The Book of the Damned
A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited and Annotated by Mr. X
MY own pseudo-conclusion:
That we've been damned by giants sound asleep, or by great scientific principles and abstractions that cannot realize themselves; that little harlots have visited their caprices upon us; that clowns, with buckets of water from which they pretend to cast thousands of good-sized fishes have anathematized us for laughing disrespectfully, because, as with all clowns, underlying buffoonery is the desire to be taken seriously; that pale ignorances, presiding over microscopes by which they cannot distinguish flesh from nostoc or fishes' spawn or frogs' spawn, have visited upon us their wan solemnities. We've been damned by corpses and skeletons and mummies, which twitch and totter with pseudo-life derived from conveniences.
Or there is only hypnosis. The accursed are those who admit they're the accursed.
If we be more nearly real we are reasons arraigned before a jury of dream-phantasms.
Of all meteorites in museums, very few were seen to fall. It is considered sufficient grounds for admission if specimens can't be accounted for in any way other than that they fell from the sky--as if in the haze of uncertainty that surrounds all things, or that is the essence of everything, or in merging away of everything into something else, there could be anything that could be accounted for in only one way. The scientist and the theologian reason that if something can be accounted for in only one way, it is accounted for in that way -- or logic would be logical, if the conditions that it imposes, but, of course, does not insist upon, could anywhere be found in quasi-existence. In our acceptance, logic, science, art, religion are, in our "existence," premonitions of a coming awakening, like dawning awareness of surroundings in the mind of a dreamer.
Any old chunk of metal that measures up to the standard of "true meteoritic material" is admitted by the museums. It may seem incredible that modern curators still have this delusion, but we suspect that the date on one's morning newspaper hasn't much to [121/122] do with one's modernity all day long. In reading Fletcher's catalogue, for instance, we learn that some of the best-known meteorites were "found in draining a field" -- "found in making a road" -- "turned up by the plow" occurs a dozen times.(1) Someone fishing in Lake Okechobee, brought up an object in his fishing net. No meteorite had ever been seen to fall near it. The U.S. National Museum accepts it.
If we accepted only one of the data of "untrue meteoritic material" -- one instance of "carbonaceous" matter -- if it be too difficult to utter the word "coal" -- we see that in this inclusion-exclusion, as in every other means of forming an opinion, false inclusion and false exclusion have been practiced by curators of museums.
There is something of ultra-pathos -- of cosmic sadness -- in this universal search for a standard, and in belief that one has been revealed by either inspiration or analysis, then the dogged clinging to a poor sham of a thing long after its insufficiency has been shown -- or renewed hope and search for the special that can be true, or for something local that could also be universal. It's as if "true meteoritic material" were a "rock of ages" to some scientific men. They cling. But clingers cannot hold out welcoming arms.
The only seemingly conclusive utterance, or seemingly substantial thing to cling to, is a product of dishonesty, ignorance, or fatigue. All sciences go back and back, until they're worn out with the process, or until mechanical reaction occurs: then they move forward -- as it were. Then they become dogmatic, and take for bases, positions that were only points of exhaustion. So chemistry divided and sub-divided down to atoms; then, in the essential insecurity of all quasi-constructions, it built up a system, which, to anyone so obsessed by his own hypnoses that he is exempt to the chemist's hypnoses, is perceptibly enough an intellectual anæmia built upon infinitesimal debilities.
In Science, 31-298, E. D. Hovey, of the American Museum of Natural History, asserts or confesses, that often have objects of material such as fossiliferous limestone and slag been sent to him.(2) He says that these things have been accompanied by assurances that they have been seen to fall on lawns, on roads, in front of houses.
They are all excluded. They are not of true meteoritic material. They were on the ground in the first place. It is only by coincidence that lightning has struck, or that a real meteorite, which was unfindable, has struck near objects of slag and limestone. [122/123]
Mr. Hovey says that the list might be extended indefinitely. That's a tantalizing suggestion of some very interesting stuff --
"But it is not worth while."
I'd like to know what strange, damned, excommunicated things have been sent to museums by persons who have felt convinced that they had seen what they may have seen, strongly enough to risk ridicule, to make up bundles, go to express offices, and write letters. I accept that over the door of every museum, into which such things enter, is written:
If a Mr. Symons mentions one instance of coal, or of slag or cinders, said to have fallen from the sky, we are not -- except by association with the "carbonaceous" meteorites -- strong in our impression that coal sometimes falls to this earth from coal-burning super-constructions, up somewhere --
In Comptes Rendus, 91-197, M. Daubrée tells the same story.(3) Our acceptance, then, is that other curators could tell this same story. Then the phantomosity of our impression substantiates proportionately to its multiplicity. M. Daubrée says that often have strange damned things been sent to the French museums, accompanied by assurances that they had been seen to fall from the sky. Especially to our interest, he mentions coal and slag.
Buried un-named and undated in Science's potter's field.
I do not say that the data of the damned should have the same rights as the data of the saved. That would be justice. That would be of the Positive Absolute, and, though the ideal of, a violation of, the very essence of quasi-existence, wherein only to have the appearance of being is to express a preponderance of force one way or another -- or inequilibrium, or inconsistency, or injustice.
Our acceptance is that the passing away of exclusionism is a phenomenon of the twentieth century: that gods of the twentieth century will sustain our notions be they ever so unwashed and frowsy. But, in our own expressions, we are limited, by the oneness of quasiness, to the very same methods by which orthodoxy established and maintains its now sleek, suave preposterousness. At any rate, though we are inspired by an especial subtle essence -- or imponderable, I think -- that pervades the twentieth century, we have not the superstition that we are offering anything as a positive fact. Rather often we have not the delusion that we're any less [123/124] superstitious and credulous than any logician, savage, curator, or rustic.
An orthodox demonstration, in terms of which we shall have some heresies, is that if things found in coal could have got there only by falling there -- they fell there.
So, in the Manchester Lit. and Phil. Soc. Mems., 2-9-306, it is argued that certain roundish stones that have been found in coal are "fossil aerolites": that they had fallen from the sky, ages ago, when the coal was soft, because the coal had closed around them, showing no sign of entrance.(4)
Proc. Soc. of Antiq. of Scotland, 1-1-121:(5)
That, in a lump of coal, from a mine in Scotland, an iron instrument had been found --
"The interest attaching to this singular relic arises from the fact of its having been found in the heart of a piece of coal, seven feet under the surface."
If we accept that this object of iron was of workmanship beyond the means and skill of the primitive men who may have lived in Scotland when coal was forming there --
"The instrument was considered to be modern."
That our expression has more of realness, or higher approximation to realness, than has the attempt to explain that is made in the Proceedings:
That in modern times someone may have bored for coal, and that his drill may have broken off in the coal it had penetrated.
Why he should have abandoned such easily accessible coal, I don't know. The important point is that there was no sign of boring: that this instrument was in a lump of coal that had closed around it so that its presence was no suspected, until the lump of coal was broken.
No mention can I find of this damned thing in ny other publication. Of course there is an alternative here: the thing may not have fallen from the sky: if in coal-forming times, in Scotland, there were indigenous to this earth, no men capable of making such an iron instrument, it may have been left behind by visitors from other worlds.
In an extraordinary approximation to fairness and justice, which is permitted to us, because we are quite desirous to make acceptable that nothing can be proved as we are to sustain our own expressions, we note:
That in Notes and Queries, 11-1-408, there is an account of [124/125] an ancient copper seal, about the size of a penny, found in chalk, at a depth of from five to six feet, near Bredenstone, England.(6) The design upon it is said to be of a monk kneeling before a virgin and child: a legend upon the margin is said to be: "S. Jordanis Monachi Spaldingie."
I don't know about that. It looks very desirable -- undesirable to us.
There's a wretch of an ultra-frowsy thing in the Scientific American, 7-298, which we condemn ourselves, if somewhere, because of the oneness of allness, the damned must also be the damning.(7) It's a newspaper story: that on June 5, 1852, a powerful blast, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, cast out from a bed of solid rock a bell-shaped vessel of an unknown metal: floral designs inlaid with silver; "art of some cunning workman." The opinion of the Editor of the Scientific American is that the thing had been made by Tubal Cain, who was the first inhabitant of Dorchester. Though I fear that this is a little arbitrary, I am not disposed to fly rabidly at every scientific opinion.
A block of metal found in coal, in Austria, 1885. It is now in the Salsburg museum.
This time we have another expression. Usually our intermediatist attack upon provincial positivism is: Science, in its attempted positivism takes something such as "true meteoritic material" as a standard of judgment; but carbonaceous matter, except for its relative infrequency, is just as veritable a standard of judgment; carbonaceous matters merges away into such a variety of organic substances, that all standards are reduced to indistinguishability: if then, there is no real standard against us, there is no real resistance to our own acceptances. Now our intermediatism is: Science takes "true meteoritic material" as a standard of admission; but now we have an instance that quite as truly makes "true meteoritic material" a standard of exclusion; or, then, a thing that denies itself is no real resistance to our own acceptances -- this depending upon whether we have a datum of something of "true meteoritic material" that orthodoxy can never accept fell from the sky.
We're a little involved here. Our own acceptance is upon a carved, geometric thing that, if found in a very old deposit, antedates human life, except, perhaps, very primitive human life, as an indigenous product of this earth: but we're quite as much interested in the dilemma it made for the faithful. [125/126]
It is of "true meteoritic material." In L'Astronomie, 7-114, it is said that, though so geometric, its phenomena so characteristic of meteorites exclude the idea that it was the work of man.(9)
As to the deposit -- Tertiary coal.
Composition -- iron carbon, and a small quantity of nickel.
It has a pitted surface that is supposed by the faithful to be characteristic of meteorites.
For a full account of this subject, see Comptes Rendus, 103-702.(10) The scientists who examined it could reach no agreement. They bifurcated: then a compromise was suggested; but the compromise is a product of disregard:
That it was of true meteoritic material, and had not been shaped by man;
That it was not of true meteoritic material, but telluric iron that had been shaped by man;
That it was true meteoritic material that had fallen from the sky, but had been shaped by man, after its fall.
The data, one or more of which must be disregarded by each of these three explanations, are: "true meteoritic material" and surface markings of meteorites; geometric form; presence in an ancient deposit; material as hard as steel; absence upon this earth, in Tertiary times, of men who could work in material as hard as steel. It is said that, though of "true meteoritic material," this object is virtually a steel object.
St. Augustine, with his orthodoxy, was never in -- well, very much worse -- difficulties than are the faithful here. By due disregard of a datum or so, our own acceptance that it was a steel object that had fallen from the sky to this earth, in Tertiary times, is not forced upon one. We offer ours as the only synthetic expression. For instance, in Science Gossip, 1887-58, it is described as a meteorite: in this account there is nothing alarming to the pious, because, though everything else is told, its geometric form is not mentioned.(11)
It's a cube. There is a deep incision all around it. Of its faces, two that are opposite are rounded.
Though I accept that our own expression can only rather approximate to Truth, by the wideness of its inclusions, and because it seems, of four attempts, to represent the only complete synthesis, and can be nullified or greatly modified by data that we, too, have somewhere disregarded, the only means of nullification that I can think of would be demonstration that this object is a mass of iron pyrites, which sometimes form geometrically. But the analysis [126/127] mentions not a trace of sulphur. Of course our weakness, or impositiveness, lies in that, by any one to whom it would be agreeable to find sulphur in this thing, sulphur would be found in it -- by our intermediatism there is some sulphur in everything, or sulphur is only a localization or emphasis of something that, unemphasized, is in all things.
So there have, or haven't, been found upon this earth things that fell from the sky, or that were left behind by extra-mundane visitors to this earth --
A yarn in the London Times, June 22, 1844: that some workmen, quarrying rock, close to the Tweed, about a quarter of a mile below Rutherford Mills, discovered a gold thread embedded in the stone, at a depth of eight feet: that a piece of the gold thread had been sent to the office of the Kelso Chronicle.(12)
Pretty little thing; not at all frowsy; rather damnable.
London Times, Dec. 24, 1851:(13)
That Hiram De Witt, of Springfield, Massachusetts, returning from California, had brought with him a piece of auriferous quartz about the size of a man's fist. It was accidentally dropped -- split open -- nail in it. There was a cut-iron nail, size of a six-penny nail, slightly corroded. "It was entirely straight and had a perfect head."
Or -- California -- ages ago, when auriferous quartz was forming -- super-carpenter, a million miles or so up in the air -- drops a nail.
To one not an intermediatist, it would seem incredible that this datum, not only of the damned, but of the lowest of the damned, or of the journalistic caste of the accursed, could merge away with something else damned only by disregard, and backed by what is called "highest scientific authority" --
Communication by Sir David Brewster (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1845-51):(14)
That a nail had been found in a block of stone from Kingoodie Quarry, North Britain. The block in which the nail was found was nine inches thick, but as to what part of the quarry it had come from, there is no evidence -- except that it could not have been from the surface. The quarry had been worked about twenty years. It consisted of alternate layers of hard stone and a substance called "till." The point of the nail, quite eaten with rust, projected into some "till," upon the surface of the block of stone. The rest of the [127/128] nail lay upon the surface of the stone to within an inch of the head -- that inch of it was embedded in the stone.
Although its caste is high, this is a thing profoundly of the damned--sort of a Brahmin as regarded by a Baptist. Its case was stated fairly; Brewster related all circumstances available to him--but there was no discussion at the meeting of the British Association: no explanation was offered --
Nevertheless the thing can be nullified --
But the nullification that we find is as much against orthodoxy, in one respect as it is against our own expression that inclusion in quartz or sandstone indicates antiquity -- or there would have to be a revision of prevailing dogmas upon quartz and sandstone and age indicated by them, if the opposing data should be accepted. Of course it may be contended by both the orthodox and us heretics that the opposition is only a yarn from a newspaper. By an odd combination, we find our two lost souls that have tried to emerge, chucked back to perdition by one blow:
Popular Science News, 1884-41:(15)
That, according to the Carson Appeal, there had been found in a mine, quartz crystals that could have had only fifteen years in which to form: that, where a mill had been built, sandstone had been found, when the mill was torn down, that had hardened in twelve years: that in this sandstone was a piece of wood with "a rusty nail" in it.
Annals of Scientific Discovery, 1853-71:(16)
That, at the meeting of the British Association, 1853, Sir David Brewster had announced that he had to bring before the meeting an object "of so incredible a nature that nothing short of the strongest evidence was necessary to render the statement at all probable."
A crystal lens had been found in the treasure-house at Ninevah.
In many of the temples and treasure houses of old civilizations upon this earth have been preserved things that have fallen from the sky -- or meteorites.
Again we have a Brahmin. This thing is buried alive in the heart of propriety: it is in the British Museum.
Carpenter, in The Microscope and Its Revelations, gives two drawings of it.(17) Carpenter argues that it is impossible to accept that optical lenses had ever been made by the ancients. Never occurred to him -- some one a million miles or so up in the air -- looking through his telescope -- lens drops out. [128/129]
This does not appeal to Carpenter: he says that this object must have been an ornament.
According to Brewster, it was not an ornament, but "a true optical lens."
In that case, in ruins of an old civilization upon this earth, has been found an accursed thing that
was, acceptably, not a product of any old civilization indigenous to this earth.(18) 
1. Lazarus Fletcher. An Introduction to the Study of Meteorites. London: British Museum Trustees, 11th ed., 1914: 69-70, 75-6, 78-84. 87, 89, 108. The Seeläsgen was "found in draining a field"; the Schwetz and the Tula were found "in making a road"; and, those "turned up by a plough" include Welland, Lockport, Burlington, Chesterville, Losttown, Chulafinnee, Babb's Mill, Tazewell, Caney Fork, Nelson County, Butler, Trenton, Hammond Township, Carlton, and Rancho de la Pila.
2. Edmund Otis Hovey. "On the so-called Norwood `meteorite'." Science, n.s., 31 (February 25, 1910): 298-9.
3. Daubrée. "Substances adressées au muséum comme des météorites, avec lesquelles on les on les a confondues à tort." Comptes Rendus, 91 (July 26, 1880): 197-8.
4. E.W. Binney. "A description of some supposed meteorites found in seams of coal." Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society Memoirs, s.2, 9 (1851): 306-20.
5. "Discovery of an iron instrument lately found in a natural seam of coal in the neighbourhood of Glascow." Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, s.1, 1, 121-2. Correct quotes: "...been discovered in the heart...," and, "The instrument which was exhibited to the Meeting was considered to be modern."
6. John Bavington Jones. "Seal found at Dover." Notes and Queries, s.11, 1 (May 21, 1910): 408. Two of the figures in the design are described as "the Blessed Virgin and Child."
7. "A relic of a by-gone age." Scientific American, o.s., 7 (June 5, 1852): 298. The date of June 5, 1852, is the issue date; and, the account repeated in this issue was taken from the Boston Transcript, which in turn said the discovery took place "a few days ago."
8. "Notes." Nature, 35 (November 11, 1886): 34-7, at 36. Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereins der preussischen Rheinlande. Bonn, Germany: Verlag Max Cohen & Sohn, 1886, 188. Hubert Malthaner. "Not the Salzburg steel cube, but an iron object from Wolfsegg." Pursuit, 6 (1973): 90-3. William R. Corliss. Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling Artifacts. Glen Arm, Maryland: The Sourcebook Project, 1978, 654-6. This metal object belonged to the Heimathaus at Vocklabruck, Austria, in 1978. The object was believed by Adolf Gurlt, a mining engineer, to be a fossil meteorite; however, the object had no Widmanstattan pattern, and it contained not nickle, chromium, nor cobalt. The "Wolfsegg Iron" was believed, by R. Grill of the Geologische Bundesanstalt in Vienna, to be a piece of cast iron, which was found among pieces of coal at an iron foundry and which may have been "used as ballast with primitive mining machinery."
9. "Uranolithe fossile." Astronomie, 7 (1888): 114.
10. Gurlt. "Météorite trouvée dans un lignite tertiare." Comptes Rendus, 103 (October 18, 1886): 702-3. Daubrée only disputes that the object fell at the time of the formation of the coal; and, he suggests that it was introduced to the coal in more recent times.
11. "Meteorite in coal." Hardwicke's Science Gossip, 23 (1887): 58.
12. "Singular circumstance." London Times, June 22, 1844, p. 8 c. 5. For the original newspaper article: "Singular circumstance." Kelso Chronicle (Kelso, Roxburghshire), May 31, 1844, p. 5 c. 3. The name of the location was Rutherford Mill, (not Rutherford Mills).
13. "A nut for geologists." London Times, December 24, 1851, p.5 c.6.
14. David Brewster. "Queries and statements concerning a nail...." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1844, trans., 51.
15. "Young quartz." Popular Science News, 18 (1884): 42. The issue of the Carson Appeal with this article could not be located.
16. "Account of a rock crystal lens and decomposed glass found in Ninevah." Annual of scientific discovery, 1853, 171-172.
17. William Benjamin Carpenter. Microscope and Its Revelations. 8th ed. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston's Son & Co., 1901, 119. Only this edition has the illustration.
18. If the object was not an ornament, its presence in an ancient treasure-house might be explained as having some use as an optical aid. "The degree of minute and finished detail which it was possible to achieve in the engraving of coin dies is certainly remarkable, but there is not on that account any reason to believe that either gem-cutters or die-cutters in antiquity performed their work except by the naked eye. The existence of optical aids such as magnifying glass in ancient times remains very problematical, although there are references in some ancient authors to suggest that the principles of optical glass were being explored; for practical purposes, however, these aids did not exist." G.K.Jenkins. Ancient Greek Coins. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1972, 17.
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