Wild Talents

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X

Chapter Seventeen



LONDON Daily Chronicle, March 30, 1922 -- It is incredible, but nothing has been heard of Holding."(1)

For three weeks a search had been going on -- cyclists, police, farmers, people from villages.

At half past ten o'clock, morning of the 7th of March, 1922, Flying Officer B. Holding had set out from an aerodrome, near Chester, England, upon what was intended by him to be a short flight in Wales. About eleven o'clock, he was seen, near Llangollen, Wales, turning back, heading back to Chester --

Holding disappeared far from the sea, and he disappeared over a densely populated land. One of my jobs was that of looking over six London newspapers for the years 1919-1926, and it is improbable that anything was learned of what became of Holding, later, without my knowing of it. I haven't a datum upon which to speculate, in the Holding mystery; but now I have a story of two men, whose track on land stopped as abruptly as stopped Holding's track in the sky; and this time I note an additional [181/182] circumstance. The story of these men is laid in a surrounding of hates of the intensity of oriental fanaticism.

Upon July 24th, 1924, at a time of Arab-hostility, Flight-Lieutenant W.T. Day and Pilot Officer D.R. Stewart were sent from British headquarters, upon an ordinary reconnaissance over a desert in Mesopotamia. According to schedule, they would not be absent more than several hours. I take this account from the London Sunday Express, Sept. 21, 28, 1924.(2)

The men did not return, and they were searched for. The plane was soon found, in the desert. Why it should have landed was a problem. "There was some petrol left in the tank. There was nothing wrong with the craft. It was, in fact, flown back to the aerodrome." But the men were missing. "So far as can be ascertained, they encountered no meteorological conditions that might have forced them to land." There were no marks to indicate that the plane had been shot at. There may be some way, at present very exclusively known, of picking an aeroplane out of the sky. According to the rest of this story, there may be some such way of picking men out of a desert.

In the sand, around the plane, were seen the footprints of Day and Stewart. "They were traced, side by side, for some forty yards from the machine. Then, as suddenly as if they had come to the brink of a cliff, the marks ended."

The landing of the plane was unaccountable. But, accepting that as a minor mystery, the suggested explanation of the abrupt ending of the footprints was that Day and Stewart had been captured by hostile Bedouins, who had brushed away all trails in the sand, starting at the point [182/183] forty yards from the plane. But hostile Bedouins could not be thought of as keeping on brushing indefinitely, and a search was made for a renewal of traces.

Aeroplanes, armored cars, and mounted police searched. Rewards were offered. Tribal patrols searched unceasingly for four days. Nowhere beyond the point where the tracks in the sand ended abruptly, were other tracks found. The latest account of which I have record is from the London Sunday News, March 15, 1925 -- mystery of the missing British airmen still unsolved.(3)

London Evening News, Sept. 28, 1923 -- "Second-Lieut. Morand, while at shooting practice, at Gadaux, France -- himself firing at a target on the ground, while a sergeant piloted the machine -- suddenly fell back, calling for the pilot to land, as he had been wounded.(4) It was found that he had a serious wound in his shoulder, and he was taken to Bordeaux, by the hospital aeroplane." It was said that he had been shot. "But no clue has been found, as to the origin of the shot."

I especially notice this case, because it was at a time of other "accidents" to French fliers. The other "accidents" were different, in that they did not occur in France, and in that they were not shootings. I know of no case that in all particulars I can match with the disappearance of Day and Stewart; but there are records of airmen who, flying over a land where the sight of them directed hate upon them, were unaccountably picked out of the sky.

In this summer of 1923, French aviators told of inexplicable mishaps and forced landings, while flying over German territory. The instances were so frequent that [183/184] there arose the belief that, with "secret rays", the Germans were practicing upon French aeroplanes. From a general impression of an existence of rationality-irrationality, we can conceive that the Germans were practicing upon French aeroplanes something that they were most particularly endeavoring to keep secret from France -- if they had any such powers. But I think that they had not -- or officially they had not. There may have been a hidden experimenter, unknown to the German authorities.

An article upon this subject was published in the London Daily Mail, Sept. 1, 1923.(5) "Two theories have been put forward. One is that by a concentration of wireless rays the magneto of the aeroplane may be affected; and another is that a new ray, which will melt certain metals, has been discovered. In this connection it is notable that most of the forced landings of the French aeroplanes, when flying from Strasbourg to Prague, have taken place in the vicinity of the German aerodrome, near Furth." It was said that for some time, at the German wireless station at Nauen, there had been experiments upon directional wireless, with the object of sending out rays, concentrated along a certain path, as the beams of a searchlight are directed. The authorities at Nauen denied that they had knowledge of anything that could have affected the French aeroplanes, in ways reported, or supposed. Automobiles can be stopped, by wireless control, if they be provided with special magnetos: otherwise not. Sir Oliver Lodge was quoted, by the Daily Mail, as saying that he knew of no rays that could stop a motor, unless specially equipped. Professor A.M. Low's opinion was [184/185] that some day distant motors may be stopped -- "I feel confident that, in 50 or 60 years' time, such a thing will be possible." Prof. Low said that he knew of laboratory experiments in which, over a distance of two feet, rays of sufficient power to melt a small coil of wire had been transmitted. But, as to the reported "accidents" in Germany, Prof. Low said: "There is a wide difference between transmitting such a power over a distance of a foot or two, and a distance of one or two thousand yards."

In the Daily Mail, April 5, 1924, was an account of invisible rays, which had been discovered by Mr. H. Grindell-Mathews, powerful enough, under laboratory-conditions, to stop the engine of a motor-cycle, at a distance of fifty feet.(6)

Of course high among virtues are the honorable lies of Governments. Whether virtuously said, or accurately reported, I don't know: but it is said, or reported, that, in the year 1929, the British Government spent $500,000 investigating alleged long-distance "death-rays", and developed nothing that was effective. It is said, or reported, that the Italian navy gave opportunity to an inventor to demonstrate what he could do with "death-rays", but that his demonstrations came to nothing. We have no data for thinking that, in the year 1929, any Government was in possession of a secret of long-distance "death-rays." The forced landings of the French aeroplanes, in the summer of 1923, remain unexplained.

There may be powerful rays that are not electromagnetic. French aviators may have been brought to earth by no power that is called "physical" -- though I know of [185/186] no real demarcation between what is called physical and what is called mental. See back to the series of "mysterious attacks", in England, in April and May, 1927. Three times, as if acted upon by an unknown influence, automobiles behaved unaccountably.

Our data are upon "accidents" that have not been satisfactorily explained. There have been occurrences that were similar to effects that inventors are, by mechanical means, striving for, in the cause of military efficiencies. And these experimenters are practical persons. It may be that we are on the track of a subtler slaughter. It looks as if a lonely possessor of a secret, such as is called "occult," operated wantonly, or in the malicious exercise of a power, upon automobiles, in England, in the months of April and May, 1927. He was a criminal. But I am a practical thinker, and a useful citizen, on the track of much efficiency, which will be at the disposal of God's second choice of people -- which I think we must be, judging by the afflictions that are upon us, at this time of writing -- a power that would, by this great nation, be used only righteously, if anybody could ever distinguish between righteousness and exploitation and tyranny. One of the engaging paradoxes of our existence -- which strip mathematics of meaning -- is that a million times a crime is patriotism. I am unable to conceive that a power to pick planes out of the sky would be so terrible as to stop war, because up comes the notion that counter-operations would pick the pickers. If we could have new abominations, so unmistakably abominable as to hush the lubricators, who plan murder to stop slaughter -- but that is only [186/187] dreamery, here in our existence of the hyphen, which is the symbol of hypocrisy.

New York Times, Oct. 25, 1930 -- that about forty automobiles had been stalled, for an hour, on the road, in Saxony, between Risa and Wurzen.(7)

About forty chauffeurs were probably not voiceless, in this matter; and, if the German Government were experimenting with "secret rays", that was some more of its public secrecy. In the Times, Oct. 27, was quoted a mathematician and former Premier of France, Paul Painlevé -- "No experiment thus far conducted would permit us to credit such a report, nor give any prospect of seeing it accomplished in the near future."(8)

Upon May 26, 1925 -- see the London Daily Mail, May 28, 1925 -- at Andover, Hampshire, England, a corporal of the R.A.F., making a parachute practice jump, was killed by a fall of 1,900 feet from an aeroplane.(9) There is not a datum for thinking that there was anything to this occurrence that aligns it with other occurrences told of in this chapter. But there is association. About the time of the accident, or whatever it was that befell this man, and at the same place, Flight Sergeant Frank Lowry, and Flying Officer John Kenneth Smith, pilot, were in an aeroplane, making wireless tests. They had been in the air about fifteen minutes, when Smith, having called to his companion, without hearing from him, looked around, and saw smoke coming from the back cockpit, and saw Lowry in a state of collapse.

Lowry was dead. "Flight-Lieut. Cyril Norman Ellen said that there was nothing in the machine likely to kill a [187/188] man, and that Lowry must have come in contact with an electric current in the air. No similar case has been reported."

In the Daily Mail, Oct. 14, 1921, a writer (T. Gifford) tells of a scene of "accidents", at a point on a road in Dartmoor.(10) This story is like an account of the series of "accidents" to automobiles, in England, in April and May, 1927, except that the "accidents" were strictly localized.

The story told by Gifford is that one day in June, 1921, a doctor, riding on his motor-cycle, with his two children in a side-car, suddenly, at this point, on the Dartmoor road, called to his children to jump. The machine swerved, and the doctor was killed. Several weeks later, at this place, a motor coach suddenly swerved, and several passengers were thrown out. Upon August 26, 1921, a Captain M. -- for whom I apologize -- it is not often that a Mr. X. of a Captain M. appears in these records -- was, at this point on the road, thrown from his motor-cycle. Interviewed by Gifford, he told, after evasions, that something described by him as "invisible hands" had seized upon his hands, forcing the machine into the turf.

More details were published in the Daily Mail, Oct. 17, of this year.(11) The scene of the "accidents" was on the road, near the Dartmoor village of Post Bridge. In the first instance, the victim was Dr. E.H. Helby, Medical Officer of Princetown Prison.

In Light, Aug. 26, 1922, a correspondent noted another "accident" at this point.(12) Details of the fourth "accident" were told, in the London Sunday Express, Sept. 12, 1926.(13) The victim was travelling on his motor-cycle. "He was [188/189] suddenly and violently unseated from his mount, and knew no more until he regained consciousness in a cottage, to which he had been carried, after a collapse." The injured man could not explain. [189]

1. "Airman lost for three weeks." London Daily Chronicle, March 30, 1922, p.7 c.6.

2. London Sunday Express, (September 21, 1924): (could not find here). "Vanished airmen mystery." London Sunday Express, September 28, 1924, p.1 c.4.

3. "Grim secret of the desert." Lloyd's Sunday News, March 15, 1925, p.11 c.6.

4. London Evening News, (Sept. 28, 1923): (Could not find in 28th nor 29th.).

5. "Ray to disable planes." London Daily Mail, September 10, 1923, p.9 c.4.

6. "Ray to disable aeroplanes." London Daily Mail, April 5, 1924, p.10 c.4.

7. "Deny using invisible ray." New York Times, October 25, 1930, p.3 c.3.

8. "Doubts ray stops motor." New York Times, October 27, 1930, p.19 c.3.

9. "Electrocuted in an aeroplane." London Daily Mail, May 28, 1925, p.9 c.5.

10. T. Gifford. "The unseen hands." London Daily Mail, October 14, 1921, p.6 c.5.

11. "Unseen hands." London Daily Mail, October 17, 1921, p.9 c.3.

12. P.H.F. "The `hairy hands of Dartmoor'." Light (London), 42 (August 26, 1922): 540.

13. "Evil ghost of a moorland road." London Sunday Express, September 12, 1926, p.11 c.3-4.

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