This is the first of a series of articles written by Bob Rickard.
In their original form they appeared in Fortean Times Magazine, these are revised and expanded versions.
THE UK’s FIRST FORTEANS
British Fortean lineage began in the 1920s, when Charles Fort was still alive and his books quite rare in these isles. Who were the first British Forteans? I go looking for our Fortean roots.
#1: The Light of Other Days
I took a big break from last years Fringe after a long time of reviewing it for various sources. This year I am still doing it low key but here are a few thoughts and potential highlights.
First up this year is the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit (KPU) and to celebrate they're opening their doors. Unbelievable: The Science of the Paranormal. This takes place from the 15th to the 22nd from 5pm for one hour and its free. Naturally the venue is the Edinburgh Psychology Building.
Ash Pryce is attending with several shows - How to be a Psychic Conmanand Haunted, both of which run for the entire Fringe and Ghostbusted! which is a skeptical ghost tour on for one night only (the 21st at 10pm). Details of this part of the Free Fringe are on Ash's website.
Also as part of the Free Fringe the Edinburgh Skeptics in the Pub are producing their usual very full programme. Every night a different show from 7.50pm at the Banshee Labyrinth.
Charles Nelson Fort and Anna Fort (nee Hoy)
were pleased to announce the birth of their first son
Charles Hoy Fort
on the 6th of August 1874
Happy 141st birthday from us all at the Charles Fort Insitute and Forteans everywhere.
And thank you.
A message / request I have been asked to pass on from Jack Hunter and I am more than happy to do so for such an interesting project.
And remember you still have one week left to nominate for your Fortean book of the year 2014 - keep those nominations coming in.
CFP: Fortean Approaches to the Study of Religion (Deadline for Abstracts June 15th 2015)
Currently seeking abstract submissions for inclusion in the following proposed collection:
Damned Facts: Fortean Approaches to the Study of Religion
Edited by Jack Hunter
(Doctoral Candidate, Dept. Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Bristol)
If you're anything like me then you have a pile of books in the "to read" pile which is generally quite close to hitting the ceiling. You work your way through them but you are constantly buying more books and adding to the pile. Hopefully by now you have got through the books from 2014!
So lets find out what the best Fortean book published in 2014 was!
Any book on any Fortean topic is eligible as long as its first publication took place in 2014. What you need to do is put forward your nomination(s) (you can nominate as many as you like) and then we all vote on the books.
Time wise lets say we have until midnight (BST) on Wednesday the 13th of May to nominate. And then voting will open until Wednesday the 17th of June, again midnight BST. That's a full five weeks to vote which will hopefully give you a chance to read some of the interesting ones that you had not heard of previously.
This is a chance to get your favourite book from last year more well known. A chance for you to discover some books you may have missed. And a chance to celebrate Fortean books in all their forms.
We might end up with a huge list. We might end up with a small list that's up to you. All you have to do is nominate. You can do that through the "Contact Us" on the left of this text or by clicking here. Then I'll set up a new page with all the nominations on and then you just have to vote for your favourite.
We'll try and get an interview with the winning writer(s) and put that up on these hallowed pages. We'll definitely inform them that they have won and that they have the right to proclaim to the world that theirs was the Charles Fort Institute's Fortean Book of the Year 2014.
Spread the word and nominate.
I'm sure you've seen this, but just in case...
The 21st of April 2015 is the 81st anniversary of the publication of the (in)famous Surgeon's photo of the Loch Ness Monster and Google have celebrated with one of their Google Doodles. A Google Doodle is only up for the actual day it commemorates, so putting this post here is a way of archiving the event.
As you can see we now have the truth of the matter - Nessie is actually a cunning reconaisance vehcile used by the Greys to study unsuspecting tourists. Sheer brilliance. Also available from the Google search page is an opportunity to explore Loch Ness with Underwater Street View. At first sight it appears as if this is a water level view but as you look around you will notice an X and clicking this does indeed take you underwater for limited periods!
Hot Chocolate No Doubt About It.
You just have to watch the cheesy 1980's pop video (just click on the single cover above) or listen to the lyrics of the song and you're left with no doubt about it. This is a song about a close encounter of the third kind.
A number 2 hit in the UK in May 1980 lead singer Errol Brown has always claimed that the songs success took the record company (RAK) by surprise and they ran out of copies of the single and had to re press it. This delay in sales meant it never sold enough in a specific week to be number one in the charts.
My memory of the song at the time it was released (yes I am that old, difficult to believe from my picture!) was that every time it was played we would get the same story that it was about a UFO encounter by the writers. The writers were Mike L Burns, Steve Glen and Donny Most. At the time the talk was about a close encounter of the third kind taking place at Stonehenge -experienced by one of the writers and his wife. Or as Errol Brown put it in a 2009 interview with The Mail on Sunday (25th of January) "This was written by two guys who thought they saw a UFO over Hampstead Heath".
It turns out the encounter was witnessed by Steve Glen and Mike Burns.
The details are given from the horses mouth as it were in this interview from The Borehamwood Times of March the 11th 2011.
A quick request from Loren Coleman - an opportunity to give cryptozoology a more prominent position
The multimillion-dollar-funded art museum is beating us 870 vs 199 votes.
But our fans are worldwide. Help us. There must be thousands of
cryptozoology and Bigfoot fans out there? https://www.facebook.com/PortlandPhoenix…
Pick the International Cryptozoology Museum under "Museum." You only
get to vote once, so it's easy. Please vote. (Photo: Contributing
Correspondent Serena Altschul, CBS Sunday Morning, is shown around the
ICM by director Loren Coleman.)
You've heard the comment that a large proportion of the population now carries a device with a camera with them, so why don't we have photographic proof of Nessie, UFO's, Ghosts etc?
Well, why don't we?
In 2014 1.5 billion photographs were shared every day on Facebook alone. The best guess for the number of photographs taken last year was something over one trillion images. That's 1 000 000 000 000 in 2014 alone.
From the invention of photography (lets say 1826 with Niepce) it took nearly 100 years before the number of photographs taken annually was one billion (about 1930). Photography took off in a big way at the start of the twentieth century when Kodak brought out the first camera which was available to the masses (prior to that it was an expensive business). By 1960 this figure had probably risen to about three billion per year. 1970 saw the figure rise to ten billion. 1980 was 25 billion. This is a steep graph. 1990 57 billion and by 2000 86 billion.
As you can see the number of photographs taken has rocketed up thanks to digital photography and mobile devices with built in cameras. In fact nowadays about every two minutes we take more photographs than were shot during the entire nineteenth century.
Of course these numbers are estimates but it indicates the nature of the ubiquity of photography now.
We have anomalous photographs from the past and we have them now. So why no conclusive proof?
As detailed in my previous post Saturday the the 28th of March 2015 was the official unveiling of the Marchmont Association Blue Plaque at 39 Marchmont Street, London. Fort lived there from 1921 to 1928 whilst researching at the nearby British Library.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the ceremony but the event was well attended by Fortean well wishers. Chief amongst the celebrants were Fortean Times co founder Paul Sieveking and The London Fortean Society's own Scott Wood. Paul has written some text for us about the event and David V Barrett (also of The London Forten Society) has provided some photographs and Paul Cullivan and Jeff Harrison have provided a video. A report will be appearing in a future edition of Fortean Times.
From Paul Sieveking
The new plaque commemorating Charles Fort’s seven-year sojourn in
London was unveiled on 39 Marchmont Street in Bloomsbury, on Saturday, 28 March
2015, by Lazzaro Pietragnoli, Mayor of Camden, and Paul Sieveking, founding
co-editor of Fortean Times, who together reached out of a window in
Fort’s sitting room and pulled a cord. Scott Wood, co-organiser of the London
Fortean Society, read the opening passage of The Book of the Damned and
Paul added a few comments about Fort’s view of the world. There were about 20
people there, including Ricci de Freitas, Chairman of the Marchmont Association,
which organized the creation of the new plaque, along with David V Barrett and
other members of the London Fortean Society, and FT’s art director Etienne
For a number of years the main London residence of Charles Fort has had an unofficial plaque marking the location. This was erected chiefly due to the efforts of Bob Rickard, Paul Sievking and Mike Dash.
I am pleased to announce that courtesy of the Marchmont Association there is now going to be an official blue plaque to mark the location. The unveiling will take place on Saturday the 28th of March at 2pm. The address is of course 39 Marchmont Street. Please feel free to attend this event and pass the message on so that Charles Fort can be given the recognition he deserves.
An upcoming conference in Edinburgh that may be of interest to people. All of the speakers have published academic, refereed papers on Fortean subjects.
February 21st 2015, Edinburgh - The Scholarly Research of the Anomalous Conference
Mike Dash – Our Artist Pictures What the Witness Saw…
Roger Musson – The Enigmatic Bala Earthquake of 23 January 1974
Darren Naish – The Evolution of Sea Monsters in Terms of What People Report
Theo Paijmans – The Nazi Flying Saucer Mythos
Charles Paxton – Eyewitness Testimony and Bigfoot at the Botanics
At the end of the event there will be a panel session featuring all five speakers
£20 which includes a buffet lunch. 11.30 to 6.30 at The Counting House, 36 West Nicholonson Street, Edinburgh. Tickets will be available from the website from the 3rd of January
So - you've bought the dream house to live in courtesy of the Fortean Property Portfolio features, you're going to be amassing a suitably Fortean music collection to listen to but what will actually go in the house? How will you furnish it?
Naturally there has to be a Cabinet of Curiosities but how to get your curios? Fear not. The auction house that is Christies is here to lend a hand.
They are hosting a London based auction called Out of the Ordinary on the 3rd of September and there is also an online only strand set to run till the 10th of September.
Prices are not cheap but there are some nice things, and some that don't seem that out of the ordinary to me - but that possibly says more about me than about the auction!
So what is on offer?
Well, on the online auction there are some original Shipton Yeti footprint photographs, complete with some hand written notes.
The estimate on these is between £3 000 and £5 000 and at time of writing they are up to £3 800.
There are also several glass models of jellyfish (£4 000), an Elephant Bird egg (starting bid of £10 000, but no one bidding yet - a chance to swoop in for a bargain!), a fossilised giant fern frond (£5 000) and many others. A total of 36 online only items.
Here in the UK there's currently a bit of interest in the fantastic singer Kate Bush.
On the 26th of August she's starting a series of live performances. For the first time in 35 years. So she's frequently in the newspapers and we have just had a couple of one hour specials about her broadcast by the BBC. And there are lots of chats on Facebook and Twitter. As far as I am concerned all of this is A GOOD THING. I like Kate Bush and her music. Always have done right from the first time I heard her sing Wuthering Heights. And it got me thinking. A number of Kate Bush's songs have a Fortean theme to them, so why not blog about that. I then decided to both broaden and narrow the topic at the same time! rather than looking at the entirity of one artists work and trying to pick out all of the Fortean themed aspects why not look at a range of performers and concentrate on one song?
It sounds like a plan so up first in Forteana and Musical Ephemera (FAME) is Kate Bush and Cloudbusting.
A big Happy Birthday to Charles Hoy Fort
It's that time of year again - the Edinburgh Fringe Festival starts officially today.
Unlike in previous years I will be taking it a bit easy this year so don't exect a huge set of reviews, but if I do see things that I think are fantastic then I will pass the information on, similarly if anyone sees something worth recommending then let me know so I can pass that on as well.
And with that in mind the first thing I can recommend is And the Goat Remained a Goat from the 2nd to the 16th at 17.00 for one hour at the Voodoo Rooms.
In an attempt to get back to regular blogging a short one today with more to come.
Occassionally some of the things we are insterested in as Forteans become mainstream and have a life outside of our special interest group. One such example was all of the material used in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.
But last night I was somewhat bemused by a drunken "conversation" I could not fail but to hear. I think we're all used to hearing the occasional shouting match between two people outside of a pub and that's what I intitially took this for. Until the words being used started to penetrate my brain. This was a shouted argument about alleged cover ups in the Madeline McCann case, strange enough in itself. But to top it off after one individual had vented their spleen about their take on the case they were met with the following ripost "You f***ing illuminati c**t".
Worthy of Kant and Leibnitz themselves I'm sure you can agree.
But being an illumnati, erm, stooge as a withering comment in a drunken argument. Brilliant.
Many thanks to the Fortean powerhouse that is Mike Dash for the heads up on this entry for the Fortean Property Portfolio.
We have a nice haunted house for your perusal today, and quite frankly even without the ghostly goings on it would be a rather impressive building. First the bad news. It's £1 000 000. And that's the only bad news, everything from now on is great.
It's in North Wales quite close to Prestatyn, Grade 1 listed, seven bedroom and 400 years old.
The description from the estate agents reads
Typical. You wait ages for an explanation of the Voynich Manuscript and then, just like buses, two come along at once!
To quote from Wikipedia
"The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The book has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a book dealer who purchased it in 1912.
The pages of the codex are vellum.
Some of the pages are missing, but about 240 remain. The text is written from left to right, and most of the pages have illustrations or
As regular readers will know I have a bit of a thing about Fortean property - even if it is outside of my price range!
Recently I was invited to do an online interview with Steve Parsons and Ron Kolek at Ghost Chronicles Live. The topic of discussion was to be a famous case of poltergeist activity and haunting which was investigated by the Society For Psychical Research in 1897. The way they investigated it was cool - they rented the property for a month or so and a large number of people visited and reported on their experiences. The whole episode was written up as The Alleged Haunting of B..... House by John Crichton-Stuart and Ada Goodrich-Freer. The whole book is annoying in one respect - most of the names are redacted in the same form as the name of the house in the title, it does make for frustrating reading! This all despite a number of points in the case being discussed openly in the pages of the Society of Psychical Research and The Times Newspaper! However the case is interesting (and possibly the subject of another blog) and I have visited the location in question so I was more than happy to speak. But the thrust of this post is the house itself - it's called Ballechin House and It's just south of Pitlochry in Perthshire. And unfortunatley the house itself burnt down in 1963. A few outbuildings and the servants quarters remained. But phoenix like a new house arose on the spot, and it incorporated some of the walls from the previous building. As I was having a quick look around the 'net to see if there were any extra pieces of information about Ballechin House- and what did I find - but the current house has been up for sale! And for the price of £660 000 - they missed a trick there with the price!
Tom Binns is Ian D Montfort: Psychic Fayre
Tom Binns at the Pleasance Courtyard
A crowded room, slightly darkened, a tense air of expectation and then out pops Ian D Montfort. Psychic. But for those who are a bit worried about psychics don't worry, he's not. He's an excellent comedian and an excellent magician. Just to give you an indication of how excellent he is in both spheres anyone who has seen him will realise his skills at comedy but how many will appreciate that they have just seen a range of magic tricks superbly employed?
In the past Montfort has contacted the spirits of famous people who have passed on - well at least we've all heard of them and we can enjoy it rather more than listening to Uncle Ned forget where he left the will! But none of that this time, it's a new show but it's just as hilarious. If you've ever been to a spiritualist meeting the setting and general patter will seem spot on, perhaps a little too true for some as I'm sure some of the members of the audience on the day that I was there were convinced it was the real deal!
A few lucky (!) people get their innermost thoughts and secrets revealed to us and one poor skeptic is shown the error of his ways.
If you're a Fortean then this is the show for your - you'll recognise the cultish messiah personality, the methods of spirit communication (except perhaps doodleology) and if you're really lucky you'll recognise your innermost thoughts...
Dan Willis at The City Cafe
There have been of late many zombie themed shows at the Fringe, some are good, some excellent and some terrible. And we have here another one - but which camp will it fall in to?
Let's be honest here- the zombie apocalypse is coming at soem point so anything that helps us survive it has to be a good thing. There are lots of films and source material about zombies, some of it contradictory, so Willis narrows his view of zombies down, largely to The Walking Dead, but also taking in Zombieland, 28 Days Later and many others. Most of the show relies on interaction between the audience and Willis - for example I was asked what the best weapon I had in my house would be - I fudged as I didn't want to get into a disussion on what a truffle stick was! We were also asked to think about the best defensive position for our group of survivalists - everyone seemed to forget the rather large castle a few hundred yards from where we were... And then one memer of teh audience was asked to choose from a list of celebrities to make a survival team. I won't prime you with who the choices are but if you had the person choosing that we did you would realise that we are all dead. Or as the badge handed out at the end of the show remined us - we're all just zombie food.
All told it was zombies and it was presented in a fun and laid back manner. Part of the Free Fringe and as far as I can tell the best zombie survivalist show on the Fringe this year.
Deborah Hyde Interview With a Vampire Expert
Most shows at the Edinburgh Fringe are repeated but, like the Richard Wiseman event in the previous review, this talk is a one off but part of a series. So whilst you have missed this one there are others at the same time and same location.
Deborah Hyde is the current editor of the UK Skeptic Magazine and is making a welcome return to the Edinburgh Fringe. Last year she spoke on Werewolves and this year it was to be Vampires. But not especially the Vampire of the movie, and most definitely not the Twilight vampire. This was to be a talk on folkloric vampires and it included a quiz!
From their origins from the little understood way a human body decomposes through to plagues vampires have been woven into the human psyche for many centuries, particularly from the 18th onwards in the Balkan States, Greece, Turkey and associated areas. A dead body can still appear to have growing hair and nails, actually shrinkage of the skin due to water loss. A freshly exhumed corpse can show fresh blood around the lips - decomposition of the internal organs and the liquid remnants bubbling up. These and many other things that happen to a decomposing corpse can lead to people believing it to be undead. Similarly a spate of similar deaths must have a cause - obviously that strange old person who recently died and no one liked must be to blame. So instead of a plague wiping people out and corpses decaying you suddenly have a vampire myth.
Richard Wiseman Psychobabble
Most shows at the Fringe are performed repeatedly so there are plenty of options to see them but there are a few one offs and this was one. It's part of a series of talks at The Assembly Rooms which includes Jon Ronson and Robin Ince.
Richard Wiseman holds the chair of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and has written a number of excellent books, the latest of which, Rip It Up, has just been released in paperback.
Psychobabble is really a journey through the interests of Wiseman, starting off with magic, so cue a few magic tricks from the former professional magician. This then led on to his interest in optical and auditory illusions and how we perceive the world- his demonstrations will have forever changed the way the sell out audience view Mickey Mouse and Carmina Burana. We then moved to the paranormal including the world's scariest fire walk and a mass public participation with ghost photographs. Finally we were treated to some aspects of luck and the psychology of change.
So, that's the topics that were covered but how was it? In a word, excellent! Wiseman is an engaging speaker, both accomplished and relaxed he seems to be having as much fun as the audience and not to the detriment of our enjoyment as you sometimes see from some performers.
Every year for a long time I've reviewed shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival with Fortean overtones for Fortean Times and more recently exclusively for this website. And it's that time of year again - the Fringe is starting up as I write this and the tents are being put up for the Book Festival. I'll report on what I can. But as there are 2 871 show's performed by 24 107 artists in 273 venues across Edinburgh I won't be able to make them all! Heck some of them I won't even know about as going through the brochure is a mammoth effort in itself! If you see or know of any shows you think I should go to let me know and I'll see what I can do.
One person has been in touch about his own show and it definitely looks to be of a Fortean theme - Paul Gannon's Ain't Afraid of No Ghost,
A few other things are happening as well, for example until November 3rd the National Galleries of Scotland are having an exhibition of paintings entitled Witches and Wicked Bodies. The Edinburgh Fortean Society is taking a break as venues are hard to come by during the Fringe but they will be back with their monthly meetings after the Fringe has finished, with a first meeting in September with Caroline Watt talking about precognitive dreams.
Good news - Charles Fort is getting the official recognition he deserves.
After lobbying the relevant committes for a blue plaque for Fort at 39 Marchmont Street, London, and being turned down, Bob Rickard organised an unofficial plaque which has been a place of pilgrimage for many for a number of years.
But now the Marchmont Association inform us that a blue Plaque for Fort is coming - it doesn't physically exist yet so they sent us a mock up
We've asked if they can include the word writer to denote what he was and also if people wonder who he is from reading the plaque they can seach for his books.
Thanks to the Marchmont Association Blue Plaque Committee.
As soon as I get details of dates I'll pass the information on - it would be nice to have a good turn out!
I'd previously blogged that the Minnesota Ice Man was up for sale on ebay, well here's the follow up to what's happening to it.
It's been bought by the Museum of the Weird. And it goes on display starting this Saturday - the 13th of July.
So if you're anywhere near Austin, Texas then this is the place to be.
In Summer 2014 Steve Busti (owner of Museum of the Weird) will be loaning the exhibit for display to Loren Coleman and his International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland Maine.
A US TV show availbale in the UK on satellite called Shipping Wars has an episode featuring the transport of the Ice Man and the nature of these beasts is that they are continually repeated so check your TV guides to get a sneak peak.
A new post at the Smithsonian site looks at a sensational trial in mid-nineteenth century Haiti - and the negative effects it has had on perceptions of voodoo ever since.
After a number of blog posts about Fortean property you need something to put in it. Well how about what is claimed to be Frank Hansen's original 1960's Minnesota Ice man sideshow exhibit?
The listing reads
When the Sect needs a new Invunche, the Council of the Cave
orders a Member to steal a boy child from six months to a year old. The
Deformer, a permanent resident of the Cave, starts work at once. He
disjoints the arms and legs and the hands and feet. Then begins the
delicate task of altering the position of the head. Day after day, and
for hours at a stretch, he twists the head with a tourniquet until it
has rotated through an angle of 180, that is until the child can look
straight down the line of its own vertebrae.
There remains one last operation, for which another specialist is
needed. At full moon, the child is laid on a work-bench, lashed down
with its head covered in a bag. The specialist cuts a deep incision
under the right shoulder blade. Into the hole he inserts the right arm
and sews up the wound with thread taken from the neck of a ewe. When it
has healed the Invunche is complete.
The world’s last great witch trial took place as recently as 1880. It
was held on the remote Chilean island of Chiloé, and featured
remarkable allegations of mass murder, child mutilation and sorcery, all
committed in the name of a strange sort of alternative government known
as La Provincia Recta – ‘The Righteous Province’ – a sect of
warlocks, based in a hidden cave and given to flying about the island
wearing magical waistcoats stitched from the flayed skin of the recently