A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





AS to data that we shall now take up, I say to myself: "You are a benign ghoul, digging up dead, old legends and superstitions, trying to breathe life into them. Well then, why have you neglected Santa Claus?"

But I am particular in the matter of data, or alleged data. And I have come upon no record, or alleged record, of mysterious footprints in snow, on roofs of houses, leading to chimneys, Christmas Eves.

There is a great deal, in the most acceptable of the science of to-day, that represents a rehabilitation of supposed legends, superstitions, and folk lore. Recall Voltaire's incredulity as to fossils, which according to him only a peasant would believe in.(1) And note that his antagonism to fossils was probably because they had been taken over by theologians, in their way of [149/150] explaining. Here was one of the keenest of minds; but it could not accept data, because it rejected explanations of the data. And so one thinks of, say, the transmutation of metals, which is now rehabilitated.(2) And so on. There are some backward ones, to-day, who do not believe in witches: but every married man knows better.

In the month of May, 1810, something appeared at Ennerdale, near the border of England and Scotland, and killed sheep, not devouring them, sometimes seven or eight of them in a night, but biting the jugular vein and sucking the blood. That's the story. The only mammal that I know of that does something like this is the vampire bat. It had to be accepted that stories of the vampire bat are not myths. Something was ravaging near Ennerdale, and the losses by sheep farmers were so serious that the whole region was aroused. It became a religious duty to hunt this marauder. Once, when hunters rode past a church, out rushed the whole congregation to join them, the vicar throwing off his surplice, on his way to a horse. Milking, cutting of hay, feeding of stock were neglected. For more details, see Chambers' Journal, 81-470.(3) Upon the 12th of September, someone saw a dog in a cornfield, and shot it. It is said that this dog was the marauder, and that with its death the killing of sheep stopped.

For about four months, in the year 1874, beginning upon Jan. 8th, a killer was abroad, in Ireland. In Land and Water, March 7, 1874, a correspondent writes that he had heard of depredations by a wolf, in Ireland, where the last native wolf had been killed in the year 1712.(4) According to him, a killer was running wild, in Cavan, slaying as many as thirty sheep in one night. There is another account, in Land and Water, March 28.(5) Here a correspondent writes that, in Cavan, sheep had been killed in a way that led to the [150/151] belief the marauder was not a dog. This correspondent knew of 42 instances, in three townlands, in which sheep had been similarly killed -- throats cut and blood sucked, but no flesh eaten. The footprints were like a dog's, but were long and narrow, and showed traces of strong claws. Then, in the issue of April 11th, of Land and Water, came the news that we have been expecting.(6) The killer had been shot. It had been shot by Archdeacon Magenniss, at Lismoreville, and was only a large dog.

This announcement ends the subject, in Land and Water. Almost anybody, anyway in the past, before suspiciousness against conventions had the development that it has to-day, reading these accounts down to the final one, would say -- "Why, of course! It's the way these stories always end up. Nothing to them." But it is just the way these stories always end up that has kept me busy. Because of our experience with pseudo-endings of mysteries, or the mysterious shearing and bobbing and clipping of mysteries, I went more into this story that was said to be no longer mysterious. The large dog that was shot by the Archdeacon was sacrificed not in vain, if its story shut up the minds of readers of Land and Water, and if it be desirable somewhere to shut up minds upon this earth.

See the Clare Journal, issues up to April 27th -- the shooting of the large dog, and no effect upon the depredations -- another dog shot, and the relief of the farmers, who believed that this one was the killer -- still another dog shot, and supposed to be the killer -- the killing of sheep continuing.(7) The depredations were so great as to be described as "terrible losses for poor people." It is not definitely said that something was killing sheep vampirishly, but that "only a piece was bitten off, and no flesh sufficient for a dog ever eaten."

The scene of the killings shifted. [151/152]

Cavan Weekly News, April 17 -- that, near Limerick, more than 100 miles from Cavan, "a wolf or something like it" was killing sheep.(8) The writer says that several persons, alleged to have been bitten by this animal, had been taken to the Ennis Insane Asylum, "labouring under strange symptoms of insanity."

It seems that some of the killings were simultaneous near Cavan and near Limerick. At both places, it was not said that finally any animal, known to be the killer was shot or identified. If these things that may not be dogs be, their disappearances are as mysterious as their appearances.

There was a marauding animal in England, toward the end of the year 1905. London Daily Mail, Nov. 1, 1905 -- "the sheep slaying mystery of Badminton."(9) It is said that, in the neighbourhood of Badminton, on the border between Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, sheep had been killed. Sergeant Carter, of the Gloucestershire Police, is quoted -- "I have seen two of the carcasses, myself, and can say definitely that it is impossible for it to be the work of a dog. Dogs are not vampires, and do not suck the blood of a sheep, and leave the flesh almost untouched."

And going over the newspapers, just as we're wondering what's delaying it, here it is --

London Daily Mail, Dec. 19 -- "Marauder shot near Hinton."(10) It was a large, black dog.

So then, if in London any interest had been aroused, this announcement stopped it.

We go to the newspapers published nearer the source of the sheep-slaughtering. Bristol Mercury, Nov. 25 -- that the killer was a jackal, which had escaped from a menagerie in Gloucester.(11) And that stopped mystification and inquiry, in the minds of readers of the Bristol Mercury.

Suspecting that there had been no such escape of a [152/153] jackal, we go to Gloucester newspapers. In the Gloucester Journal, Nov. 4, in a long account of the depredations, there is no mention of the escape of any animal in Gloucester, nor anywhere else.(12) In following issues, nothing is said of the escape of a jackal, nor of any other animal. So many reports were sent to the editor of this newspaper that he doubted that only one slaughtering thing was abroad. "Some even go so far as to call up the traditions of the werewolf, and superstitious people are inclined to this theory."

We learn that the large, black dog had been shot upon Dec. 16th, but that in its region there had been no reported killing of sheep, from about Nov. 25th. The look of data is of another scene-shifting. Near Gravesend, an unknown animal had, up to Dec. 16th, killed about 30 sheep (London Daily Mail, Dec. 19).(13) "Small armies" of men went hunting, but the killing stopped, and the unknown animal remained unknown.

I go on with my yarns. I no more believe them than I believe that twice two are four.

If there is continuity, only fictitiously can anything be picked out of the nexus of all phenomena; or, if there is only oneness, we cannot, except arbitrarily, find any two units with which even to start the sequence that twice two are four. And, if there is also discontinuity, all things are so individualized that, except arbitrarily and fictitiously, nothing can be classed with, or added to, anything else.

London Daily Express, Oct. 14, 1925 -- the district of Edale, Derbyshire, terrorized, quite as, centuries ago, were regions by stories of werewolves.(14) Something, "black in colour and of enormous size," was slaughtering sheep, at night, "leaving the carcasses strewn about, with legs, shoulders, and heads torn off; broken backs, and pieces of flesh ripped off." Many hunting parties had gone out, but had been unable to [153/154] track the animal. "People in many places are so frightened that they refuse to leave their homes after dark, and keep their children in the house." If something had mysteriously appeared, it then quite as mysteriously disappeared.

There are stories of wanton killings, or of bodies that were not fed upon. London Daily Express, Aug. 12, 1919 -- something that, at Llanelly, Wales, was killing rabbits, for the sake of killing -- entering hutches at night, never taking rabbits, killing them by breaking their backbones.(15)

Early in the morning of March 3rd, 1906, the sentry at Windsor Castle saw something, and fired a shot at it (London Daily Mail, March 6).(16) The man's account of what he thought he saw was not published. It was said that he had shot at one of the ornamental, stone elephants, which had looked ghostly in moonlight. He was sentenced to three days' confinement in barracks, for firing without proper cause. It would be interesting to know what he thought he saw, with such conviction that he fired and risked punishment -- and whether it had anything to do with --

Daily Mail, March 22 -- that about a dozen of the King's sheep, in a field near Windsor Castle, had been bitten by something, presumably a dog, so severely that they had been killed.(17) In the Daily Mail, March 19, is an account of extraordinary killing of sheep, "by dogs," near Guildford, about 17 miles from Windsor, 51 sheep were killed in one night.(18)

A woman in a field -- something grabbed her. At first the story was of a marauding panther that must have escaped from a menagerie. See the Field, Aug. 12, 19, 1893 -- an animal supposed to be an escaped panther, that was preying upon human beings, in Russia.(19) Look up records of werewolves, or supposed werewolves, and note instances of attacks almost exclusively upon [154/155] women. For a more particularized account, by General R.G. Burton, who was in Russia, at the time, see the Field, Dec. 9, 1893.(20) General Burton had no opportunity to visit the place "haunted by this mysterious animal," but he tells the story, as he got it from Prince Sherincki, who was active in the hunt. An unknown beast was terrorising a small district in the Orel Government, south of Moscow. The first attack was upon the evening of July 6th. Three days later, another women was grabbed by an undescribed animal, which she beat off, until help arrived. That day, a boy, aged 10, was killed and devoured. July 11th -- a woman killed, near Trosna. "At four o'clock, on the 14th, the beast severely wounded another woman, and, at five o'clock made another attack upon a peasant girl, but was beaten off by a companion, who pulled the animal off by the tail. These details are taken from the official accounts of the events."

There was a panic, and the military authorities were appealed to. Three officers and 40 men were sent from Moscow. They organized beats that were composed of from 500 to 1,000 peasants, but all hunts were unsuccessful. On the 24th of July, four women were attacked, and one of them was killed.

Something was outwitting 3 officers and 40 men, and armies of 1,000 peasants. War was declared. Prince Sherincki with 10 officers and 130 men arrived from St. Petersburg. We notice that in uncanny occurrences, when there is wide publicity, or intense excitement, phenomena stop -- or are stopped. War was declared upon something, but it disappeared. "According to general description, the animal was long, with a blunt muzzle, and round, standing-up ears, with a long, smooth, hanging tail."

We know what to expect.

In the Field, Dec. 23, 1893, it is said that, after a [155/156] study of sketches of the spoor of the animal, the naturalist Alferachi gave his opinion that the animal was a large dog.(21) He so concluded because of the marks of protruding nails in the sketches.

But also it is said that plaster casts of the footprints showed no such marks. It is said that the nail marks had been added to the sketches, because of assertions by hunters that nail marks had been seen. Writing 30 years later (Chambers' Journal, ser. 7, vol. 14, p. 308) General Burton tells of the animal as something that had never been identified.(22)

This is fringing upon an enormous subject that leads away from the slaughtering of sheep to attacks, some of them mischievous, some ordinarily deadly, and some of the Jack the Ripper kind, upon human beings. Though I have hundreds of notes

upon mysterious attacks upon human beings, I cannot develop an occult criminology now. [156]

1. Voltaire's attempts to dispel the idea that fossil shells had been produced by the Biblical flood were excessive. Though he would explain the fossil shells were dropped from the hats of Palmers going to the Shrine of St. James at Compostella in the Middle Ages, from the remains left by picnickers, and from remnants of shell collections belonging to dead conchologists, Voltaire also argued that one of his correspondents had watched shells grow spontaneously from stones. E.M. Forster. "Incongruities: Voltaire's slugs." New York Times, August 30, 1931, s. 11; 1, 4.

2. Fort is undoubtedly referring to Sir William Ramsay's experiments upon the exposure of metals to "radiation emanation." Although these experiments have been refuted, the transmutation of metals has since been demonstrated.

3. "The wild-dog of Ennerdale." Chambers's Journal (Edinburgh), s. 6, 7 (June 25, 1904): 470-2.

4. "Wolves in Great Britain." Land and Water, 17 (March 7, 1874): 190.

5. "An Irish wolf." Land and Water, 17 (March 28, 1874): 245. Rev. Mr. McGuinness, C.C. of Kilmore; not Archdeacon Magenniss.

6. N. Gosselin. "The Irish wolf." Land and water, 17 (April 11, 1874): 279.

7. "Sheep killing." Clare Journal, March 9, 1874, p. 2 c. 6. "Sheep killing in West Clare." Clare Journal, April 27, 1874, p. 3 c. 4. Correct quote: "...it would appear to be the work of one animal as no other mark appears on the body except a piece may be bitten off the ear or breast of the sheep. No flesh sufficient for a dog has been eaten...."

8. "An unwelcome visitor." Cavan Weekly News, April 17, 1874, p.3 c.6.

9. "Sheep-slaying mystery." London Daily Mail, November 1, 1905, p.5 c.6.

10. "Badminton jackal." London Daily Mail, December 19, 1905, p.5 c.5.

11. "A Burnham mystery." Bristol Daily Mercury, November 25, 1905, p.8 c.5. Fort's reference says quite the opposite: "A theory at first suggested, that it was the work of a jackal which recently escaped from a menagerie at Gloucester, has had to be abandoned, as that animal sucks the blood of the sheep, whilst in this instance the majority of sheep had drowned themselves, or were torn and bitten about that they had to be put out of their misery."

12. "Gloucestershire sheep-slaying mystery." Glouchester Journal, November 4, 1905, p.8 c.5. "The Badminton jackal." Gloucester Journal, November 25, 1905, p.8 c.5. Correct quote: "...wehr-wolf...." This article does state: "The description points very decidedly to an animal of the jackal type, which is assumed to have escaped from a travelling show." Again: "As, however, reports are continually being received from a wide area respecting many appearances made by animals, and which are often of a variable description, the general belief is gaining ground that a menagerie must have lost a van load of animals...."

13. "Badminton jackal." London Daily Mail, December 19, 1905, p.5 c.5.

14. "New hound of the Baskervilles." London Daily Express, October 14, 1925, p.1 c.5. Correct quotes: "...as being of enormous size, black in colour...," "...broken backbones...," and, "...after dusk...."

15. "Rabbit killing mystery." London Daily Express, August 12, 1919, p.5 c.3.

16. "Windsor Castle ghost." London Daily Mail, March 6, 1906, p.5 c.6. Private Bentley thought the figures were persons scaling the terrace, and when the figures failed to answer his challenge he fired five bullets upon one of them.

17. "From far and near." London Daily Mail, March 22, 1906, p.5 c.7.

18. "From far and near." London Daily Mail, March 19, 1906, p.5 c.7.

19. "A panther at large." Field, 82 (August 12, 1893): 263 c.3. "Tiger in the Orloff Government." Field, 82 (August 19, 1893): 302 c.3. The animal was also thought to be a "tiger" or "mad wolf."

20. R.G. Burton. "A wild beast in Russia." Field, 82 (December 9, 1893): 882 c.2-3. Prince Sherincki-Shakhmatoff arrived from St. Petersburg, but the bulk of officers and soldiers were from detachments from Orel and Kaluga, (not from Moscow nor from St. Petersburg).

21. A.H.B. "A wild beast in Russia." Field, 82 (December 23, 1893): 973 c.2. Now, Prince Shirnisky Shèhmatoff. The sketches would have been of tracks, not of spoor, if "protruding nails" were observed.

22. R.G. Burton. "Wolf-children and were-wolves." Chambers' Journal (Edinburgh), s.7, 14 (1924): 306-10, at 309.

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