A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





WITH a surf and a glare, this earth quaked a picture --

Or in the monistic sense, there was, in Peru, a catastrophe that was a hideous and magnificent emotion. It is likely that there's a wound in a brain, at a time of intensest excitement --

Red of the writhing earth, and red of the heaving ocean -- and, in between, a crimson gash of surf, slashed from Ecuador to Chile --

Or so was visualized a rage, by super-introspection.

According to the midgets of orthodoxy, such a picture cannot be accepted. See the little De Ballore school of criticism. But quakes that were pictures by a very independent artistry --

Snow that was white on the peaks of mountains -- cataclysm -- peaks struck off -- avalanches of snow, [324/325] glaring red, gushing in jugular spouts from the decapitations. Glints from the fiery sky -- upon land and sea, tossing houses and ships were spangles. Forests lashed with whips of fire, from which shot out sparks that were birds and running animals.

August 13, 1868 -- people in Peru, rushing from their falling houses, stumbling in violations of streets, seeing the heavens afire, crying: "El Vulcan!"

Away back in the year 1868, scientific impudence had not let loose, and there was no scientific clown to laugh off the blazing sky, with a story of lights in horse cars. The mystery of this occurrence is in the belief in Peru that there was, somewhere, at this time, a volcanic eruption.

Cities were flung in the sea. The sea rushed back upon ruins. It doubled all ordinary catastrophes by piling wrecks of ships upon the ruins of houses. Fields poured over cliffs into the Bay of Arica. It was a cataract of meadows. We have gone far in our demonstration of continuity, which has led from showers of frogs to storms of meadows.

Vast volumes of water fell from the sky. It was appalling providence: this water was needed. The waters soaked into the needful earth, and surplus beneficences made new rivers. In the streams, there was a ghastly frou-frou of torrents of corpses, and the coast of Peru was frilled with fluttering bodies. Almost Ultimate Evil could be stimulated by such a lingerie. These furbelows of dead men, flounced in the waves, were the drapery of Providence.

Upon the 19th of August, there was another violent quake, and again there was a glare in the sky. Both times there was no accounting for such a spectacle except by thinking that there had been an eruption in Peru. According to the New York Herald, Sept. 29, the volcano Moquequa was suspected.(1) London Times, Oct. 21 -- [325/326] letter from someone who had seen the flaming sky, and had heard that Canderave was the volcano.(2) It was said that the eruption had been at Aqualonga, and then that it had not been Aqualonga, but Cayambe. An illumination in the sky, lasting several hours is described in Comptes Rendus, 67-1066, and here a writer gives his opinion that the volcano was Saajama.(3) Other observers of the glare said that it came from Cotopaxi. Cosmos, n.s., 3-3-367 -- it was supposed that Cotocachi was the volcano.(4) But it is not possible to find anything of this disagreement in any textbook: all agree on attributing to one volcano -- it was Mt. Misti.

New York Herald, Oct. 30, 1868 -- that Mt. Misti had not been active.(5)

See Comptes Rendus, 69-262 -- the results of M. Gay's investigations -- that, in this period, not one of the suspected volcanoes had been active.(6) See the Student, 4-147.(7)

Sometimes volcanic eruptions upon this earth shine, at a distance, like stars. It will be my acceptance that new stars are new volcanic eruptions in Starland. For a description of a terrestrial eruption that shone like a star, see the Amer. Jour. Sci., 2-21-144.(8) See a description, in the New York Times, Sept. 23, 1872, of an eruption of Mauna Loa, which far away looked star-like.(9)

At 12.30 p.m., September 4th, appeared something that has often been seen at Naples, when Vesuvius has discharged. It was like the volcanic discharge that we have noted, at Guadalajara, Mexico. A dense, mountain-like cloud appeared, in the western sky, at Callao, Peru. The earth heaved with violence equal to that of August 13th.

New York Tribune, Oct. 7 -- that in the southwestern sky was seen a star. [326/327]

It is my expression that this was the star that broke Peru.

Night of Feb. 4th, 1872 -- another glare in the sky -- that the constellation Orion was afire -- that a tragedy upon this earth began in the sky, with a spectacle that excited peoples of this earth, from Norway to South Africa -- but that, underlying tragedies written by human beings, or wrought in sky and lands, are the same conventions, and that Organic Drama is no more likely to let catastrophe come, without preceding phenomena that may be interpreted as warnings, than would stagecraft of this earth permit final calamity, without indications of its approach --

That a surprise was preceded by a warning that was perhaps of the magnitude of a burning of all the forests of North America -- testimony of the sun and the moon to coming destruction -- announcements that were issued in blazes -- showers of gleaming proclamations -- brilliant and long-enduring advertisement --

But that mind upon this earth was brutalized with dogmas -- and that scientific wisemen, stupefied by a creed, presided over a slaughter, or were surprised when came the long and brilliantly advertised.

This night of Feb. 4th, 1872 -- a blaze in the constellation Orion. From centers of alarm upon this earth there was telegraphing. City called upon city. People thought that a neighboring community was burning. In the West Indies, island called upon island. In each island, the glare in the sky was thought to come from a volcanic eruption in some other island. At Moncalieri, Italy, an earthquake, or a response in this earth to cataclysm somewhere else, was recorded by seismographs. There may have been special relation with the ground, in Italy.

With this glare, which was considered auroral, because there was no other way of conventionally [327/328] explaining it, though auroras never have been satisfactorily explained, came meteors. Denza recorded them, as seen in Italy, and noting their seeming relation to the glare, explained that the seeming relation was only a coincidence. That's got to be thought by everybody who opposes all that this book stands for. If it was not a coincidence, the meteors came to this earth from wherever the glare was. If the glare was in the constellation Orion, Orion may be no farther from Italy than is San Francisco.

Upon the night of Feb. 22nd, another glare was seen in the sky, and "by coincidence," it was identical in all respects, except magnitude, with the glare of the 4th. "By coincidence" again meteors appeared. See Comptes Rendus, 74-641.(10)

Five days after this second seeming eruption in Orion, dust fell from the sky, at Cosenza, Italy (Comptes Rendus, 74-826).(11)

The meteors that were seen at the time of the first glare were extraordinary. They appeared only in the zone of Italy. As seen with the glare, in India, they are told of in the Allahabad Pioneer Mail, Feb. 12, and the Bombay Gazette, Feb. 19.(12) See other records of ours of zone-phenomena.

Sixteen days after the second glare in Orion, reddish yellow dust fell in Sicily, and continued to fall the second day, and fell in Italy.

Trembling trillions -- or a panic of immensities -- and the twinkles of the stars are the winks of proximities -- and our data are squeezing supposed remotenesses into familiarities -- because, if from a constellation eruption, dust drifted to this earth in a few weeks, it did not drift trillions of miles --

But was this dust a discharge from a volcano?

It was volcanic dust, according to Prof. Silvestri. See the Jour. Chem. Soc. London, 25-1083.(13) Prof. [328/329] Silvestri thought that it must have come from an eruption somewhere in South America. But my notes upon phenomena of this year 1872 are especially numerous, and I have no record of any eruption in South America, or anywhere else -- upon this earth -- to which could be attributed this discharge.

For records of a stream of events that then started flowing, see Comptes Rendus, vols. 74, 75, and Cosmos, vol. 28.(14) In Italy, upon the first of April, began successions of "auroral" lights and volleys of meteors. Night of April 7-8 -- many meteors, at Mondovi, Italy. Solar and lunar haloes, which may, or may not, be attributed to the presence of volcanic dusts, were seen in Italy, April 6th, 7th, and 8th. Two days later, Vesuvius became active, but there were only minor eruptions.

There was uneasiness in Italy. But it was told, in Naples, that the wisemen were watching Vesuvius. Because of the slight eruptions, some of the peasants on the slopes began to move. These were a few of the untrustful ones: the others believed, when the wisemen said that there was no reason for alarm. Night after night, while this volcano in Italy was rumbling, meteors came to the skies of Italy. There is no findable record that they so came anywhere else. They came down to this one part of this earth, as if this earth were stationary.

April 19th -- the third arrival of dust -- volumes of dust, of unknown origin, fell from the sky, in Italy.

There was alarm. The sounds of Vesuvius were louder, but a quiet fall of dust, if from the unknown, spreads an alarm of its own.

The wisemen continued to study Vesuvius. They paid no more attention to arrivals of dusts and meteors in the sky of a land where a volcano was rumbling than to arrivals of song birds or of tourists, in Italy. [329/330] Their assurances that there was no reason for alarm, founded only upon their local observations, held back upon the slopes of the volcano all but a few disbelievers --

The 20th of April --

Eruption of Vesuvius.

Convolutions of clouds -- scrimmages of brains that had broken out of an underground academy of giants -- trying to think for themselves -- struggling to free themselves from subterranean repressions. But clouds and brains are of an underlying oneness: struggles soon relapsed into a general foginess. Volcanic or cerebral -- the products are obscurities. Naples was in darkness.

The people of Naples groped in the streets, each in a hellish geometry of his own, each seeing in a circle, a few yards in diameter, and hearing, in one dominant roar, no minor sounds more than a few yards away. Streams of refugées were stumbling into the streets of Naples. People groped in circles, into which were thrust hands, holding up images, or clutching loot. Fragments of sounds in the one dominant roar -- geometricity in bewilderment -- or circles in a fog, and sometimes dominant, and everything else crippled. The flitting of feet, shoulders, bandaged heads -- cries to the saints -- profanity of somebody who didn't give a damn for Vesuvius -- legs of a corpse, carried by invisibles -- prayers to God, and jokers screeching false alarms that the lava was coming.

A blast from the volcano cleared away smoke and fog. High on Vesuvius -- a zigzag streak of fire. It was a stream of lava that looked fixed in the sky. With ceaseless thunder, it shone like lightning -- a bolt that was pinned to a mountain.

Glares that were followed by darkness -- in an avalanche of bounding rocks and stumbling people, no fugi- [330/331] tive knew one passing bulk from another, crashing rocks and screaming women going by in silence, in the one dominant roar of the volcano. When it was dark, there were showers of fire, and then in the glares, came down dark falls of burning cinders. In brilliant illuminations, black rains burned running peasants. Give me the sting of such an ink, and there'd be running.

Somewhere, in the smoke and flames, on the mountain side, fell a sparrow. According to conventional theologians, this was noted.

The next day there was another flow down the slopes of Vesuvius. It was of carts that were laden with bodies.

Possibly this was overlooked, if attention was upon the sparrow. See data to come, for a more matured opinion.

In at least one mind, or quasi-mind, or whatever we think are minds, upon this earth, there was awareness of more than coincidence between flows of meteors in Italy and a volcanic eruption in Italy. In Comptes Rendus, 74-1183, M. Silberman tells of the meteors in Italy, and the eruption of Vesuvius, and gives his opinion that there was relation.(15) It was a past generation's momentary suspicion. The record is brief. There was no discussion. To this day, no conventional scientist will admit that there is relation. But, if there is, there is also another relation. That is between his dogmas and the slaughters of people.

In orthodox terms of a moving earth crossing orbits of meteor streams, to which any one part of this earth, such as the Italian part, could have no especial exposure to meteors so moving, there is no explanation of the repeated arrivals of meteors, especially, or exclusively, in Italy, except this --

Night after night after night --

Coincidence after coincidence after coincidence. [331/332]

Our unorthodox expression is that it was because this earth is stationary.

According to data that have been disregarded about sixty years, it may be that there was a teleportative, or electrolytic, current between a volcano of this earth and a stellar volcano. If we think that a volcano in a land that we call the Constellation Orion interacted with a volcano in Italy -- as Vesuvius and Etna often interact -- there must be new thoughts upon the distance of Orion.

The one point that every orthodox astronomer would contest, or deride -- because its acceptance would be followed by acceptance of this book as a whole -- is that the glare that seemed to be in Orion, was in Orion.

These are the data for thinking that the glare that seemed to be in Orion, was in Orion, which cannot be vastly far away:

The glare in the sky, early in the evening of Feb. 4th, 1872, was west of Orion, as if cast by reflection from an eruption below the horizon. But, when Orion appeared in the east, the glare was in Orion, and it remained in Orion. At Paris, all beams of light came from Orion, after 8 p.m. (Comptes Rendus, 74-385).(16) In England -- in Orion (Symons' Met. Mag., 7-1).(17) In South Africa, the point from which all beams diverged was in Orion (Cape Argus, Feb. 10).(18) An account by Prof. A.C. Twining, of observations in the United States, is published in the Amer. Jour. Sci., 3-3-273.(19) This "remarkable fact," as Prof. Twining calls it, but without attempting to explain, is noted -- that, from quarter past seven o'clock, in the evening, until quarter past ten, though Orion had moved one eighth of its whole revolution, the light remained in Orion.

There is no conventional explanation to oppose us. My expression is that the glare so remained in Orion, [332/333] because it was in Orion. Anybody who thinks that the glare was somewhere between this earth and the constellation will have to account not only for the fixedness of it in a moving constellation, but for its absence of parallax, as seen in places as far apart as South Africa and the United States. [333]

1. "Condition of Peru after the earthquake." New York Herald, September 29, 1868, p. 4 c. 2-3.

2. "Earthquake in Peru." London Times, October 21, 1868, p.4 c.3-5. The red illumination was observed at Arequipa and Tacna, Peru, on the night of August 13, and at Arica and Tacna, on August 19, 1868.

3. Pissis. "Sur le tremblement de terre éprouvé le 13 aout 1868 dans la partie occidentale de l'Amerique du Sud." Comptes Rendus, 67 (1868): 1066-8, at 1068.

4. "Le treblement de terre de l'Amérique du Sud.--Tremblement de terre à Pau.--La traversée de l'Afrique entre l'Egypte et le Gabon." Cosmos: Revue Encyclopedic, s.3, 3 (October 3, 1868): 365-7.

5. "Peru." New York Herald, October 30, 1868, p.4 c.3-4.

6. Cl. Gay. "Sur le tremblement de terre arrivé en août 1868 dans l'Amerique méridionale." Comptes Rendus, 69 (1869): 260-4.

7. "The great earthquake of Peru, 1868." Student and Intellectual Observer, 4 (1870): 146-8.

8. "Eruption of Mauna Loa." American Journal of Science, s.2, 21 (1856): 139-44, at 144.

9. "Mauna Loa." New York Times, September 23, 1872, p.5 c.4.

10. J.-J. Silbermann. "Mémoire sur des faits dont on peut déduire: 1 une théorie des auroras boréales et australes, fondée sur l'existence de marées atmosphériques; 2 l'indication, à l'aide des aurores, de l'existence d'essaims d'astéroïdes à proximité du globe terrestre." Comptes Rendus, 74, 638-42, at 641.

11. P. Denza. "Pluie de sable et phénomènes cosmiques observés en Italie dans la première décade de mars 1872." Comptes Rendus, 74, 826-7. Cosenza had a light fall of dust on February 27, which was followed by a heavier fall of dust on March 10 and 11.

12. "The late aurora as seen at Lahore...." Pioneer (Allahabad, India), 9 (n.656; February 12, 1872): 1, c.3. "The Aurora Borealis at Lahore." Bombay Gazette (Overland Summary), February 19, 1872, p.7 c.1

13. B.J.G., reviewer. O. Silvestri. "Examination of rain accompanied by meteoric (volcanic) dust." Journal of the Chemical Society of London, 25 (1872): 1082-3. For an additional report and the original report: "Chemico-microscopic research of a peculiar substance which accompanied the meteoric dust which fell in Sicily on 9th, 10th, and 11th March last." Chemical News, 25 (June 21, 1872): 300. O. Silvestri. "Studio chimico microscopico di una particolare pioggia accompagnnia da polvere meteorica, caduta in Sicilia nei giorni 9, 10 e 11 marzo 1872." Gazetta Chimica Italiana, 2 (1872): 83-8.

14. "Aurore boréale." Comptes Rendus, 74, 384-90. Cornu."Sur le spectre de l'aurore boréale de 4 février." Comptes Rendus, 74, 390-1. Prazmowski. "Étude spectrale de la lumière de l'aurore boréale de 4 fevrier." Comptes Rendus, 74, 391-2. J.-J. Silbermann. "Mémoire sur des faits dont on peut déduire: 1 une théorie des auroras boréales et australes, fondée sur l'existence de marées atmosphériques; 2 l'indication, à l'aide des aurores, de l'existence d'essaims d'astéroïdes à proximité du globe terrestre." Comptes Rendus, 74, 638-42. P. Denza. "Pluie de sable et phénomènes cosmiques observés en Italie dans la première décade de mars 1872." Comptes Rendus, 74, 826-7. J.-J. Silbermann. "Suite du mémoire sur les causes et lois des aurores boréales; marées terrestres, actions des astéroïdes donnant lieu aux tremblements de terre et aux éruptions volcaniques." Comptes Rendus, 74, 1182-4. P. Denza. "Observations météorlogiques." Cosmos: Les Mondes, 28 (1872): 101-3. P. Denza. "Sur une nouvelle pluie de sable tombée en Italie." Cosmos: Les Mondes, 28 (1872): 127. Silbermann. "Sur la relation entre les phénomenes météorologiques et les éruptions volcaniques." Cosmos: Les Mondes, 28 (1872): 127-8.

15. J.-J. Silbermann. "Suite du mémoire sur les causes et lois des aurores boréales; marées terrestres, actions des astéroïdes donnant lieu aux tremblements de terre et aux éruptions volcaniques." Comptes Rendus, 74, 1182-4. Sic, Silbermann.

16. "Aurore boréale." Comptes Rendus, 74, 384-90, at 386.

17. "A southern aurora." Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 7 (February 1872): 1-5.

18. "Aurora Australis." Cape Argus (Cape Town), February 6, 1872, p.2 c.6.

19. Alex. C. Twining. "The aurora of February 4th, 1872." American Journal of Science, s.3, 3 (1872): 273-81, at 273, 276.

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