eccentric natural philosopher, spent nearly every afternoon in the public reading rooms of the British Museum and the New York Public Libraries.

He poured over back files of hundreds of American and European journals and newspapers, accumulating tens of thousands of handwritten notes on small slips of paper. These he kept in shoeboxes stacked against the walls of the modest Bronx apartment he shared with his wife Anna, and from them produced two now-lost manuscripts (Fort was given to periodically burning his papers) and four long, resolutely digressive and unsystematic books: The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents (1932).

In them, Fort catalogs eyewitness accounts of an immense parade of occult phenomena – impossible archaeological finds; spontaneous combustion of bodies; telepathy; telekinesis; teleportation (Fort coined the term); meterological and astronomical irregularities; unexplained noises, anomalous lights and appearances of cities in the sky; out-of-place animals and insects; falls of strange rains, living and dead animals, and improbable inorganic objects. Fort called these data a “procession of the damned”: experiences reported by creditable eyewitnesses but excluded by common sense and, more importantly, excluded from the casebooks of modern science. Fort called himself an “Intermediatist”, in contrast to the “Exclusionist” character of modern scientific thought. He may be more accurately termed the most radical of empiricists: he welcomed unapologetically capricious and fractious data, not in order to fine-tune or expand a prior model, but rather to challenge the practical worth of consistent models in a world whose phenomena plainly exceed them.

Wikipedia’s entry on Fort is a reasonably accurate survey of his life and significance.

Texts by Fort

Texts about Fort

Scholarly Journals & Magazines

© Terry Harpold. All rights reserved.
Last revision: 1/10/14