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The Quotable Fort
Part 2

A House by Any Other Name Purgatory "Things"
Biology Real Heroes Dogmatic Showers
Definitions A Bouquet of Hippopotami Wiltshire Wheat
Complete Beauty Explanation Univited Visitors
Truth-Seeking Incomplete Thought Slag & Cinders
Coincidence Survival Strategy Barbed-Tail Angels
A Small Vanishment Correlations A Fall of Fish
Collecting Ambroses Statistics Honest Opinion
Secrets of Success Extraordinary Years Conspicuous by Absence

Check this section on a regular basis for new selections from the collected works of Charles Fort. All page references are to The Books of Charles Fort, and apply to both the Henry Holt and Dover editions.

We invite you to submit your own favorite "Fortisms" for publication on this page. Just e-mail us your favorite fortean snippet or snippets and give it an original title (or we'll provide one for you). Be sure to include the page on which the quote app ears in either the Henry Holt or Dover edition of Fort's works. (The new Fortean Times editions don't maintain the same pagination.)

If we use your excerpt (and please keep them short), we'll credit you here, unless otherwise directed, by publishing your e-mail address. If you wish your full real name included, please say so. If you wish to remain anonymous, that's fine, too. The quote's the thing.

A House by Any Other Name

What is a house?

It is not possible to say what anything is, as positively distinguished from anything else, if there are no positive differences.

A barn is a house if one lives in it. If residence constitutes houseness, because style of architecture does not, then a bird's nest is a house: and human occupancy is not the standard to judge by, because we speak of dogs' houses; nor material, becaus e we speak of snow houses of Eskimos--or a shell is a house to a hermit crab--or was to the mollusk that made it--or things seemingly so positively different as the White House at Washington and a shell on the seashore are seen to be continuous.

(Damned, p.6)


All biologic phenomena act to adjust: there are no biologic actions other than adjustments.

Adjustment is another name for Equilibrium. Equilibrium is the Universal, or that which has nothing external to derange it.

(Damned, p. 14)


It is not possible to define.

Nothing has ever been finally found out.

Because there is nothing final to find out.

(Damned, p. 14)

<Complete Beauty

By "beauty," I mean that which seems complete.

Obversely, that the incomplete, or the mutilated, is the ugly . . .

A hand thought of only as a hand, may seem beautiful.

Found on a battlefield--obviously a part--not beautiful.

. . . every attempt to achieve beauty is an attempt to give to the local the attribute of the universal.

(Damned, p.8)


A seeker of Truth. He will never find it. But the dimmest of possibilities--he may himself become Truth.

Or that science is more than an inquiry:

That it is a pseudo-construction, or a quasi-organization: that it is an attempt to break away and locally establish harmony, stability, equilibrium, consistency, entity--

Dimmest of all possibilities--that it may succeed.

(Damned, p. 14)


I am a collector of notes upon subjects that have diversity--such as deviations from concentricity in the lunar crater Copernicus, and a sudden appearance of purple Englishmen--stationary meteor radiants, and a reported growth of hair on the bald head of a mummy--and "Did the girl swallow the octopus?"

But my liveliest interest is not so much in things, as in relations of things. I have spent much time thinking about the alleged pseudo-relations that are called coincidences. What if some of them should not be coincidence?

(Talents, p. 846)

A Small Vanishment

Upon Dec. 2, 1919, Ambrose Small, of Toronto, Canada, disappeared. He was known to have been in his office, in the Toronto Grand Opera House, of which he was the owner, between five and six o'clock, the evening of December 2nd. Nobody saw him leave his office. Nobody--at least nobody whose testimony can be accepted--saw him, this evening, outside the building. There were stories of a woman in the case. But Ambrose Small disappeared, and left more than a million dollars behind.

(Talents, p. 846)

Collecting Ambroses

Before I looked into the case of Ambrose Small, I was attracted to it by another seeming coincidence. That there could be any meaning in it seemed so preposterous that, as influenced by much experience, I gave it serious thought. About six years before the disappearance of Ambrose Small, Ambrose Bierce had disappeared. Newspapers all over the world had made much of the mystery of Ambrose Bierce. But what could the disappearance of one Ambrose, in Texas, have to do with the disappearance of another Ambr ose in Canada? Was somebody collecting Ambroses? There was in these questions an appearance of childishness that attracted my respectful attention.

(Talents, p. 847)

Secrets of Success

A secret of power
I think it's another profundity.
Do you want power over something?
Be more nearly real than it.

(p. 23)


We are not realists. We are not idealists. We are intermediatists that nothing is real, but that nothing is unreal: that all phenomena are approximations one way or the other between realness and unrealness.
So...that our whole quasi-existence is an intermediate stage between positiveness and negativeness or realness and unrealness.
Like purgatory, I think.

(p. 14)

Real Heroes

By Realness, I mean that which does not merge away into something else, and that which is not partly something else: that which is not a reaction to, or an imitation of, something else. By a real hero, we mean one who is not partly a coward, or whose actions and motives do not merge away into cowardice. But, if in Continuity, all things do merge, by Realness, I mean the Universal, besides which there is nothing with which to merge.
That, though the local might be universalized, it is not conceivable that the universal can be localized...

(p. 14-15)

A Bouquet of Hippopotami

In Continuity, it is impossible to distinguish phenomena at their merging-points, so we look for them at their extremes. Impossible to distinguish between animal and vegetable in some infusoria but hippopotamus and violet. For all practicable purposes they're distinguishable enough. No one but a Barnum or a Bailey would send one a bunch of hippopotami as a token of regard.

(p. 28)


The fate of all explanation is to close one door only to have another fly wide open.

(p. 30)

Incomplete Thought

To think is to conceive incompletely, because all thought relates only to the local. We metaphysicians, of course, like to have the notion that we think of the unthinkable.

(p. 33)

Survival Strategy

If the whole world should seem to combine against you, it is only unreal combination, or intermediateness to unity and disunity. Every resistance is itself divided into parts resisting one another. The simplest strategy seems to be never bother to fight a thing: set its own parts fighting one another.

(p. 46)


I shall attempt not much of correlation of dates. A mathematic-minded positivist, with his delusion that in an intermediate state twice two are four, whereas, if we accept Continuity, we cannot accept that there are anywhere two things to start with, would search our data for periodicities. It is so obvious to me that the mathematic, or the regular, is the attribute of the Universal, that I have not much inclination to look for it in the local. Still, in this solar system, "as a whole," there is considerable approximation to regularity; or the mathematic is so nearly localized that eclipses, for instance, can, with rather high approximation, be foretold, though I have notes that would deflate a little the astronomers' vainglory in this respect or would if that were possible.

(p. 51)


By the statistic method I could "prove" that a black rain has fallen "regularly" every seven months, somewhere upon this earth. To do this, I'd have to include red rains and yellow rains, but, conventionally, I'd pick out the black particles in red substances and in yellow substances and disregard the rest. Then, too, if here and there a black rain should be a week early or a month late that would be "acceleration" or "retardation."

(p. 52)

Extraordinary Years

Still, I have had to notice the year 1819, for instance. I shall not note them all in this book, but I have records of 31 extraordinary events in 1883. Someone should write a book upon the phenomena of this one year that is, if books should be written. 1849 is notable for extraordinary falls, so far apart that a local explanantion seems inadequate not only the black rain of Ireland, May, 1849, but a red rain in Sicily and a red rain in Wales. Also, it is said (Timb's Year Book, 1850-241) that, upon April 18 or 20, 1849, shepherds near Mt. Ararat found a substance that was not indigenous, upon areas measuring 8 to 10 miles in circumference. Presumably it had fallen there.

(p. 52)


All "things" are not things, but only relations, or expressions of relations.

(p. 52)

Dogmatic Showers

I have data of other falls, in Persia and Asiatic Turkey, of edible substances. They are all dogmatically said to be "manna"; and "manna" is dogmatically said to be a species of lichens from the steppes of Asia Minor. The position that I take is that this explanation was evolved in ignorance of the fall of vegetable substances, or edible substances, in other parts of the world: that it is the familiar attempt to explain the general in terms of the local; that, if we have shall have data of falls of vegetable substance, in, say, Canada or India, they were not of lichens from the steppes of Asia Minor; that, though all falls in Asiatic Turkey and Persia are sweepingly and conveniently called showers of "manna," they have not been even all of the same substance.

(p. 54)

Wiltshire Wheat

There is, in Philosophical Transactions, 16-281, an account of a seeming cereal, said to have fallen in Wiltshire, in 1686 said that some of the "wheat" fell "enclosed in hailstones" but the writer in Transactions, says that he had examined the grains, and that they were nothing but seeds of ivy berries dislodged from holes and chinks where birds had hidden them. If birds still hide ivy seeds, and if winds still blow, I don't see why the phenomenon has not repeated in more than two hundred years since.

(p. 65)

Uninvited Visitors

I have many notes upon the sulphurous odor of meteorites, and many notes upon phosphorescence of things that come from externality. Some day I shall look over old stories of demons that have appeared sulphurously upon this earth, with the idea of expressing that we have often had undesirable visitors from other worlds; or that an indication of external derivation is sulphurousness. I expect some day to rationalize demonology, but just at present we are scarcely far enough advanced to go so far back.
For a circumstantial account of a mass of burning sulphur, about the size of a man's fist, that fell at Pultusk, Poland, Jan. 30, 1868, upon a road, where it was stamped out by a crowd of villagers, see Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1874-272.

(p. 67)

Slag & Cinders

Sometimes cannon balls are found embedded in trees. Doesn't seem to be anything to discuss; doesn't seem discussable that anyone would cut a hole in a tree and hide a cannon ball, which one could take to bed, and hide under one's pillow just as easily. So with the stone of Battersea Fields. What is there to say except that it fell with high velocity and embedded in the tree? Nevertheless, there was a great deal of discussion
Because, at the foot of the tree, as if broken off the stone, fragments of slag were found.
I have nine other instances.
Slag and cinders and ashes, and you won't believe, and neither will I, that they came from the furnaces of vast aerial superconstructions.

(p. 71)

Barbed-Tail Angels

The damned and the saved, and there's little to choose between them; and angels are beings that have not obviously barbed tails to them or never have such bad manners as to stroke an angel below the waist-line.

(p. 72)

A Fall of Fish

The best-known fall of fishes from the sky is that which occurred at Mountain Ash, in the Valley of Abedare, Glamorganshire, Feb. 11, 1859.
The Editor of the Zoologist, 2-677, having published a report of a fall of fishes, writes: "I am continually receiving similar accounts of frogs and fishes." But, in all the volumes of the Zoologist, I can find only two reports of such falls. There is nothing to conclude other than that hosts of data have been lost because orthodoxy does not look favorably upon such reports. The Monthly Weather Review records several falls of fishes in the United States; but accounts of these reported occurrences are not findable in other American publications.

(p. 83-4)

Honest Opinion

Our own acceptance is that justice cannot be in an intermediate existence, in which there can be approximation only to justice or to injustice; that to be fair is to have no opinion at all; that to be honest is to be uninterested; that to investigate is to admit prejudice; that nobody has ever really investigated anything, but has always sought positively to prove or disprove something that was conceived of, or suspected, in advance.

(p. 92)

Conspicuous by Absence

We shall now have an unusual experience. We shall read of some reports of extraordinary circumstances that were investigated by a man of science not of course that they were really investigated by him, but that this phenomena occupied a position approximating higher to real investigation than to utter neglect. Over and over we read of extraordinary occurrences no discussion; not even a comment afterwards findable; mere mention occasionally burial and damnation.
The extraordinary and how quickly it is hidden away.
Burial and damnation, or the obscurity of the conspicuous.

(p. 109)

The above extractions and captions Copyright 1996, 1998 by Dennis Stacy

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