A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





IT may be that upon new principles we can account for the mystery of the Marie Celeste.(1) If there is a selective force, which transports stones exclusively, or larvæ, and nothing but larvæ, or transports living things of various sizes, but nothing but living things, such a selective force might affect a number of human beings, leaving no trace, because unaffective to everything else.

I take from the report by the Queen's Proctor, in the Admiralty Court, published in the London Times, Feb. 14, 1873.(2) Upon the 5th of December, 1872, between the Azores and Lisbon, the crew of the British ship Dei Gratia saw a vessel, made out to be the American brigantine Marie Celeste. Her sails were set, and she was tacking, but so erratically that attention was attracted. Whether ships are really females, or [137/138] not, this one looked so helpless, or woebegone, that all absence of male protection was suspected. The Britons shoved out and boarded the vessel. There was nobody aboard. There was findable nothing by which to account for the abandonment. "Every part of the vessel, inside and outside, was in good order and condition." In the log book, the latest entry, having in it no suggestion of impending trouble of any kind, was dated Nov. 25th. There was no sign of any such trouble as mutiny. A phial of oil, used by the captain's wife, upon a sewing machine, stood upright, indicating that there had been no rough weather. Investigation of this mystery was world-wide. The State Department of the United States communicated will all representatives abroad, and every custom house in the world was more or less alert for information of any kind: but fourteen persons, in a time of calm weather, and under circumstances that gave no indication of any kind of violence, disappeared, and either nothing, or altogether too much, was found out. I have a collection of yarns, by highly individualized liars, or artists who scorned, in any particular, to imitate one another; who told, thirty, forty, or fifty years later, of having been members of this crew.

London Times, Nov. 6, 1840 -- the Rosalie, a large French ship, bound from Hamburg to Havana -- abandoned ship -- no clue to an explanation.(3) Most of the sails set -- no leak -- valuable cargo. There was a half-starved canary in a cage.

But I suggest that, with our hints of Teleportation, we are on the wrong track. Crews of vessels have disappeared, and vessels have disappeared. It may be that something of which the inhabitants of this earth know nothing, is concerned in these disappearances, or seizures.

In the New York Sun, April 24, 1930, the French [138/139] astronomer and meteorologist, Gen. Frederic Chapel, is quoted, saying that aircraft missing at sea, and seacraft, may have been struck by meteors.(4) That there is something of the unexplained in these disappearances, many writers have felt. But there is no recorded instance of aircraft, flying over land, having been struck by a meteor, and I know of few instances of reported falls of meteoric matter upon vessels, and no instance of a vessel that has been much damaged by a meteor.

The disappearance of the Cyclops, a fuel ship of the U.S.N., even though in war time, is considered mysterious--some time after March 4th, 1918, after leaving Barbados, B.W.I., for Hampton Roads, Va.

When the Titanic went down, April 15, 1912, flotsam was reported months afterward, and there were many survivors; but, after the disappearance of the White Star steamship, the Naronic, in February, 1893, two empty lifeboats, supposed to be hers, were reported by a sea captain, and nothing more was seen. In the report by the London Board of Trade, it was considered highly improbable that the Naronic had struck an iceberg. It was said that this vessel was "almost perfect," in construction and equipment. She was a freighter, with 75 men aboard. There were life belts for all.

New York Times, June 21, 1921 -- disappearance of three American ships -- difficult to think of piracy -- seemed to be no other explanation -- five departments of the Washington Government investigating.(5) In February, the Carol Deering, a five-masted schooner, of Portland, Me., had gone ashore, near Diamond Shoals, North Carolina. The mystery is similar to that of the Marie Celeste. Nobody aboard. Everything was in good condition. The circumstance that attracted most attention was that the crew had disappeared [139/140] about the time a meal was to be served. A little later, a bottle was picked up on shore, and in it was a message purporting to have been written by the mate of the vessel. "An oil-burning tanker has boarded us, and placed our crew in irons. Get word to headquarters of the Company at once." Just how somebody in irons could get a container for a message makes me wonder: still, if it's a bottle, they say that that could be got by anybody in double irons.

In the London Daily Mail, June 22, the finding of another bottle with a message in it, is told of -- from the Captain of the Deering, this time -- that he had been taken prisoner by the crew, and had been put upon another vessel.(6)

After the Waratah "mysteriously disappeared" off the coast of South Africa, July, 1909, five bottles, all said to be hoaxes, were found. There is as much complication and bafflement in this subject, as in anything that Science is said absolutely to have proved. If some of us tire of our existence, and would like to try some other existence, they had better think it over, because anything merrier than ours is hard to conceive of. Every shipwreck, or any other catastrophe, brings out merrymakers. The tragedy of the Waratah was enjoyed a long time. More than thirteen years later (Nov. 21, 1922) another bottle, said to be a hoax, was found near Cape Town. Still, I am affected just the other way, and am taking on a new pessimism. Heretofore I have thought cheerfully of bottles. But there's a depression from anything, once the humorists get a hold of it. I wonder how comes it that nobody has reported finding an old bottle, and in it a sea captain's account of an impending mutiny, signed "Christopher Columbus."(7)

New York Times, June 22, 1921 -- "More ships added to the mystery-list -- almost simultaneous dis- [140/141] appearances, without a trace, regarded as significant."(8) Times, June 24 -- about a dozen vessels in the list.(9)

And yet such a swipe by an unknown force, of the vessels of a nation, along its own coast, was soon thought of no more. Anything could occur, and if not openly visible, or if observed by millions, would soon be gulfed in forgetfulness. Or soon it would be conventionalized. In the year 1921, it was customary to accuse the Russians. I think that the climax was reached, in the year 1927, when unruliness of natives in the jungles of Peru was attributed to Russian agents. Still, I suppose that, for years, whenever there is revolt against misrule and oppression, propagandists will tell us the same old yarn of otherwise contented natives, misled by those Russian. In June, 1921, the way of explaining the disappearance of a dozen vessels was by saying that it was thought that the Soviet Government was stealing them.

It may be that constructions from somewhere else have appeared upon this earth, and have seized crews of this earth's ships.

In their book, The Cruise of the Bacchante, the two young princes, sons of the Prince of Wales, one of them now the King of England, tell of "a strange light, as if of a phantom vessel all aglow" that was, at four o'clock, morning of the 11th of June, 1881, between Melbourne and Sydney, reported by the lookout of the Bacchante.(10) The unknown appearance was seen by twelve other members of the crew. Whether there be relation, or not, five hours later, the lookout fell from a crosstree and was killed.(11)

Brooklyn Eagle, Sept. 10, 1891 -- something that was seen, at Crawfordsville, Indiana, 2 a.m., Sept. 5th.(12) Two icemen saw it. It was a seemingly headless monster, or it was a construction, about 20 feet long, and 8 feet wide, moving in the sky, seemingly propelled by [141/142] fin-like attachments. It moved toward the icemen. The icemen moved. It sailed away, and made such a noise that the Rev. G.W. Switzer, pastor of the Methodist church, was awakened, and, looking from his window, saw the object circling in the sky.

I supposed that there was no such person as the Rev. G.W. Switzer. Being convinced that there had probably never been a Rev. G.W. Switzer, of Crawfordsville -- and taking for a pseudo-standard that if I'm convinced of something that is something to suspect -- I looked him up. I learned that the Rev. G.W. Switzer had lived in Crawfordsville, in September, 1891. Then I found out his present address in Michigan. I wrote to him, and received a reply that he was travelling in California, and would send me an account of what he had seen in the sky, immediately after returning home. But I have been unable to get him to send that account. If anybody sees a "headless monster" in the sky, it is just as well to think that over, before getting into print. Altogether, I think that I make here as creditable and scientific a demonstration as any by any orthodox scientist, so far encountered by us. The problem is: Did a "headless monster" appear in Crawfordsville, in September, 1891? And I publish the results of my researches: "Yes, a Rev. G.W. Switzer did live in Crawfordsville, at the time."

I'd like to know what Mr. W.H. Smith saw, Sept. 18th, 1877, in the sky, moving over the city of Brooklyn. It looked like a winged human form (New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1877).(13)

Zoologist, July, 1868 -- something that was seen in the sky, near Copiapo, Chile -- a construction that carried lights, and was propelled by a noisy motor -- or "gigantic bird; eyes wide open and shining like burning coals; covered with immense scales, which clashed together with a metallic sound."(14) [142/143]

I don't know what will be thought generally of our data, but in the New York Times, July 6, 1873, the writer of General Notes tells of something that he considered "the very worst case of delirium tremens on record."(15) This was before my time. He copied from the Bonham (Texas) Enterprise -- that a few days before the time of writing, a man living 5 or 6 miles from Bonham, had told of having seen something like an enormous serpent, floating over his farm; and that other men working in the fields had seen the thing and had been frightened. I suppose that, equally delirious, inhabitants of the backwoods of China, would similarly describe one of this earth's airships floating over their farms. I don't know that this one account, considered alone, amounts to anything, but, in the Times, of the 7th of July, I found something else noted.(16) A similar object had been reported from Fort Scott, Kansas. "About half way above the horizon, the form of a huge serpent, apparently perfect in form, was plainly seen."

New York Times, May 30, 1888 -- reports from several places, in Darlington County, South Carolina -- huge serpent in the sky, moving with a hissing sound, but without visible means of propulsion.(17)

In the London Daily Express, Sept. 11, 1922, it is said that, upon Sept. 9th, John Morris, coxswain of the Barmouth (Wales) Life Boat, and William James, looking out at sea, from the shore, at Barmouth, saw what they thought was an aeroplane falling into the ocean.(18) They rushed out in a motor boat, but found nothing. In the Barmouth and County Advertiser, of the 14th, it is said that this object had fallen so slowly that features described as features of an aeroplane had been seen.(19) In newspapers and aeronautical journals of the time, there is no findable record of an aeroplane of this earth reported missing. [143/144]

There was a series of occurrences, in the summer of 1910. Early in July, the crew of the French fishing smack, Jeune Frédéric, reported having seen, in the sky, off the coast of Normandy, a large, black, bird-like object. Suddenly it fell into the sea, bounded back, fell again, and disappeared, leaving no findable traces. Nothing was known of the flight of any terrestrial aircraft. by which to explain (London Weekly Dispatch, July 10).(20) Upon August 17th (London Times, Aug. 19) labourers at work in the forest east of Dessau, Germany, saw in the sky an object that they thought was a balloon.(21) It suddenly flamed, and something that was thought to be its car, fell into the forest. The Chief Forester was notified, and a hunt, on a large scale, was made, but nothing was found. Aeronautical societies reported that no known balloon had been sent up. It was thought that the object must have been somebody's large toy balloon. About this time, the fall from the sky of a white cylinder of marble was reported. One of us pioneers, or whatever we are, Mr. F.T. Mayer, looked up this matter, and learned that the reported occurrence was upon the farm of Mr. Daniel Lawyer, Rural Route 4, Westerville, Ohio. I wrote to Mr. Lawyer, asking whether the object could be considered artificial. I had an idea that it might, or might not, be a container of a message that had been fired to this earth from Mars or the moon or somewhere else. Mr. Lawyer did not like the suggestion of artificiality, which he interpreted as meaning that he had picked up something that had been made in Ohio. He said that it was not an artificial object, but a meteorite. For a reproduction of a photograph of this symmetric, seemingly carved cylinder, 12 inches long, weight about 3 pounds, see Popular Mechanics, 14-801.(22) About 9 p.m., August 30th -- lights as if upon an airship, moving over New York City (New York [144/145] World, Aug. 31).(23) Aviators were interviewed, but all known aircraft were accounted for. World, Sept. 2 -- that two men had sent up a large kite.(24) Upon the 21st of September (New York Tribune, Sept. 22) a great number of round objects were seen passing from west to east over the lower part of New York City.(25) Crowds stood in the streets, watching them. They were thought to be little balloons. I have records of similar objects, in large numbers, that could not be considered little balloons. For several hours this procession continued. If somebody from Jersey City was advertising, he kept quiet in his bid for publicity. The next day, at Dunkirk, N.Y., an object, described as an unknown cigar-shaped balloon, was seen in the sky, over Lake Erie, seeming to be unmanageable, gradually disappearing, late in the evening. There was so much excitement in Dunkirk that tugboats went out and searched all night. Toronto Daily Mail and Empire, Sept. 24 -- that someone on a tugboat had found a large box-kite, which had been sent up by a party of campers, and was undoubtedly the reported object.(26)

Mr. A.H. Savage-Landor, in Across Unknown South America, vol. II, p. 425, tells a story that was told to him, by the people of Porto Principal, Peru, in January, 1912 -- that, some years before, a ship had been seen in the sky, passing over the town, not far above the tree tops.(27) According to his interpretations, it was a "square globe," flying a flag of Stars and Stripes. Mr. Savage-Landor thinks that the object might have been the airship, which, upon Oct. 17th, 1910, Wellman abandoned about 400 miles east of Hatteras. In newspaper accounts of this unsuccessful attempt to cross the Atlantic, it is said that, when abandoned, this airship was leaking gas rapidly.(28) If a vessel from somewhere else, flying the Stars and Stripes, is pretty hard to think of, except by thinking [145/146] that there are Americans everywhere, also the "square globe" is not easy, at least for the more conventional of us. Probably these details are faults of interpretation. Whatever this thing in the sky may have been, if we will think that it may have been, it returned at night, and this time it showed lights.

In the New York newspapers, September, 1880, are allusions to an unknown object that had been seen travelling in the sky, in several places, especially in St. Louis and Louisville. I have not been able to get a St. Louis newspaper of this time, but I found accounts in the Louisville Courier-Journal, July 29, Aug. 6, 1880.(29) Unless an inventor of this earth was more self-effacing than biographies of inventors indicate, no inhabitant of this earth succeeded in making a dirigible aerial contrivance, in the year 1880, then keeping quiet about it. The story is that, between 6 and 7 o'clock, evening of July 28th, people in Louisville saw in the sky "an object like a man, surrounded by machinery, which he seemed to be working with his hands and feet." The object moved in various directions, ascending and descending, seemingly under control. When darkness came, it disappeared. Then came dispatches, telling of something that had been seen in the sky, at Madisonville, Ky. "It was something with a ball at each end." "It sometimes appeared in a circular form, and then changed to an oval. It passed out of sight, moving south."

These are stories of at least harmless things that were, or were not, seen over lands of this earth. It may be that if beings from somewhere else would seize inhabitants of this earth, wantonly, or out of curiosity, or as a matter of scientific research, the preference would be for an operation at sea, remote from observations by other humans of this earth. If such beings exist, they may in some respects be very [146/147] wise, but -- supposing secrecy to be desirable -- they must have neglected psychology in their studies, or unconcernedly they'd drop right into Central Park, New York, and pick up all the specimens they wanted, and leave it to the wisemen of our tribes to explain that there had been a whirlwind, and that the Weather Bureau, with its usual efficiency, had published warnings of it.

Now and then admirers of my good works write to me, and try to convert me into believing things that I say. He would have to be an eloquent admirer, who could persuade me into thinking that our present expression is not at least a little fanciful; but just the same I have laboured to support it. I labour, like workers in a beehive, to support a lot of vagabond notions. But how am I to know? How am I to know that sometime a queen-idea may soar to the sky, and from a nuptial flight of data, come back fertile from one of these drones?

In the matter of the disappearance of the Danish training ship Kobenhoven, which, upon December 14, 1928, sailed, with fifty cadets and sailors aboard, from Montevideo, I note that another training ship, the Atalanta (British) set sail, early in the year 1880, with 250 cadets and sailors aboard, from Bermuda, and was not heard of again.

Upon October 3rd, 1902, the German bark, Freya, cleared from Manzanillo for Punta Arenas, on the west coast of Mexico. I take from Nature, April 25, 1907.(30) Upon the 20th of October, the ship was found at sea, partly dismasted, lying on her side, nobody aboard. The anchor was still hanging free at her bow, indicating that calamity had occurred soon after the ship had left port. The date on a calendar, on a wall of the Captain's cabin, was October 4th. Weather reports showed that there had been only light winds in [147/148] this region. But upon the 4th and 5th, there had been earthquakes in Mexico.

Several weeks after the disappearance of the crew of the Freya, another strange sea-occurrence was reported.

Zoologist, 4-7-38 -- that, according to the log of the steamship Fort Salisbury, the second officer, Mr. A.H. Raymer, had, Oct. 28, 1902, in Lat. 5, 31' S., and Long. 4, 42' W., been called, at 3.5 a.m., by the lookout, who reported that there was a huge dark object, bearing lights in the sea ahead.(31) Two lights were seen. The steamship passed a slowly sinking bulk, of an estimated length of five or six hundred feet. Mechanism of some kind -- fins, the observers thought -- was making a commotion in the water. "A scaled back" was slowly submerging.

One thinks that seeing for such details as "a scaled back" could not have been very good, at three o'clock in the morning. So doubly damned is this datum that the attempt to explain it was in terms of the accursed Sea Serpent.

Phosphorescence of the water is mentioned several times, but that seems to have nothing to do with two definite lights, like those of a vessel. The Captain of the Fort Salisbury was interviewed. "I can only say that he (Mr. Raymer) is very earnest on the subject, and has, together with the lookout and helmsman, seen something in the water, of a huge nature, as specified."

One thinks that this object may have been a large, terrestrial vessel that had been abandoned, and was sinking.

I have looked over Lloyd's List, for the period, finding no record, by which to explain. [148]

1. The correct name of the ship was the Mary Celeste; however, the name Marie Celeste was used in a fictional story based upon this mystery written by Arthur Conan Doyle, and it is repeatedly misspelled.

2. "Mystery of the sea." London Times, February 14, 1873, p.9 c.2.

3. "Ship deserted." London Times, November 6, 1840, p.6 c.3.

4. New York Sun, (April 14, 1930), (The article appears in a different edition from that which was microfilmed, and a copy is among Fort's notes).

5. "Piracy suspected in disappearance of 3 American ships." New York Times, June 21, 1921, p.1 c.8 & p.2 c.1. The name of the schooner was the Carroll A. Deering, (not the Carol Deering, as reported in this article). Correct quote: "An oil-burning tanker or submarine has boarded us and placed our crew in irons. Get word to headquarters of company at once."

6. "3 steamers vanish." London Daily Mail, June 22, 1921, p.7 c.3.

7. [Ref. to Waratah disap. and bottle messages.]

8. "More ships added to mystery list." New York Times, June 22, 1921, p.1 c.5 & p.10 c.1. Correct quote: "More ships added to mystery list."

9. "Suggest storms sank lost mystery ships." New York Times, June 24, 1921, p.2 c.7-8.

10. John Neale Dalton, comp. The Cruise of the Her Majesty's Ship "Bacchante" 1879-1882. London: Macmillan and Co., 1886, 551, s.v. 1881: "July 11th." The phenomenon was observed on July 11, 1881, (not June 11); and, it was also observed by the ships Tourmaline and Cleopatra, sailing with the Bacchante. Correct quote: "A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow...."

11. The King of England, to which Fort refers, was George V. Though Fort had originally written the lookout fell to his death "five hours later," the time given by John Neale Dalton was 10:45 A.M.

12. "Substitute for the sea serpent." Brooklyn Eagle, September 10, 1891, p.4 c.2-3.

13. Wm. H. Smith. "Was it an angel?" New York Sun, September 21, 1877, p.2 c.6.

14. "A strange bird." Zoologist, s.2, 3 (July 1868): 1295. Correct quote: "...a gigantic bird...," and, "Its immense wings were clothed with a grayish plumage, its monstrous head was like that of a locust, its eyes were wide open and shone like burning coals; it seemed to be covered with something resembling the thick and stout bristles of a boar, while on its body, elongated like that of a serpent, we could only see brilliant scales, which clashed together with a metallic sound as the strange animal turned its body in its flight."

15. "General Notes." New York Times, July 6, 1873, p.1 c.4.

16. "General notes." New York Times, July 7, 1873, p.1 c.4.

17. "Flying serpent." New York Times, May 30, 1888, p.3 c.5.

18. "Fall in the sea." London Daily Express, September 11, 1922, p.7 c.2.

19. "Aeroplane mystery." Barmouth and County Advertiser and Visitors' List, September 14, 1922, p.3 c.2. With binoculars, Capt. John Morris "saw the machine nose-diving and disappearing into the sea, with the propellor still in motion."

20. "Black bird mystery." London Weekly Dispatch, July 10, 1910, p.9 c.4.

21. "Reported explosion of a balloon." London Times, August 19, 1910, p.6 c.4.

22. "Small meteor startles Ohio farmer." Popular Mechanics, 14 (December 1910): 801.

23. "Aeroplane makes flight over city after nightfall." New York World, August 31, 1910, p.1 c.4.

24. "Human bird o'night just paint on kite." New York World, September 2, 1910, p.4 c.2-3.

25. "All downtown looking up." New York Tribune, September 22, 1910, p.1 c.2.

26. "Box kite, not balloon." Toronto Daily Mail and Empire, September 24, 1910, p.15 c.5. No mention is made in this article of the alleged balloon's shape nor of its movement apart from sinking into Lake Erie.

27. Arnold Henry Savage Landor. Across unknown South America. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1913. 2 vols., v.2, 425-426.

28. Walter Wellman. " "Wellman and crew rescued at sea, airship lost...." New York Times, October 19, 1910, p. 1 c. 4-7 & p. 2 c. 1.

29. "A flying machine which two Louisvillians saw passing over the city." Louisville Courier-Journal, July 29, 1880, p. 4 c. 2. "The flying machine." Louisville Courier-Journal, August 6, 1880, p. 4 c. 5. Correct quotes: "...the appearance of a moon...with his feet and hands," "...there seemed to be a ball at each end of the thing...It sometimes appeared in a circular form and changed to an oval. It passed out of sight going, as well as he could determine, directly south." There is no mention of the object's disappearance in the darkness.

30. "The Mexican earthquake." Nature, 75 (April 25, 1907): 610. The Freya was discovered twenty days after its departure on October 3, thus on October 23, (not October 20).

31. "The following is the latest contribution to the tale...." Zoologist, s. 4, 7 (January 1903): 38-9. Correct quotes: "...the scaled back of some huge monster...," and, "...on the subject, and certainly has together...."

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