Wild Talents

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X

Chapter Seven



RABID VAMPIRES -- and froth on their bloody mouths. See the New York Times, Sept. 5, 1931 -- rabies in vampire bats, reported from the island of Trinidad.(1) Or a jungle at night -- darkness and dankness, tangle and murk -- and little white streaks that are purities in the dark -- pure, white froths on the bloody mouths of flying bats -- or that there is nothing that is beautiful and white, aglow against tangle and dark, that is not symbolized by froth on a vampire's mouth.

I note that it is ten minutes past nine in the morning. At ten minutes past nine, tonight, if I think of this matter -- and can reach a pencil, without having to get up from my chair -- though sometimes I can scrawl a little with the burnt end of a match -- I shall probably make a note to strike out those rabid bats, with froth on their bloody mouths. I shall be prim and austere, all played out, after my labors of the day, and with my horse powers stabled for the night. My better self is ascendant when [65/66] my energy is low. The best literary standards are affronted by those sensational bats.

I now have a theory that our existence, as a whole, is an organism that is very old -- a globular thing within a starry shell, afloat in a super-existence in which there may be countless other organisms -- and that we, as cells in its composition, partake of, and are ruled by, its permeating senility. The theologians have recognized that the ideal is the imitation of God. If we be a part of such an organic thing, this thing is God to us, as I am God to the cells that compose me. When I see myself, and cats, and dogs losing irregularities of conduct, and approaching the irreproachable, with advancing age, I see that what is ennobling us is senility. I conclude that the virtues, the austerities, the proprieties are ideal in our existence, because they are imitations of the state of a whole existence, which is very old, good, and beyond reproach. The ideal state is meekness, or humility, or the semi-invalid state of the old. Year after year I am becoming nobler and nobler. If I can live to be decrepit enough, I shall be a saint.

It may be that there are vampires other than the vampire bats. I have wondered at the specialization of appetite in the traditional stories of vampires. If blood be desired, why not the blood of cattle and sheep? According to many stories there have been unexplained attacks upon human beings; also there have been countless outrages upon other animals.

Possibly the remote ancestors of human beings were apes, though no evolutionist had made clear to me reasons [66/67] for doubting the equally plausible theory that apes have either ascended, or descended, from humans. Still, I think some humans may have evolved from apes, because the simians openly imitate humans, as if conscious of a higher state, whereas the humans who act like apes are likely to deny it when criticized. Slashers and rippers of cattle may be throw-backs to the ape-era. But, though it is said that, in the Kenya Colony, Africa, baboons sometimes mutilate cattle, I'd not say that the case against them has been made out. London Daily Mail, May 18, 1925 -- that, for some years, an alarming epidemic of sheep-slashing and cattle-ripping had been breaking out, in the month of April, on Kenya stock ranches.(2) Natives were blamed, but then it was learned that their cattle, too, had been attacked. Then it was said to be proved that chacma baboons were the marauders. Possibly the baboons, too, were unjustly blamed. Then what? The wounds were long, deep cuts, as if vicious slashes with a knife; but it was explained that baboons kill by ripping with their thumb nails.

The most widely known case of cattle-mutilation is that in which was involved a young lawyer, George Edalji, son of a Hindu, who was a clergyman in the village of Wyrley, Staffordshire. The first of a series of outrages occurred upon the night of Feb. 2, 1903. A valuable horse was ripped. Then, at intervals, up to August 27th, there were mutilations of horses, cows, and sheep.(3) Suspicion was directed to Edalji, because of anonymous letters, accusing him.

After the mutilation of a horse, Aug. 27th, Edalji was [67/68] arrested. The police searched his house, and, according to them, found an old coat, upon which were bloodstains. In the presence of Edalji's parents and his sister, the police said that there were horse hairs upon this coat. The coat was taken to the police station, where Dr. Butler, the police surgeon, examined it, reporting that upon it he had found twenty-nine horse hairs. The police said that shoes worn by Edalji exactly fitted tracks in the field, where the horse had been mutilated. They learned that the young man had been away from home, that night, "taking a walk," as told by him. The case against Edalji convinced a jury, which found him guilty, and he was sentenced to seven years, penal servitude.

I now have a theory that our existence is a phantom -- that it died, long ago, probably of old age -- that the thing is a ghost. So the unreality of its composition -- its phantom justice and make-believe juries and incredible judges. There seems to be a ghostly justice surviving in the old spook, having the ghost's liking for public appearances, at times. Let there be publicity enough, and Justice prevails. In a Dreyfus case, when the attention of the world is attracted, Justice, after much delay, and after a fashion, appears. Probably in the prison with Edalji were other prisoners who had been sent there, about as he had been sent. They stayed there. But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with much publicity, took up Edalji's case.(4) In his account, in Great Stories of Real Life, Doyle says that when the police inspector found the old coat, upon which, according to him, there were horse hairs, Mrs. Edalji and Miss Edalji examined it and denied that there was a horse hair [68/69] upon it: that Edalji's father said: "You can take the coat. I am satisfied that there is no horse hair on it."(5) Doyle's statements imply that somewhere near the police station was a stable. As to the statement that Edalji's shoes exactly fitted tracks in the field, where the horse was ripped, Doyle says that the outrage occurred just outside a large colliery, and that hundreds of excited miners had swarmed over the place, making it impossible to pick out any one track. Because of Doyle's disclosures -- so it is said -- or because of the publicity, the Government appointed a Committee to investigate, and the report of this Committee was that Edalji had been wrongfully convicted.(6)

Sometimes slashers of cattle have been caught, and, when called upon to explain, have said that they had obeyed an "irresistible impulse." The better-educated of these unresisting ones transform the rude word "slasher" into "vivisectionist," and, instead of sneaking into fields at night, work at regular hours, in their laboratories. There are persons who wonder at the state of mind of the people in general, back in times when the torture of humans was sanctioned. The guts of a man were dragged out for the glory of God. "Abdominal exploration" of a dog is for the glory of Science. The state of mind that was, and the state of mind that is, are about the same, and the unpleasant features of anything are glossed over, so long as mainly anything is glorious.

According to a reconsideration, by the English Government, in the Edalji case, the slasher of cattle, at Wyrley, remained uncaught. In the summer of 1907, in the same region, again there was slashing. [69/70]

Aug. 22, 1907 -- a horse mutilated, near Wyrley. It was said that blood had been found on the horns of a cow, and that the horse had been gored. Five nights later, two horses, in another field, were slashed so that they died. Sept. 8 -- horse slashed, at Breenwood, Staffordshire. A young butcher, named Morgan, was accused, but he was able to show that he had been in his home, at the time. For about a month injuries to horses continued to be reported. They had been injured "by barbed wires," or "by nails projecting from fences." [70]

1. "Many die in Trinidad of a strange disease." New York Times, September 5, 1931, p.13 c.2. The disease was variously diagnosed as being similar to infantile paralysis, or polio, and to botulism; and while suspected, rabies was initially discounted as no bats were seen flying in the daytime. "Mad vampire bats spread hydrophobia." New York Times, September 29, 1931, p.8 c.6.

2. Fulahn. "Baboons as cattle raiders." London Daily Mail, May 18, 1925, p. 8 c. 5.

3. The last mutilation before Edalji's arrest was on August 17, 1903, (not August 27).

4. Arthur Conan Doyle. London Daily Telegraph, January 11, 1907. Arthur Conan Doyle. London Daily Telegraph, January 12, 1907. Arthur Conan Doyle. John Michael Gibson, and, Richard Lancelyn Green, comp. Letters to the Press. London: Secker & Warburg, 1986; 124-37, 355.

5. Arthur Conan Doyle. Max Pemberton, ed. "The strange case of George Edalji." Great Stories from Real Life. 30-40. The date on which a pony was found injured and on which Edalji was arrested was August 18, 1903; and, the crime was believed to have occurred on August 17, (not August 27). Another horse was found injured on September 21, 1903, at a time when Edalji was imprisoned; but, police obtained a confession, which was recanted by its owner, that this injury may have been committed to suggest Edalji's innocence and that the slasher had not been caught. The name of the police surgeon was Butter, (not Butler). Correct quote: "I am satisfied there is no horse hair upon it."

6. "The Edalji debate." London Daily Telegraph, June 25, 1907. Arthur Conan Doyle. John Michael Gibson, and, Richard Lancelyn Green, comp. Letters to the Press. London: Secker & Warburg, 1986, 135-6.

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