A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited and Annotated by Mr. X
I AM A collector of notes upon subjects that have diversity -- such as deviations from concentricity in the lunar crater Copernicus, and a sudden appearance of purple Englishmen -- stationary meteor-radiants, and a reported growth of hair on the bald head of a mummy -- and "Did the girl swallow the octopus?"(1)
But my liveliest interest is not so much in things, as in relations of things. I have spent much time thinking about the alleged pseudo-relations that are called coincidences. What if some of them should not be coincidences?
Ambrose Small disappeared, and to only one person could be attributed a motive for his disappearance. Only to one person's motives could the fires in the house in Derby be attributed. Only to one person's motives could be attributed the probable murder of Henry Chappell. But, according to the verdicts in all these cases, the meaning of all is of nothing but coincidence between motives and events.
Before I looked into the case of Ambrose Small, I was [18/19] attracted to it by another seeming coincidence. That there could be any meaning in it seemed so preposterous that, as influenced by much experience, I gave it serious thought. About six years before the disappearance of Ambrose Small, Ambrose Bierce had disappeared. Newspapers all over the world had made much of the mystery of Ambrose Bierce. But what could the disappearance of one Ambrose, in Texas, have to do with the disappearance of another Ambrose, in Canada? Was somebody collecting Ambroses? There was in these questions an appearance of childishness that attracted my respectful attention.
Lloyd's Sunday News (London) June 20, 1920 -- that, near the town of Stretton, Leicestershire, had been found the body of a cyclist, Annie Bella Wright.(2) She had been killed by a wound in her head. The correspondent who wrote this story was an illogical fellow, who loaded his story with an unrelated circumstance: or, with a dim suspicion of an unexplained relationship, he noted that in a field, not far from where the body of the girl lay, was found the body of a crow.
In the explanation of coincidence there is much of laziness, and helplessness, and response to an instinctive fear that scientific dogma will be endangered. It is a tag, or a label: but of course every tag, or label, fits well enough at times. A while ago, I noted a case of detectives who were searching for a glass-eyed man named Jackson. A Jackson, with a glass eye, was arrested in Boston. But he was not the Jackson they wanted, and pretty soon they got their glass-eyed Jackson, in Philadelphia. I never de- [19/20] veloped anything out of this item -- such as that, if there's a Murphy with a hare lip, in Chicago, there must be another hare-lipped Murphy somewhere else. It would be a comforting idea to optimists, who think that ours is a balanced existence: all that I report is that I haven't confirmed it.
But the body of a girl, and the body of a crow --
And, going over files of newspapers, I came upon this:
The body of a woman, found in the River Dee, near the town of Eccleston (London Daily Express, June 12, 1911).(3) And nearby was found the body of another woman. One of these women was a resident of Eccleston: the other was a visitor from the Isle of Man. They had been unknown to each other. About ten o'clock, morning of June 10th, they had gone out from houses in opposite parts of the town.
New York American, Oct. 20, 1929 -- "Two bodies found in desert mystery."(4) In the Coachella desert, near Indio, California, had been found two dead men, about 100 yards apart. One had been a resident of Coachella, but the other was not identified. "Authorities believe there was no connection between the two deaths."
In the New York Herald, Nov. 26, 1911, there is an account of the hanging of three men, for the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, on Greenberry Hill, London.(5) The names of the murderers were Green, Berry, and Hill. It does seem that this was only a matter of chance. Still, it may have been no coincidence, but a savage pun mixed with murder. New York Sun, Oct. 7, 1930 -- arm of William Lumsden, of Roslyn, Washington, crushed under a [20/21] tractor.(6) He was the third person, in three generations, in his family, to lose a left arm. This was coincidence, or I shall have to come out, accepting that there may be "curses" on families. But, near the beginning of a book, I don't like to come out so definitely. And we're getting away from our subject, which is Bodies.
"Unexplained drownings in Douglas Harbor, Isle of Man," In the London Daily News, Aug. 19, 1910, it was said that the bodies of a young man and of a girl had been found in the harbor.(7) They were known as a "young couple," and their drowning would be understandable in terms of a common emotion, were it not that also there was a body of a middle-aged man "not known in any way connected with them."
London Daily Chronicle, Sept. 10, 1924 -- "Near Saltdean, Sussex, Mr. F. Pender, with two passengers in his sidecar, collided with a post, and all were seriously injured.(8) In a field, by the side of the road, was found the body of a Rodwell shepherd, named Funnell, who had no known relation with the accident."
An occurrence of the 14th of June, 1931, is told of, in the Homes News (Bronx) of the 15th.(9) "When Policeman Talbot, of the E. 126th St. station, went into Mt. Morris Park, at 10 a.m., yesterday, to awaken a man apparently asleep on a bench near the 124th St. gate, he found the man dead. Dr. Patterson, of Harlem Hospital, said that death had probably been caused by heart trouble." New York Sun, June 15 -- that soon after the finding of this body on the bench, another dead man was found on a bench near by.(10) [21/22]
I have two stories, which resemble the foregoing stories, but I should like to have them considered together.
In November, 1888 (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Dec. 20, 1888) two residents of Birmingham, Alabama, were murdered, and their bodies were found in the woods.(11) "Then there was such a new mystery that these murder-mysteries were being overlooked." In the woods, near Birmingham, was found a third body. But this was the body of a stranger. "The body lies unidentified at the undertaker's rooms. No one who had seen it can remember having seen the man in life, and identification seems impossible. The dead man was evidently in good circumstances, if not wealthy, and what he could have been doing at the spot where his body was found is a mystery. Several persons who have seen the body are of the opinion that the man was a foreigner. Anyway he was an entire stranger in this vicinity, and his coming must have been as mysterious as his death."
I noted these circumstances, simply as a mystery. But when a situation repeats, I notice with my livelier interest. This situation is of local murders, and the appearance of the corpse of a stranger, who had not been a tramp.
Philadelphia Public Ledger, Feb. 4, 1892 -- murder near Johnstown, Pa. -- a man and his wife, named Kring, had been butchered, and their bodies had been burned.(12) Then, in the woods, near Johnstown, the corpse of a stranger was found. The body was well-dressed, but could not be identified. Another body was found -- "well-dressed man, who bore no means of identification."
There is a view by which it can be shown, or more or [22/23] less demonstrated, that there never has been a coincidence. That is, in anything like a final sense. By a coincidence is meant a false appearance, or suggestion, or relations among circumstances. But anybody who accepts that there is an underlying oneness of all things, accepts that there are no utter absences or relations among circumstances --
Or that there are no coincidences, in the sense that there are no real discords in either colors or musical notes --
That any two colors, or sounds, can be harmonized, by intermediately relating them to other colors, or sounds.
And I'd not say that my question, as to what the disappearance of one Ambrose could have to do
with the disappearance of another Ambrose, is so senseless. The idea of causing Ambrose Small
to disappear may have had origin in somebody's mind, by suggestion from the disappearance of
Ambrose Bierce. If in no terms of physical abduction can the disappearance of Ambrose Small
be explained, I'll not say that that has any meaning, until the physicists intelligibly define what
they mean by physical terms. 
1. "Believe it or not." New York Evening Post, January 9, 1928. [AF-III-134.] An account of an Egyptian mummy, which alleged was bald, had grown hair after being exposed to sunlight. This article is not in the microfilmed edition.
2. "Bella Wright case still deep mystery." Lloyd's Sunday News, June 20, 1920, p.3 c.6.
3. "Two women drowned." London Daily Express, June 13, 1911, p. 5 c. 4. One of these women resided in Chester, (not Eccleston); and, the article does not state that the women were unknown to each other.
4. "Two bodies found in desert mystery." New York American, October 20, 1929, p.2 c.1. Correct quote: "Authorities believed there...."
5. "Curiosities of coincidence." New York Herald, November 26, 1911, mag., p. 6. The murder of the magistrate Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, was discovered on October 17, 1678, "in a ditch at the foot of Primrose Hill," (not Greenberry Hill); and, Robert Green, Henry Berry, and Laurence Hill, (Catholics), were implicated by a confession made by Miles Prance, which was later recanted; and, these three men were executed in February of 1679, continuing to protest their innocence to their end. Hall states: "On one point alone do the various searchers for the truth appear to be agreed -- the three men, who were tried and hanged for his murder, were innocent of the crime"; and, as to the body being found at "Greenberry Hill," he states: "I have not been able to verify the truth of this story. It excited much interest at the time. It looks to me, however, suspiciously like Whig anti-Catholic propaganda." John Hall. Four Famous Mysteries. London: Nisbet & Co., 1922, 87-136.
6. New York Sun, (October 7, 1930; not found here).
7. London Daily News, (August 19, 1910): (Could not find in Aug. 15 to 19.).
8. "Mystery of shepherd's death." London Daily Chronicle, September 10, 1924, p.5 c.3.
9. "Man dies of heart ailment on bench in Harlem park." Bronx Home News, June 15, 1931, p.2 c.5. Correct quote: "...124th St. and Madison Ave. gate...."
10. "Two dead on benches...." New York Sun, June 15, 1931, p.21 c.7-8.
11. "The Birmingham mysteries." St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 20, 1888, p.4 c.4. After the Hawes' murder, a stranger's body was found in the woods, and a farmer disappeared after selling his produce in the market. There is no mention of a third body, only the stranger's. Correct quotes: "The Hawes' murder mystery is for a time overlooked, if not forgotten, in this city, and people are now busy with theories of two later mysteries. The body of the man found in the woods near town Monday night still lies unidentified at the undertaking rooms, and this may become a greater mystery than the Hawes crime. No one who has seen the body can remember having seen the man in life, and identification seems impossible. The dead man was evidently a man in good circumstances, if not wealthy, and what he could have been doing at the spot where the body was found is a mystery. Several parties who have seen the body are of the opinion the man was a foreigner. Anyway, he was an entire stranger in this vicinity, and his coming must have been as mysterious as his death."
12. "Mysterious murders." Philadelphia Public Ledger, February 4, 1892, p.5 c.8.
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