New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





NIGHT of Dec. 7, 1900 — for seventy minutes a fountain of light played upon the planet Mars.

Prof. Pickering — "absolutely inexplicable" (Sci. Amer., 84-179).(1)

It may have been a geyser of messages. It may be translated some day. If it were expressed in imagery befitting the salutation by a planet to its dominant, it may be known some day as the most heroic oration in the literature of the geo-system. See Lowell's account in Popular Astronomy, 10-187.(2) Here are published several of the values in a possible code of long flashes and short flashes. Lowell takes a supposed normality for unity, and records variations of two thirds, one and one third, and one and a half. If there be, at Flagstaff, Arizona, records of all the long flashes and short flashes that were seen, for seventy minutes, upon this night of Dec. 7, 1900, it is either that the greetings of an island of space have been hopelessly addressed to a continental stolidity, or there will have to be the descent, upon Flagstaff, Arizona, by all the amateur Champollions of this earth, to concentrate in one deafening buzz of attempted translation.

It was at this time that Tesla announced that he had received, upon his wireless apparatus, vibrations that he

attributed to the Martians. They were series of triplets.

*  *  *

It is our expression that, during eclipses and oppositions and other notable celestial events, lunarians try to communicate with this earth, having a notion that at such times the astronomers of this earth may be more nearly alert.

An eclipse of the moon, March 10-11, 1895 — not a cloud; no mist — electric flashes like lightning, reported from a ship upon the Atlantic (Eng. Mec., 61-100).(3)

During the eclipse of the sun, July 29, 1897, a strange image [203/204] was taken on a sensitive plate, by Mr. L.E. Martindale, of St. Mary's, Ohio. It looks like a record of knotted lightning. See Photography, May 26, 1898.(4)

In the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, 17-205, 315, 447, it is said that upon the first and the third of March, 1903, a light like a little star, flashing intermittently, was seen by M. Rey, in Marseilles, and by Maurice Gheury, in London, in the lunar crater Aristarchus.(5) March 28, 1903 — opposition of Mars.

*  *  *

In Cosmos, n.s. 49-259, M. Desmoulins writes, from Argenteuil, that upon August 9, 1903, at 11 P.M., moving from north to south, he saw a luminous object.(6) The planet Venus was at primary greatest brilliance upon August 13, 1903. In three respects it was like other objects that have been observed upon this earth at times of the nearest approach of Venus: it was a red object; it appeared only in a local sky, and it appeared in the time of the visibility of Venus. With M. Desmoulins were four persons, one of whom had field glasses. The object was watched twenty minutes, during which time it travelled a distance estimated at five or six kilometres. It looked like a light suspended from a balloon, but, through glasses, no outline of a balloon could be seen, and there were no reflections of light as if from the opaque body of a balloon. It was a red body, with greatest luminosity in its nucleus. The Editor of Cosmos writes that, according to other correspondents, this object had been seen, at 11 P.M., July 19th and 26th, at Chatou. Argenteuil and Chatou are 4 or 5 miles apart, and both are about 5 miles from Paris. All three of these dates were Sundays, and even though nothing like a balloon had been seen through glasses, one naturally supposes that somebody near Paris had been amusing himself sending up fire-balloons, Sunday evenings. The one great resistance to all that is known as progress is what one "naturally supposes."

In the English Mechanic, 81-220, Arthur Mee writes that several persons, in the neighborhood of Cardiff, had, upon the night of March 29, 1905, seen in the sky, "an appearance like a vertical beam of light, which was not due (they say) to a search light, or any such cause."(7) There were other observations, and they remind us of the observations of Noble and Bradgate, Aug. 28-29, 1883: [204/205] then upon an object that cast a light like a searchlight; this time an association between a light like a searchlight, and a luminosity of definite form. In the Cambrian Natural Observer, 1905-32, are several accounts of a more definite-looking appearance that was seen, this night, in the sky of Wales — "like a long cluster of stars, obscured by a thin film or mist."(8) It was seen at the time of the visibility of Venus, then an "evening star" — about 10 P.M. It grew brighter, and for about half an hour looked like an incandescent light. It was a conspicuous and definite object, according to another description — "like an iron bar, heated to an orange-colored glow, and suspended vertically."

Three nights later, something appeared in the sky of Cherbourg, France — L'Astre Cherbourg — the thing that appeared, night after night, in the sky of the city of Cherbourg, at a time when the planet Venus was nearest (inferior conjunction April 26, 1905).

Flammarion, in the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, 19-243, says that this object was Venus.(9) He therefore denies that it had moved in various directions, saying that the supposed observations to this effect were illusions. In L'Illustration, April 22, 1905, he tells the story in his own way, and says some things that we are not disposed to agree with, but he also says that the ignorance of some persons is inénarrable.(10) In Cosmos, n.s., 42-420, months after the occurrence, it is said that many correspondents had written to inquire as to L'Astre Cherbourg.(11) The Editor gives his opinion that the object was either Jupiter or Venus. Throughout our Venus-visitor expression, the most important point is appearance in a local sky. That unifies this expression with other expressions, all of them converging into our general extra-geographic acceptances. The Editor of Cosmos says that this object, which was reported from Cherbourg, was reported from other towns as well. He probably means to say that it was seen simultaneously in different towns. For all guardians of this earth's isolation, this is a convenient thing to say: the conclusion then is that the planet Venus, exceptionally bright, was attracting unusual attention generally, and that there was nothing in the especial sky of Cherbourg. But we have learned that standardizing disguisements often obscure our data in later accounts, and we have formed the habit of going to contemporane- [205/206] ous sources. We shall find that the newspapers of the time reported a luminous object that appeared, night after night, only over the city of Cherbourg, as the name by which it was known indicates. It was a reddish object. The Editor of Cosmos explains that atmospheric conditions could give this coloration to Venus. I suppose this could be so occasionally: not night after night, I should say. We shall find that this object, or a similar object, was reported from other places, but not simultaneously with its appearance over Cherbourg.

In the Journal des Debats, the first news is in the issue of April 4, 1905.(12) It is said that a luminous body was appearing, every evening, between 8 and 10 o'clock, over the city of Cherbourg.

These were about the hours of the visibility of Venus. In this period, Venus set at 9:30 P.M., and Jupiter at 8 P.M. It is enough to make any conventionalist feel most reasonable, though he'd feel that way anyway, in thinking that of course then this object was Venus. In my own earlier speculations upon this subject, this one datum stood out so that had it not been for other data, I'd have abandoned the subject. But then I read of other occurrences: time after time has something been seen in the local sky of this earth, sometimes so definitely seen to move, not like Venus, but in various directions, that one has to think that it was not Venus, though appearing at the time of visibility of Venus. Between these appearances and visibility of Venus there does seem to be relation.

In the Journal, it is said that L'Astre Cherbourg had an apparent diameter of 15 centimetres, and a less definite margin of 75 centimetres — seemed to be about a yard wide — meaningless of course. In the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, it is said that, according to reports, its form was oval.(13) In the Journal des Debats, we are told that, at first the thing was supposed to be a captive balloon but that this idea was given up because it appeared and disappeared.

Journal des Debats, April 12:(14)

That every evening the luminous object was continuing to appear above Cherbourg; that many explanations had been thought of: by some persons that it was the planet Jupiter, and by others [206/207] that it was a comet but that no one knew what it was. The comet-explanation is of course ruled out. The writer in the Journal expresses regret that neither the Meteorological Bureau nor the Observatory of Paris had sent anybody to investigate, but says that the préfet maritime, of Cherbourg had commissioned a naval officer to investigate. In Le Temps, of the 12th, is published an interview with Flammarion, who complains some more against general inénarrable-ness, and says that of course the object was Venus. The writer in Le Temps says that soon would the matter be settled, because the commander of a war ship had undertaken to decide what the luminous body was.(15)

Le Figaro, April 13:(16)

The report of Commander de Kerillis, of the Chasseloup-Laubut — that the position of L'Astre Cherbourg was not the position of Venus, and that the disc did not look like the crescentic disc of Venus, but that observations had been made from a vessel, under unfavorable conditions, and that the commander and his colleagues did not offer a final opinion.

I think that there was inénarrable-ness all around. Given visibility, I can't think what the unfavorable conditions could have been. Given, however, observations upon something that all astronomers in the world would say could not be, one does think of the dislike of a naval officer, who, though he probably knew right ascension from declination, was himself no astronomer, to commit himself. In Le Temps, and other newspapers published in Paris, it is said that, according to the naval officers, the object might have been a comet, but that they would not positively commit themselves to this opinion, either.

I think that somebody should be brave; so, though not positively, of course, I incline, myself, to relate these appearances over Cherbourg with the observations in Wales, upon March 29th; also I suggest that there is another report that may relate. In Le Temps, April 12, it is said that, at midnight, April 9-10, a luminous body, like L'Astre Cherbourg, was seen in the sky of Tunis.(17) Though it was visible several minutes, it is said that this object was probably a meteor.

Every night, from the first to the eleventh of April, a luminous body appeared in the sky of Cherbourg. Then it was seen no [207/208] longer. It may have been seen sailing away, upon its final departure from the sky of Cherbourg. In Le Figaro, April 15, it is said that, upon the night of the eleventh of April, the guards of La Blanche Lighthouse had seen something like a lighted balloon in the sky.(18) Supposing it was a balloon, they had started to signal to it, but it had disappeared. It is said that the lighthouse had been out of communication with the mainland, and that the guards had not heard of L'Astre Cherbourg.

*  *  *

In the London Times, Nov. 23, 1905, a correspondent writes that, at East Liss, Hants., which is about 40 miles from Reading, he and his gamekeeper had, about 3.30 P.M., Nov. 17th, heard a loud, distant rumbling.(19) According to this hearer, the rumbling seemed to be a composition of triplets of sound. We shall accept that three sounds were heard, but we have no other assertion that each sound was itself so sub-serialized. This correspondent's gamekeeper said he had heard similar sounds at 11.30 A.M., and at 1.30 P.M. It is said that the sounds were not like gunfire, and that the direction from which they seemed to come, and the time in the afternoon, precluded the explanation of artillery-practice at Aldershot or Portsmouth. Aldershot is about 15 miles from East Liss, and Portsmouth about 20.

Times, Nov. 24 — that the "quake" had been distinctly felt in Reading, about 3.30 P.M., Nov. 17th.(20) Times, Nov. 25 — heard at Reading, at 11.30, 1.30, and 3.30 o'clock, Nov. 17th.(21)

Reading Standard, Nov. 25:(22)

That consternation had been caused in Reading, upon the 17th, by sounds and vibrations of the earth, about 11.30 A.M., 1.30 P.M., and 3.30 P.M. It is said that nothing had been seen, but that the sounds closely resembled those that had been heard during the meteoric shower of 1866.

Mr. H.G. Fordham appears again. In the Times, Dec. 1, he writes that the phenomena pointed clearly to an explosion in the sky, and not to an earthquake of subterranean origin.(23) "The noise and shock experienced are no doubt attributable to the explosion (or to more than one explosion) of a meteorite, or bolide, high up in the atmosphere, and setting up a wave (or waves) of sound and aërial shock. It is probable, indeed, that a good many [208/209] phenomena having this source are wrongly ascribed to slight and local earthshock."

Mr. Fordham wrote this, but he wrote no more, and I think that somewhere else something else was written, and that, in the year 1905, it had to be obeyed; and that it may be interpreted in these words — "Thou shalt not." Mr. Fordham did not inquire into the reasonableness of thinking that, only by coincidence, meteors so successively exploded, in a period of four hours, in one local sky of this earth, and nowhere else; and into the inference, then, as to whether this earth is stationary or not.

We have data of a succession occupying far more than four hours.

In the Times, Mrs. Lane of Petersfield, 20 miles from Portsmouth, writes that, at 11.30 A.M., and at 3.30 P.M., several days before the 17th, she had heard detonations, then hearing them again, upon the 17th. Mrs. Lane thinks that there must have been artillery-practice at Portsmouth. It seems clear that there was no cannonading anywhere in England, at this time. It seems clear that there was signalling from some other world.

In the English Mechanic, 82-433, Joseph Clark writes that, a few minutes past 3 P.M., upon the 18th a triplet of detonations was heard at Somerset — "as loud as thunder, but not exactly like thunder."(24)

Reading Observer, Nov. 25 — that, according to a correspondent, the sounds had been heard again, at Whitechurch (20 miles from Reading) upon the 21st, at 1.35 P.M., and 3.8 P.M.(25) The sounds had been attributed to artillery-practice at Aldershot, but the correspondent had written to the artillery commandant, at Bulford Camp, and had received word that there had been no heavy firing at the times of his inquiry. The Editor of the Observer says that he, too, had written to the commandant, and had received the same answer.

I have searched widely. I have found record of nobody's supposition that he had traced these detonations to origin upon this earth.(26)


1. "Science notes." Scientific American, n.s., 84 (March 23, 1901): 179.

2. Percival Lowell. "Explanation of the supposed signals from Mars of December 7, and 8, 1900." Popular Astronomy, 10 (April 1902): 185-94, pl. X and XI; at 187. The terminator of Mars was watched by Douglass for projections over a period of eighty minutes, (not seventy minutes).

3. F.E.C. "The total lunar eclipse in the Atlantic." English Mechanic, 61 (March 22, 1895): 100. From the S.S. Cephalonia, a meteor was seen about 6 west of the moon, about ten minutes after the moon was totally eclipsed.

4. Photography (also, Amateur Photographer and Cinematographer), 27 (May 26, 1898): 355-6.

5. "Lune." Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France, 17 (1903): 205. "Lune." Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France, 17 (1903): 315. "Lune; Eclipses de Lune." Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France, 17 (1903): 477.

6. Desmoulins. "Un phénomène à expliquer." Cosmos: Les Mondes, s. 4, "n.s." 49 (1903): 259.

7. Arthur Mee. "Jupiter — Strange light in the sky." English Mechanic, 81 (April 14, 1905): 220.

8. Cambrian Natural Observer, 1905, 32.

9. Nicholas Camille Flamarion. "Le phénomène lumineux de Cherbourg." Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France, 19 (1905): 243-5.

10. Nicholas Camille Flammarion. "Le mystére de Cherbourg." Illustration (Paris), 125 (April 22, 1905): 254.

11. "Le soi-distant phénomène curieux de Cherbourg." Cosmos: Les Mondes, s. 4, "n.s." 42 (April 22, 1905): 420. Two or three weeks, not months, passed before reported herein. The editor did not explain the red color as affecting observations of Venus, rather the effect of stars descending behind mists on the horizon; however, this is not where observations of the object were confined, as it is shown well above the horizon in the Illustration's sketch of its location in the sky.

12. "Etrange phénomène." Journal des Debats, April 4, 1905, p. 3 c. 3.

13. Camille Flammarion. "Le phénomène lumineux de Cherbourg." Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France, 19 (1905): 243-5, at 243.

14. "La météore de Cherbourg." Journal des Debats, April 12, 1905, p. 2 c. 4.

15. Temps (Paris), April 12, 1905.

16. "L'astre de Cherbourg (suite)." Figaro (Paris), April 13, 1905, p. 4 c. 3. Also: "L'astre de Cherbourg." Figaro (Paris), April 11, 1905, p. 4 c. 4. The name of the ship was the Chasseloup-Laubat, (not "Chasseloup-Laubut"). 17. Temps (Paris), April 12, 1905.

18. "Autre astre." Figaro (Paris), April 15, 1905, p. 4 c. 2.

19. "Possible earthquake shock." London Times, November 23, 1905, p. 14 c. 5. East Liss, Hampshire, is about 30 miles south of Reading.

20. "Possible earthquake shock." London Times, November 24, 1905, p. 4.c. 2.

21. "Possible earthquake shock." London Times, November 25, 1905, p. 8 c. 6. Alan Cheales confirms that the same noise was heard "at the same hours on November 20;" but, the date is probably meant for November 17.

22. "Earthquakes at Reading." Reading Standard, November 25, 1905, p. 3 c. 3.

23. "Possible earthquake shock." London Times, December 1, 1905, p. 6 c. 4. Fordham notes: " occurred twice on the same day, at 11:30 and 3:30, and it also occurred at the same hours in a similar way one or two days before and again since." His conclusion, however, is to ascribe the phenomena to "Some naval manoeuvres the authors of which are unaware of the disturbance they are causing to the nervous inhabitants of Hants and neighbourhood." Correct quote: "...that many a good phenomena...."

24. Joseph Clark. "Air quakes." English Mechanic, 82 (December 15, 1905): 433.

25. "The earth tremors." Reading Observer, November 25, 1905, p. 5 c. 7. Also: "Earth tremors at Reading." Reading Observer, November 18, 1905, p. 8 c. 2.

26. Grammatically incorrect: Fort had not found any record to support anyone's supposition that they had traced these detonations to an origin upon this earth.

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