The Dundas Incident: Charles Fort Investigates a Fish Fall
Charles Fort was not satisfied to merely collect data of falls of living things. It was his habit to make investigations, which may have been limited to sending letters to the local newspaper or the principle witnesses identified in a newspaper article. While living in London, England, Fort investigated the reported fall of fish in Canada, which was reported in the Toronto Daily Star of February 27, 1926, as follows:
Fish Dropped From Sky?
Dundas Seeks Explanation of Alleged Phenomenon
-- Small Boy Prank?
Dundas, Feb. 26 -- In common with many other centres rain fell here yesterday afternoon, and several hours later residents were astonished to observe small fish, about the size of baiting minnows, near the vicinity of Victoria and Market streets. The small fish, it is said, did not come from the sewers, nor were they washed from the creek, which passed through the town.
James W. Dickson, a resident of the town, believes that the fish fell with the rain from the sky. He procured specimens and intends to seek scientific opinion for the phenomenon.
Professor B. A. Bensley of the University of Toronto, declares that
it is unlikely that the fish fell from the sky. "My opinion is that
some small boy got hold of these fish in some way and dumped them on the
street," he said.
Fort wrote to the Toronto Daily Star and managed to awaken the
editor's interest, with the result of the following editorials, respectively
published on March 16 and 20, 1926:
The Dundas Minnows
On the 26th of February a remarkable phenomenon was reported from Dundas, Ont. After a heavy downpour of winter rain a pool was formed at a hollow place on one of the main streets, and in it were seen a great many dead minnows. These small fish had evidently come down from the sky in the heavy rain. There was no overflow from any lake, stream or sewer that could have brought them there.
The remarkable incident appeared in the Toronto press, was wired to all the newspapers in America, cabled to London, translated and sent to Paris, Berlin and Rome.
Next day The Star, having investigated the case, was able to furnish a simple explanation of the incident. Mr. Robert Manning of Dundas had planned to go fishing through holes in the ice. He had meant to go fishing on the Thursday of the heavy rainstorm, and so on the previous day he went to the sluice gate near the Hydro canal and netted a pail of minnows. The heavy rain of the next day caused him to postpone his trip, and as the minnows would not keep, he dumped the pail into the torrent of water rushing along the street. Later on a prominent citizen, seeing dead fish in a rain pool that had just fallen from the sky, naturally concluded that he was local eye witness to a marvel.
Thus ended the mystery. But when the mystery goes out of an affair, interest in it ends so far as the telegraphic and cable news agencies are concerned. While it was supposed that those fish had fallen from the sky they were marvel fish and worth cabling to the ends of the earth, but, as soon as it was known that they had come from Bob Manning's pail and that he had netted them in the ordinary way down by the Dundas sluice-gate, there was no marvel about them. Interest in them ended right there. So London, Paris, Berlin and Kalamazoo were not told about the bait pail and were left to think of those fish as having fallen from the sky. It will go down on scientific record in half a dozen languages as the Dundas incident.
The Star has been communicated with in regard to it by an expert in London. He has not heard of the bait pail, he believes the fish fell from the sky, but, being a cautious man and the author of a book on such phenomena, he seeks from us all the evidence that can be secured as to the authenticity of the incident. Almost with regret we shall have to tell him that those fish were never higher above the earth than Bob Manning's elbow.
The expert and author who has written us on the subject is Mr. Charles Fort, 39 (A) Marchmont St., W.C., London, Eng. He tells us that he has records of over two hundred instances where living things have fallen from the sky. He quotes Judge C. B. Montgomery, Oneco, Conn., as authority for the statement that on July 31, 1921, a deluge of little frogs fell over an area of several square miles near his home. The New Orleans Picayune on February 4, 1892, told of a fall of millions of large larvae of unknown species at Clifton, Ind. In several cases, our correspondent says, species unknown on this earth have fallen from the sky. Reverting to the case at Dundas, Ont., and not knowing about Bob Manning's bait pail, the English author goes on to say in his letter:
"It may be that all bodies of water in Canada on Feb. 27th were not all frozen solid, but certainly supplies of minnows were not very available. This is the point on which I am seeking information.... It seems incredible that the minnows of Dundas had origin anywhere in Canada, or could have been carried from some far southern point, without scattering. To most minds it will seem incredible that the creatures dropped to the earth from a body of water somewhere in space beyond this earth, because interplanetary space is supposed to be intensely, if not absolutely, cold. I have many data that indicated otherwise."
What Mr. Charles Fort is driving at is this: If the Dundas minnows,
the Connecticut frogs and the Indiana larvae fell from the sky and came
from another world than this, then accepted ideas about space are wrong
and it might be possible to fly from this planet to another. The Dundas
minnows are accounted for. They were carried in a pail to the place where
they were found. As for the Connecticut frogs, they, no doubt, came forth
after a downpour of rain as frogs and angle-worms so often do. The Indiana
larvae could doubtless have been competently explained if rightly enquired
about at the time, and they are no such marvel as the Dundas minnows would
have been if a simple explanation had not been given as to how they happened
to be where they were found.
When a Yarn Gets Started
It has often been said that a false report can travel so fast that the truth can never overtake it. Yet it is not all a question of speed. The false report is often sensational and interesting, while the truth of the matter is usually quite dull and prosaic, so that people who excitably repeated and so helped circulate the false report do not find the true report when it comes along worth talking about.
If a man hears a false report and repeats it to others and then learns that it is false his attitude is one of censure towards those who brought the story to him, but he does not blame himself for having carried it on to others. A reader sends us the following extract from an English paper, the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury of March 5:
"The Canadian newspapers publish a despatch from Dundad in Ontario, stating that numerous minnows have been found on window-sill three storeys high, and also swimming in half-frozen ditch water. The theory held locally is that the minnows dropped from the sky during a heavy wind and rain storm."
Dundad means Dundas and this is the story of the minnows which Robert Manning netted at the dam, carried home in a pail, with the intention of going fishing through holes in the ice, but next day it poured so heavy a rain that he abandoned the trip and dumped his fish in the ditch. It was supposed that the fish had fallen from the sky, until enquiry showed where they had actually come from.
But the original story has made such headway that the explanation will
probably never overtake it. Not only has it made headway, but it has gained
size and new features. The dead minnows are, in the above story, alive
and swimming and not only that, but some of them are on window-sills three
storeys above the ground. No doubt somewhere the incident is being repeated
with the addition that fish were picked up in baskets on the flat roofs
of the houses in all parts of the town.
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