A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





ONCE upon a time, one of this earth's earlier scientists pronounced, or enunciated, or he told a story, which was somewhat reasonable, of a flood, and of all the animals of this earth saved, as species, in a big boat. Perhaps the story was not meant seriously by its author, but was a satire upon the ambitious boat-builders of his day. It is probable that all religions are founded upon ancient jokes and hoaxes. But, considering the relative fewness of the animals that were known to the scientists, or the satirists, of that early time, this story was as plausible as the science, or as the best satire, of any time. However data of such a host of animals piled up that the story of the big boat lost its plausibility.

Note that our data are upon events of which the founders of the present co-called science of astronomy [350/351] knew little, or knew nothing. Orthodox astronomy has been systematized, without considering new stars, their phenomena and indications. It is a big-boat story. Once upon a time it was plausible. It is in the position of the orthodox geology of former times, when a doctrine was formulated without consideration for fossils and sedimentary rocks. But, when fossils and sedimentary rocks were incorporated, they forced a radical readjustment. New stars were not taken into the so-called science of astronomy, by the builders of that system, because no astronomer ever saw, or reported, a new star, between the years 1670 and 1848. Presumably new stars have not started appearing all at once in modern times. Presumably, in this period of 178 years, many new stars appeared, and were not seen, though we shall have data for thinking that some of them shone night after night with the brilliance of first magnitude. One would like to know what, when time after time, the sky was probably spectacular with a new light, the astronomers were doing, in these 178 years. We may be able to answer that question, if we can find out what the astronomers are doing now.

There is not agreement among the wisemen. Virtually there is, by the wisemen of our tribes, no explanation of new stars. The collision-theory is heard of most.(1)

Always -- provided there have been little boys and other amateurs to inform them -- the wise ones tell of stars that have collided. They have never told of stars that are going to collide.

Why is a story always of stars that have collided? Assuming now that, instead of being points in a revolving shell, stars are swiftly moving bodies, there must be instances of stars that are going to collide, some days, weeks, or years from any given time. It is too [351/352] much to assume that only dark stars collide, or the preponderance of dark stars would be so great that the sky would be black with Inky Ways. So far, we have not a fair impression of how frequently new stars appear. It will be said that stars that are so close to each other that, in a year or so, they will collide, have, because of their enormous distance from this earth, the appearance of one point of light.

This takes us to one of the solemnest and laughablest of the wisemen's extravagances. It is their statement that, after two stars have collided, they can, by means of the spectroscope, pick out in what is to the telescope only one point of light, the fragments of an alleged collision, the velocities and the directions of these parts.

If any spectroscopist can do this thing that the reading public is told that he can do, never mind about parts where he says there has been a collision, but let him pick out a point in the sky, which is of parts that are going to collide. Let him tell where a new star is going to be: otherwise let him go on being told, by amateurs, where a new star is.

New stars appear. There are disturbances upon this earth -- there are volcanic appearances in the sky -- volumes of smoke and dust roll down upon this earth.

And the meaning of it all may some day be -- "Skyward ho!" Storms, upon a constellation's vacant areas, of Poles and Russians. A black cloud appears in the sky of Lyra, and down pours a deluge of Italians. Drifting sands of Scandinavians sift down to a star.

Jan. 5, 1892 -- just such a fiery blast as has often torn down the slopes of Vesuvius, shot across the State of Georgia. It was "a black tornado, filled with fire" (Chicago Tribune, Jan. 7).(2) About this time, there were shocks in Italy, and, in the evening, people in many parts of New York State were looking up and [352/353] wondering at a glare in the sky. The next day they had something else to wonder about. There were shocks in New York State. Upon the 8th, dust that was perhaps volcanic, but that had probably been discharged from no volcano of this earth, fell from the sky, in Northern Indiana. 14th -- "tidal wave" in the Atlantic, and a shock, at Memphis, Tennessee. Snow fell in Mobile, Alabama, where there had been only four falls of snow in seventy years. Floods in New England. Quakes in Japan, 15th, 16th, 17th. At this time began an eruption of Tongariro, New Zealand. "Tidal wave," or seismic wave, in Lake Michigan, upon the 18th. For references, see the New York newspapers. The Philadelphia Public Ledger, Jan. 27, reported a fall, from the sky, of a mass of fire into a town in Massachusetts, upon the 20th.(3) At this time, Rome, Italy, was quaking.(4) Shocks in France, two days later. Shocks in Italy and Sicily. Jan. 24th -- a great meteor, with thunderous detonations, shot over Cape Colony, South Africa (Cape Argus, Feb. 2 and 4).(5) A drought, at Durango, Mexico, was broken by rain, the first to fall in four years. Upon the night of the 26th, there was a glare in the sky that alarmed people throughout Germany. Severest shock ever known in Tasmania, upon the 27th, and shocks in many places in Victoria, Australia. In the night sky of England, people watched a luminous cloud (Nature, 45-365; 46-127).(6)

There was a new star.

In all the Observatories of this earth, not a professional astronomer had observed anything out of the ordinary: but, in Edinburgh, a man who knew nothing of astronomical technicalities (Nature, 45-365) looked up at the sky, and saw the new star, night of Feb. 1st.(7) Throughout this period of the glares and the shocks and the seeming volcanic discharges, a new star, or a new celestial volcano, had been shining in the constel- [353/354] lation Auriga. The amateur, Dr. Anderson, told the professionals. They examined photographs, and learned that they had been photographing the new star since Dec. 1st.

The look of data is that volcanic dust drifted from a new star to the sky of this earth, in Indiana, in not more than 39 days.

For four hours, upon the 8th of January, dust came down from the sky, in Northern Indiana, and if it did come from regions external to this earth, it came settling down, hour after hour, as if to a point upon a stationary earth. I have searched in many scientific periodicals, and in newspapers of all continents, finding record of no volcanic eruption upon this earth, by which to explain.

La Nature, 41-206 -- that this dust had been analyzed and had been identified as of volcanic origin.(8) Science, 21-303 -- that this dust had been analyzed and had been identified as not of volcanic origin.(9) Monthly Weather Review, Jan., 1892 -- "It was in all probability of volcanic origin."(10)

I have records of five other new stars, which, from Dec. 21, 1896, to Aug. 10, 1899, appeared at times of disturbances upon this earth; times of deluges and of volcanic discharges that can not be attributed to terrestrial volcanoes. Two of the discoveries were made by amateurs. The other discoveries were made by professionals, who, with nothing at all resembling celerity, learned by examining photographic plates, that new stars that had been looked at by astronomers had been recorded by cameras. The period of one of these incelerities was eleven years. See Nature, 85-248.(11)

Star after star has appeared, as a minute point, or as a magnificent sight in the heavens, and the professional astronomers have been unobservatory. They [354/355] have been notified by amateurs. We shall have records of youngsters who have seen what they were not observing. The first of the bright infants, of whom I have record, is Seth Chandler, of Boston. I have it that anybody who is only 19 years old, or, for that matter, 29, is a youngster. Seth was 19 years old. Upon May 12th, 1866, an amateur astronomer, named Birmingham, at Tuam, Ireland, notified the professional astronomers, who were looking somewhere else, that there was a new star in the constellation Corona Borealis. In the United States, the professional astronomers were busily engaged looking in other directions. Upon the night of the 14th, Seth Chandler interrupted their observations, telling them that there was something to look at. For any pessimist, who is interested in what becomes of exceptionally bright boys, and the disappointing records of many of them, I note that when this bright youngster grew up, he became a professional astronomer.

What on earth -- or pretty nearly assuredly unrelated to the skies -- were the professionals doing, February, 1901? Night of Feb. 22nd -- and Dr. Anderson, the amateur who had discovered Nova Aurigae, nine years before, looked up at the constellation Perseus, and, even though he had probably been befoozling himself with astronomical technicalities ever since, saw something new, and knew the new, when he saw it. It was a magnificent new star. It was a splendor that scintillated over stupidity -- not a professional, at any of this earth's Observatories, knew of this spectacle, until informed by Dr. Anderson. Usually it is said that Dr. Anderson discovered this star, but his claim has been contested. In Russia, it was recorded that, nine hours earlier, at a time when the sleepiest of the Observatories had not yet closed down, or had not yet quit not observing, the new star had been dis- [355/356] covered by Andreas Borisiak, of Kieff. Andreas was a schoolboy.

Before the discovery of this new star in Perseus, or Nova Persei, there had been appearances like volcanic phenomena, unattributable, however, to any volcano of this earth. Upon the morning of Feb. 13th, deep-greenish-yellow clouds, spreading intensest darkness, appeared in France (Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, March, 1901).(12) Upon the 16th, a black substance fell from the sky, in Michigan (Monthly Weather Review, 29-465).(13) There was the extreme coldness that often results from interferences with sunlight, by volcanic dust. At Naples, three persons were found to have frozen to death, night of the 13th (London Daily Mail, Feb. 15).(14) A red substance fell with snow, near Mildenhall (London Daily Mail, Feb. 22). It may have been functionally transmitted organic matter. "Pigeons seemed to feed upon it."

I have data for thinking that at least four nights before Dr. Anderson's observation, this new star, or a beam from it, though unseen at all Observatories, was magnificently visible. I think so, because, upon the night of the 18th, somebody in Finchley (London) and somebody in Tooting (London) saw something that they thought was a comet. Upon the night of the 20th, somebody in Tottenham saw it. A story of three somebodies who had seen something that was missed by all this earth's professional astronomers, would not be worth much, if told after an announcement of a discovery, but these observations were told of in the London Daily Mail, published on the morning of Feb. 22nd, before Dr. Anderson was heard from.(15)

Sixteen days after the Anderson observation, dust arrived upon this earth -- or it fell from the sky -- in volumes that were proportional to this outburst of first magnitude in the heavens. The new star, at its [356/357] brightest was of the magnitude of Vega. Dust, of the redness of many volcanic dusts, and of no African deserts that one hears anything of -- and if African deserts ever are red, moving picture directors, who are strong for realism, or, rather, sometimes are, should hear about this -- fell from the sky. It came down, upon the 9th and 10th of March, in Sicily, Tunis, Italy, Germany, and Russia. A thick orange-red rain was reported from Ongar, Essex, England, upon the 12th (London Daily Mail, March 19).(16)

The standardized explanation was published. I shall oppose it with heresy. Throughout this book, I say that all expressions of mine are only mental phenomena, and sometimes may be rather awful specimens, even at that. But, if we examine our opposition, and find it wanting, and if my own expression includes much that is left out, my own expression is not wanting, whether it's wanted, or not. Two wisemen wrote the standardized explanation. The red dust had come from an African desert. See Nature, 66-41.(17)

They wrote that they had traced this dust to a hurricane in an African desert, pointing out that, upon the first day, it had fallen in Tunis. That looked like a first fall near an African desert.

But the meteorologists are not banded like the astronomers. For a record of a fall, not so near an alleged African desert, see Symons' Met. Mag., 1902-25 -- that while this dust was falling in Tunis, also it was falling in Russia.(18) That this dust did come to this earth from outer space -- see Chemical News, 83-159 -- Dr. Phipson's opinion that it was meteoric.(19) They may be accepted as the same as volcanic --

My own expression --

That a hurricane that could have strewn Europe with dust, from the Mediterranean to Denmark, and from England to Russia, could have been no breeze flutter- [357/358] ing obscurely in some African desert, but a devastating force that would have fanned all Northern Africa into taking notice --

Lagos (Gold Coast) Record, March-April, 1901 -- no mention of a whirlwind of any kind in Africa. In the Egyptian Gazette (Alexandria) there is nothing relating to atmospheric disturbances. There is nothing upon any such subject noted in the Sierra Leone News. Al-Moghreb (Tangier) reports the falls of dust in Europe, but mentions no raising of dust anywhere in Africa.

But there was a new star.

The standardized explanation is perforated with omissions. It seems unthinkable that mind upon this earth could be so bound down to this earth by this thing of gaps, until we reflect that so are all nets fabricated. In Austria, while this dust was falling, the earth quaked. What could such an occurrence have to do with dust from an African desert? Omitted. But at the time of this quake, something else was seen, and it may have been a volcanic bomb that had been shot from a star. London Daily Mail, March 13 -- a great meteor was seen. Dust falling in Tunis -- and that was told. More of the omitted--see the Levant Herald, March 11 -- that while the dust was falling in Tunis, there were violent earthquakes in Algeria.(20) Something else that was left out -- see the English Mechanic, 73-96, and the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, April 1901 -- that, upon March 12th, ashes fell from the sky, at Avellin, Italy.(21)

Vesuvius, April, 1872 --

Krakatoa, August, 1883 --

Charleston, August, 1886 --

Time after time after time --

And now May, 1902 -- in the hollow of their ignorance, two of these conventionalists held 30,000 lives. [358/359]

May, 1902 -- there was another surprise. It, too, was preceded by announcements that were published by mountains, and were advertised in columns of fire upon pages of clouds.

In April and May, 1902, across a zone of this earth, also outside the zone, there were disturbances. More than earth-wide relations are indicated, to start with. Eruptions of Mt. Pelée, Martinique, began upon April 20th, the date of the Lyrids. However, in this book, I am omitting many data upon a seeming relation between dates of meteor streams and catastrophes. Then the volcano La Soufrière, island of St. Vincent, B.W.I., broke out. Upon the day of an earthquake in Siberia (April 12th) mud fell from the sky in widely separated places, in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. See Science, n.s., 15-872; New York Herald, April 14, 1902; Monthly Weather Review, May, 1902.(22)

There may have been an eruption in some other part of one relatively small existence, or organism. There may have been a new star. In the English Mechanic, 75-291, a correspondent in South Africa told that, in the constellation Gemini, night of April 16th, he had seen an appearance like a new red star.(23) He thought that it might have been not a star, but a mirage of the red light of the Cape Town lighthouse.

The white houses of St. Pierre, Martinique -- a white city, spread up on the slopes of Mt. Pelée. Early in May, there were panics in St. Pierre. Pelée was convulsed, and the quavering city of St. Pierre shook out inhabitants. Desertion of the city was objected to by its rulers, and the Governor of the island called upon two wisemen, Prof. Landes and Prof. Doze, for an authoritative opinion.

They had studied the works of Dr. Davison.

There were shocks in Spain, and in France. La [359/360] Soufrière was of continuing violence. A volcano broke out in Mexico. Quakes in the Fiji Islands. Violent quake in Iceland. Volcanic eruption at Cook's Inlet, Alaska.

Prof. Landes and Prof. Doze were studying Mt. Pelée.

An eruption of cattle and houses and human beings, in Rangoon, Burma -- or "the most terrible storm remembered." A remarkable meteor was seen at Calcutta. In Java, the Rooang volcano broke out. There were rumblings of an extinct volcano in France. In Guatemala, with terrific electrical displays, enormous volumes of water fell upon earthquakes.(24)

Profs. Landes and Doze "announced" that there was, in Pelée's activity, nothing to warrant the flight of the people. See Heilprin, Mont Pelée, p. 71.(25) Governor Mouttet ordered a cordon of soldiers to form around the city, and to permit nobody to leave.

Upon the 7th of May, a sky in France turned black with warning. See back to other such "coincidences" with catastrophes. Soot and water, like ink, fell from the sky, at Parc Saint Maur (Comptes Rendus, 134-1108).(26)

Upon this day, the people of St. Pierre were terrified by the blasts from Pelée. No inhabitant of the city was permitted to leave, but, as recorded by Heilprin, the captain of the steamship Orsolina did break away. They tried to hold him. The "pronouncement" was read to him, and officialdom threatened him, but, with half a cargo, he broke away. His arrival at Havre is told of, in the Daily Messenger (Paris) June 22.(27) The authorities of the Port of St. Pierre had refused to give him clearance papers, but, terrified by the blasts from the volcano, he had sailed without them.

The people of St. Pierre were trying to escape, but they were bound to the town by chains of soldiers. [360/361] Even in discreetly worded accounts, we read of these people, running in droves in the streets. In storms of ashes, turned back at all outskirts, by the soldiers, they were running in whirlpools.

Not one word of retreat, nor of any modification, came from the two Professors. They had spoken in accordance with the dogmas of their deadly cult. Considered locally, an effusion of ashes was not considered alarming, and no relationship with wider disturbances could be admitted. The Professors had spoken, and the people of St. Pierre were held to the town. The people were hammered and stabbed back, or they were reasoned with, and persuaded to stay. Just how it was done, one has to visualize for oneself. It was done.

At night there was a lull. Then blasts came from the volcano. Screaming people ran from the houses. The narrow streets of this white city were dark with people, massing one way, only to gather against the military confines, sweeping some other way, only to be turned back by soldiers. Had there been darkness some of them might have escaped, but even at sea the glare from the volcano was so intense that the crew of a passing steamship, Lord Antrim, were almost blinded.

As seen from the sea, the streets, hung up on the mountain side, distorted by smoke and glare, fluttered. Long narrow crowds darkening these fluttering streets -- folds of white garments of a writhing being, chained, awaiting burning.

Upon the morning of the 8th, the city of St. Pierre was bound to the stake of Mt. Pelée.

There was a rush of flames. In the volcanic fires that burned the city, 30,000 persons perished. [361]

1. For example, Nova Cygni in 1876 was explained by Ball as being the result of a stellar collision. Robert Ball. The Story of the Heavens. New York: Cassell and Co., rev. ed., 1905, 454. See suggested that only some novae were due to stellar collisons, though most were allegedly due to collisions with planets and comets. T.J.J. See. "The evolution of the starry heaven." Popular Astronomy, 19 (November, December; 1911): 529-47, 612-26, at 623. The alleged splitting of Nova Pictoris, in March of 1928, was explained by Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal at Cape Town, as a stellar collision: "Particular interest lies in the fact that this is the first direct evidence of a collision between two stars." "Star split is now called result of collision; said to be the first case of star hitting star." New York Times, March 29, 1928, p.1 c. 2-3.

2. "Four persons killed in a cyclone." Chicago Daily Tribune, January 7, 1892, p. 2 c. 6. The "cyclone," or tornado, was observed at Fayetteville, Georgia, and described by Sheriff J.B. Hewell. Correct quote: "...the great black cloud, filled with flashing fire...."

3. "Varieties." Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 27, 1892, p.5 c.9.

4. "Earthquake in Italy." New York Times, January 24, 1892, p.3 c.2.

5. "A natural phenomenon." Cape Argus (Cape Town, South Africa), February 1, 1892, 1st ed., p.5 c.1; 2d ed., p.5 c.3. "A natural phenomenon." Cape Argus, February 2, 1892, 1st & 2d eds., p.6 c.6. "A natural phenomenon." Cape Argus, February 4, 1892, 1st & 2d eds., p.3 c.2.

6. T.W. Backhouse. "Nacreous clouds." Nature, 45 (February 18, 1892): 365. J. Edmund Clark. "The height of the nacreous cloud of January 30." Nature, 46 (June 9, 1892): 127-8.

7. Thomas D. Anderson. "The new star in Auriga." Nature, 45 (February 18, 1892): 365. Anderson sent a postcard to Ralph Copeland on February 1, 1892, to advise him of the nova; but, he had probably seen the nova on January 24 and "for two or three days," though it was not until the 31st that he satisfied himself, with the aid of Klein's Star Atlas and a small pocket telescope, that "it was a strange body."

8. "Analyse de neige colorée." Nature (Paris), 1893, 2 (August 26): 206. The fall occurred at Porte County, Indiana; and, Huston, who analyzed the sample, attributed its origin to volcanic activity.

9. A.N. Somers. "A fall of colored snow." Science, o.s., 21 (June 2, 1893): 303-4.

10. "Mineral matter deposited with snow in Northern Indiana, January 8, 1892." Monthly Weather Review, 20 (January 1892): 20-1. Correct quote: "...it is in all probability...."

11. "Discovery of another nova, Sagittarii No.3." Nature, 85 (December 22, 1910): 248.

12. Jules Loisel. "Curieux phénomène météorologique." Bulletin de la Societe Astronomique de France, 15 (March 1901): 146. The phenomenon appeared between 2 and 3 P.M., (not in the morning).

13. "Colored snow." Monthly Weather Review, 29 (October 1901): 465. "It is brown, instead of black, but is not entirely dry." The fall occurred at Paw Paw, Michigan.

14. "The great cold spell." London Daily Mail, February 15, 1901, p.3 c.3.

15. "Red rain blows north." London Daily Mail, March 13, 1901, p.5 c.5.

16. "Was it red rain." London Daily Mail, March 19, 1901, p.4 c.6.

17. W.J.S.L. "Dust-falls and their origins." Nature, 66 (May 8, 1902): 41-2.

18. Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 37 (1902): 24-6. "Der grosse staubfall vom 9 bis 12 März 1901 in Nordafrika, Süd und Mittelerupoa." Johann Georg Gustav Hellman, and, Wilhelm Meinardus. Der Gross Staubfall vow 9. bis 12. Marz 1901 in Nordafrika, Süd- und Mittel-europa. Berlin: A. Asher & Co., 1901, 28-9. The fall of dust at Tunis occurred on March 9, 1901; the fall in Algeria continued from March 9 to 12, 1901; however, the fall of dust occurred on March 12 and 13, 1901, in Russia, (not on the same date as at Tunis).

19. T.L. Phipson. "Composition and nature of the red rain." Chemical News, 83 (April 4, 1901): 159-60.

20. "Earthquakes in Algeria." Levant Herald and Eastern Express (Istanbul), March 11, 1901, p.1 c.5.

21. "Scientific news." English Mechanic, 73 (March 15, 1901): 96-7. "La pluie rouge." Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France, 15 (April 1901): 190-3, at 192. The ashes fell at Avellin on March 10, 1901, (not March 12).

22. A.E. Verrill. "The mud shower." Science, n.s., 15 (May 30, 1902): 872. J.W. Moore. "A mud shower." Science, n.s., 15 (May 2, 1902): 714. "Mud shower is a dust-rain freak." New York Herald, April 14, 1902, p. 6 c. 3. "Dust storm and mud shower." Monthly Weather Review, 30 (May 1902): 269.

23. H.G.P. "The eclipse of the Moon as seen at Cape Town." English Mechanic, 75 (May 16, 1902): 291.

24. "The Guatemala earthquake." New York Times, May 9, 1902, p. 1 c. 7 & p. 2 c. 1. "Guatemala's earthquakes." New York Times, May 11, 1902, p. 1 c. 3. In the city of Quesaltenango: "At the time of the first shock a violent storm and rainstorm were raging.... The quaking and rain kept up continually for three days."

25. Angelo Heilprin. Mont Pelee and the Tragedy of Martinique. 1903, 71.

26. Th. Moureaux. "Sur lea pluie d'encre du 7 mai 1902." Comptes Rendus, 134 (1902): 1107-8. Parc Saint-Maur was one of three meteorological stations in Paris.

27. "The Martinique catastrophe." Galigani's Daily Messenger (Paris), June 22, 1902, p.1 c.4.

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