Wild Talents

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X

Chapter Twenty



THE IMPORTANCE of the invisible --

That I'd starve to death, in the midst of eatables, were it not for the invisible means of locomotion by which I go and get them, and the untouchable and unseeable processes by which I digest them --

That every stout and determined materialist, arguing his rejection of the unseeable and the untouchable, lives in a phantom-existence, from which he would fade away were it not for his support by invisibles --

The heat of his body -- and the heat has never been seen.

His own unseeable thoughts, by which he argues against the existence of the invisible.

Nobody has ever seen steam. Electricity is invisible. The science of physics is occultism. Experts in the uses of steam and electricity are sorcerers. Mostly we do not think of their practices as witchcraft, but we have an opinion upon what would have been thought of them, in earlier stages of the Dark Age we're living in.

Or by the "occult", or by what is called the "super- [212/213] natural", I mean something like an experience that I once saw occur to some acquaintances of mine.

A neighbor had pigeons, and the pigeons loafed on my window sill. They were tempted to come in, but for weeks, stretched necks, fearing to enter. I wished they would come in. I went four blocks to get them sunflower seeds. Though I will go thousands of miles for data, it is most unusual for me to go four blocks -- it's eight blocks, counting both ways -- for anybody. One time I found three of them, who had flown through an open window, and were upon the frame of a closed window. I went to them slowly, so as not to alarm them. It seems that I am of a romantic disposition, and, if I take a liking to anybody, who seems female, like almost all birds, I want her to perch on my finger. So I put out a finger. But all three birds tried to fly through the glass. They could not learn by rebuffs, but kept on trying to escape through the glass. If, back in the coop, these pigeons could have told their story, it would have been that they were perched somewhere, when suddenly the air hardened. Everything in front was as clearly visible as before, but the air had suddenly turned impenetrable. Most likely the other pigeons would have said: "Oh, go tell that to the sparrows!"

There is a moral in this, and it applies to a great deal in this book, which is upon the realization of wishes. I had wished for pigeons. I got them. After the investigation by the three pioneers all of them came in. There were nine of them. It was the unusually warm summer of 1931, and the windows had to be kept open. Pigeons on the backs of chairs. They came up on the table, and inspected what [213/214] I had for dinner. Other times they spent on the rug, in stately groups and processions, except every now and then, when they were not so dignified. I could not shoo them out, because I had invited them. Finally, I did get screens: but it takes weeks to be so intelligent. So the moral is in the observation that, if you wish for something, you had better look out, because you may be so unfortunate as to get it. It is better to be humble and contented with almost nothing, because there's no knowing what something may do to you. Much is said of the "cruelty of Nature": but, when a man is denied his "heart's desire", that is mercy.

But I am suspicious of all this wisdom, because it makes for humility and contentment. These thoughts are community-thoughts, and tend to suppress the individual. They are corollaries of mechanistic philosophy, and I represent revolt against mechanistic philosophy, not as applying to a great deal, but as absolute.

Nevertheless, by the "occult," or the "supernatural," I do not mean that I think that it is altogether exemplified by the experience of the pigeons. In our existence of law-lawlessness, I conceive of two magics: one is representing unknown law, and the other as expressing lawlessness -- or that a man may fall from a roof, and alight unharmed, because of anti-gravitational law; and that another man may fall from a roof, and alight unharmed, as an expression of the exceptional, of the defiance of gravitation, of universal inconsistency, of defiance of everything.

London Times, Oct. --

Oh, well, just as an exception of our own -- never mind [214/215] the data, this time -- take my word for it that I could cite many instances of remarkable falls, if I wanted to.

It looks to me as if, for instance, some fishes climb trees, as an expression of lawlessness, by which there is somewhere an exception to the generalization that fishes must be aquatic.I think that Thou Shalt Not was written on high, addressed to fishes. Whereupon a fish climbed a tree. Or that it is law that hybrids shall be sterile -- and that, not two, but three animals went into a conspiracy, out of which came the okapi. There is a "law" of specialization. Evolutionists make much of it. Stores specialize, so that dealers in pants do not sell prunes. But then appear drugstores, which sell drugs, books, soups, and mouse traps.

I have had what I think is about the average experience with magic. But, except in several periods, I have taken notes upon my experiences: and most persons do not do this, and forget. We forget so easily that I have looked over notes, and have come upon details of which I had no remembrance. From records of my own experiences, I take an account of a series of small occurrences, several particulars of which are of importance to our general argument.

I was living in London -- 39 Marchmont Street, W.C.1. I was gathering data, in the British Museum Library. In my searches, I had noted instances of pictures falling from walls, at times of poltergeist disturbances: but I note here that my data upon physical subjects, such as earthquakes and auroral beams and lights on dark parts of the moon were about five to one, as compared with numbers of [215/216] data upon matters of psychic research. Later, the preponderance shifted the other way. The subject of pictures falling from walls was in my mind, but it was much submerged by other subjects and aspects of subjects. It was so inactive in my mind that, when I was told of several pictures that had fallen in our house, I put that down to household insecurities, and paid no more attention.

The abbreviations in the notes are A, for my wife; Mrs. M., for the landlady; E, the landlady's daughter; the C's, the tenants upstairs. According to me, this is not the unsatisfactoriness of so many stories about a Mr. X, or a Mrs. Y., because according to me, only two of us, whom I identify, were more than minor figures: also we may suspect that, of these two, one was rather more central than the other -- according to me. However, also, I suspect that, if E should tell this story, I'd be put down, much minored, as Mr. F. A and I occupied the middle floor, which was of two rooms, one of them used by us as a kitchen, though it was furnished to rent as a furnished room.

March 11, 1924 -- see Charles Fort's Notes, Letter E, Box 27 -- "I was reading last night, in the kitchen, when I heard a thump. Sometimes I am not easily startled, and I looked around in a leisurely manner, seeing that a picture had fallen, glass not breaking, having fallen upon a pile of magazines in a corner. Two lace curtains at sides of window. Picture fell at foot of left curtain. Now, according to my impression, the bottom of the right-hand cur- [216/217] tain was vigorously shaken, for several seconds, an appreciable length of time after the fall of the picture.

"Morning of the 12th -- find that one of the brass rings, on the back of the picture frame, to which the cord was attached, had been broken in two places -- metal bright at the fractures.

"A reminded me that, in the C's room, two pictures had fallen recently."

I have kept this little brass ring, broken through in one place, and the segment between the breaks, hanging by a metal shard at the point of the other break. The picture was not heavy. The look is that there had been a sharp, strong pull on the picture cord, so doubly to break this ring.

"March 18, 1924 -- about 5 p.m., I was sitting in the corner, where the picture fell. There was a startling, crackling sound, as if of glass breaking. It was so sharp and loud that for hours afterward I had a sense of alertness to dodge missiles. It was so loud that Mrs. C., upstairs, heard it."

But nothing had broken a window pane. I found one small crack in a corner, but the edges were grimy, indicating that it had been made long before.

"March 28, 1924 -- This morning, I found a second picture -- or the fourth, including the falls in the rooms upstairs -- on the floor, in the same corner. It had fallen from a place about three feet above a bureau, upon which are piled my boxes of notes. It seems clear that the picture did not ordinarily fall, or it would have hit the notes, [217/218] and there would have been a heartbreaking mess of notes all over the floor."

Oh, very. Sometimes I knock over a box of notes, and it's a job of hours to get them back in their places. I don't know whether it has any meaning, but I think about this: the accounts of pictures falling from walls, which were among these notes.

"The glass in the picture was not broken. This time, the cord, and not a ring, was broken. I quickly tied the broken cord, and put the picture back. I suppose I should have had A for a witness. Partly I did not want to alarm her, and partly I did not want her to tell, and start a ghost-scare centering around me."

I would have it that, in some unknown way, I was the one who was doing this. I'd like to meet Mrs. C.,, sometime, and perhaps listen to her hint that she has psychic powers, and hint that she was the one who went around psychically, knocking down pictures in our house.

The cord of this second, or fourth, picture was heavy and strong. It was beyond my strength to break a length of it. But something had broken this strong cord. I looked at the small nail in the wall. It showed no sign of strain.

Of course I was reasoning about all this. Said I: "If, when this house was furnished, all the pictures were put up about the same time, their cords may all weaken about the same time." But a ring broke, one of the times. Upstairs, one of the pictures had fallen in a kitchen, and the other in a living room, where conditions were different. Smoke in a kitchen has chemical effects upon picture cords. [218/219]

"April 18, 1924 -- A took a picture down from the kitchen wall, to wash the glass -- London smoke. The picture seemed to fall from the wall into her hands. A said: `Another picture cord rotten.' Then: `No: the nail came out.' But the cord had not broken, and the nail was in the wall. Later, that day, A said: `I don't understand how that picture came down.'"

There was nothing resembling a "scare" in the house. There were no discussions. I think that there was an occasional laughing suggestion -- "Must be spooks around." I had three or four reasons for saying nothing about the matter to anybody.

"July 26, 1924 -- Heard a sound downstairs. Then Fannie called up: `Mrs. Fort, did you hear that? A picture fell right off the wall.'"

I go on with my account, or with the mistake that I am making. Just so long as I gave the New York Something or Another, or the Tasmanian Whatever, for reference, that was all very well. But now I tell a story of my own, and everybody who hasn't had pictures drop from walls, in his presence, will resent pictures falling from walls, because of my occult powers.

There are several notes that may indicate a relation between my thoughts upon falling pictures, and then, later, a falling picture.

"Oct. 22, 1924 -- Yesterday, I was in the front room, thinking casually of the pictures that fell from the walls. This evening, my eyes bad. Unable to read. Was sitting, staring at the kitchen wall, fiddling with a piece of string. Anything to pass away time. I was staring right at a pic- [219/220] ture above corner of bureau, where the notes are, but having no consciousness of the picture. It fell. It hit boxes of notes, dropped to floor, frame at a corner broken, glass broken."

There was another circumstance. I remember nothing about it. The notes upon it are as brief as if I had not been especially impressed by something that I now think was one of the strangest particulars -- that is, if by indicating that I had searched for something, I meant that I had searched thoroughly.

"The cord was broken several inches from one of the fastenings on back of picture. But there should have been this fastening, a dangling piece of cord, several inches long. This missing. I can't find it."

"Night if Sept. 28-29, 1925 -- a picture fell in Mrs. M's room."

Note the lapse of time.

I am sorry to record that a note, dated Nov. 3, 1926, is missing. As I remember it, and according to allusions, in notes of Nov. 4th, it was only a remark of mine that for more than a year no picture had fallen.

"Nov. 4, 1926 -- This is worth noting. Last night, I noted about the pictures, because earlier in the evening, talking over psychic experiences with France and others, I had mentioned falling pictures in our house. Tonight, when I came home, A told me of a loud sound that had been heard, and how welcome it was to her, because it had interrupted E, in a long, tiresome account of the plot of a moving picture. Later, A exclaimed: `Here's what made the noise!' She turned on the light, in the front [220/221] room, and on the floor was a large picture. I had mentioned to A that yesterday my mind was upon falling pictures. I took that note after she had gone to bed. I looked at the picture -- cord broken, with frayed ends. I have kept a loop of this cord. The break is under a knot in it. Nov. 5 -- I have not strongly enough emphasized A's state of mind, at the time of the fall of the picture. E's long account of a movie had annoyed her almost beyond endurance, and probably her hope for an interruption was keen." Here is an admission that I did not think, or suspect, that it was I, who was the magician, this time.

In October, 1929, we were living in New York, or, anyway, in the Bronx. I do not have pictures on walls, in places of my own. I can't get the pictures I'd like to have: so I don't have any. I haven't been able to get around to painting my own pictures, but, if I ever do, maybe I'll have the right kind to put up.

"October 15, 1929 -- I was looking over these notes, and I called A from the kitchen to discuss them. I note that A had been doing nothing in the kitchen. She had just come in: had gone to the kitchen to see what the birds were doing. While discussing those falling pictures, we heard a loud sound. Ran back, and found on the kitchen floor a pan that had fallen from a pile of utensils in a closet."

"Oct. 18, 1930 -- I made an experiment. I read these notes aloud to A, to see whether there would be a repetition of the experience of Oct. 15, 1929. Nothing fell."

"Nov. 19, 1931 -- tried that again. Nothing moved. Well, then, if I'm not a wizard, I'm not going to let anybody else tell me that he's a wizard." [221]

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