Friday, 26 April 2013

More Fortean stuff...

As a follow-on to my previous Fortean timelines (here and here), I thought I'd list my sources and provide some links to other useful Fortean bits and bobs that can be found on-line. I'll also include some more eccentric stuff.


The Fortean timeline in Players Handbook for the Call of Cthulhu RPG was the main inspiration for the creation of my timelines. I have a fair few books that cover various aspects of the Forteana from different angles, but those listed below fed directly into my research:

'Modern Mysteries of the World' by Janet & Colin Bord - this gives  a good overview of various subjects (UFOs, sea monsters, Bigfoot, etc). The most useful thing about it is the 'Gazeteer of Strange Events' that sits at the back of the book. Countries are listed alphabetically and then a variety of events are listed and given an outline description on a place-by-place basis. Some countries (i.e. the US) are divided up into states and the events listed within that structure. This results in an interesting chunk of Forteana. Here's an example, picked at random:

Venezuela - near Chico - Four small hair-covered entities from landed UFO attacked two young men in a kidnap attempt; they were very strong and broke a rifle; 10 December 1954.

'A Geo-Bibliography of Anomalies - Primary access to observations of UFOs, ghosts and other mysterious phenomena' by George M. Eberhart - this 1114-page book is probably only for completist Fortean nerds like myself. It's also pretty rare, and therefore expensive (my copy set me back 80 bucks). The aim of the book is to provide a reference source for Forteana based within the North American continent between 1880 and 1980, and so it doesn't read like a standard book. Instead, it can be used to find information for a specific location and then give details about where the report was originally published. This means that overall details are scanty - for more information you'd then have to then find the original source material. Eberhart uses a wide variety of sources, and the amount of work involved with this is staggering. Here's a few examples picked at random:

Kentucky - Louisville - flying humanoid. 1880, July 28/C.A. Youngman. Louisville Courier-Journal, 29 July 1880

Manitoba - Winnipeg - fall of metallic object. 1947, April 24. 'At the same time' Doubt, no. 19 (1947): 290, 291

'Science Frontiers - some anomalies and curiosities of Nature' and 'Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena', both by William R. Corliss. Corliss died a few years ago and was a modern-day Fort. Like Eberhart, he engaged in a wide and far-ranging trawl through various sources in order to find and catalogue various Fortean events. Like Fort, he found the majority of such reports within scientific journals. This tends to refute the idea (from certain wings of Forteana) that the scientific community either ignores or suppresses data that could be anomalous as far as our current understanding of things is concerned. 'Science Frontiers' is part of the 'Sourcebook Project', a huge catalogue of various anomalies that has been created and published over many years. These two books by Corliss read more like conventional pieces, especially the Handbook. Science Frontiers contains a variety of short excerpts from various sources, which gives more information than the Bord's Gazeteer and Eberhart's Geo-bibliography.

'Weird America' by Jim Mallon. Another rare book (mine was a second-hand find and is very dog-eared), this is a travel guide for anyone wishing to visit places of Fortean interest within the US. As with the other books described above, it deals with these on a state-by-state, place-by-place basis and has small description of the events that took place, along with Mallon's take on it. It also contains some interesting black and white photos.

You should be able, if interested, to track down copies of the above via places such as Amazon, Bibliofind, etc.

On-line sources

Fortean Times - the magazine has been around since the 70s but blossomed from the early 1990s. The website itself contains a variety of interesting articles, and it's forums include discussion of a wide variety of subject areas (yours truly has been involved in lots of interesting 'debates' there over the years).

The Anomalist - this is your one-stop shop for various other on-line bits and bobs about Forteana. Different reports, discussions and articles appear on-line all of the time, and the Anomalist is a good place to get an overview of things.

Magonia - Magonia has been around even longer than Fortean Times, and it's on-line presence is a source of some great articles. It takes a healthy sceptical psychological approach to the subject.

The Sourcebook Project - you can access a great deal of Corliss' work here, and buy any of his books that are still in print. The 'Science Frontiers On-line' section is particularly interesting.

Bad Archaeology - it's not hard to guess what this is about. Archaeology - or what some try to pass off as such - is used by various wings of book and web-based Forteana to shore up their arguments. This site tries to address and dissect some of them. That said, such arguments could serve as plot seeds for scenarios.

Humanoid Sighting Reports - this is a huge database of reports dealing mostly with UFO-related entities.

The Paranormal Database - should you ever wish to set an adventure in the UK, this would be a great place to start. It's helped me to add more colour to my Call of the Cthulhu adventures and created adventure seeds for some future projects. It covers various areas, such as ghosts, folklore, UFOs, etc.

A Blast From the Past - although not so much about Forteana in a direct sense, this site has many interesting articles on a variety of odd or though-provoking events, people and places.

The Fringe

It could be said that Forteana is a fringe subject. If so, that fringe has it's own fringe. Forteana has permeated the internet in various different ways. Before the internet came along or became widespread there were always a certain amount of books being published from a variety of fringe areas of the subject, but the internet has amplified this to the nth degree. In short, this means that all sorts of ideas can be found out there and as a whole the subject has been absorbed, adapted and bastardised by various different parties and interests. What also tends to happen is that one site copies another site in terms of the information it uses, so things can get samey. This is actually less useful to someone digging into any areas of Forteana as very few websites state their sources. Because various odd or incorrect assumptions have percolated from various books into on-line sources, there are many people out there that hold such assumptions to be truths - or worse still, absolute truths.

Not that this is entirely the fault of the web - for example, the 'ancient astronaut' theories that have been around for decades are guilty of the same lack of care and attention to detail. Various authors simply copy other authors from book to book - the same thing now happens on-line. Errors reported in books have simply been copied wholesale onto the web.  In the 1960s and '70s, those writing about such subjects tended to have a rather dodgy view of ancient cultures - along the lines of 'They were primitive, so therefore couldn't have built X' and then jump to the idea that 'Aliens from outer space did it'. As with conpiracy theories, these sorts of views tend to work along somewhat misanthropic lines - the general view being that people are stupid. In this case, they were even more stupid in the past. Similarly, they make various errors because they make very large assumptions from the perspective of thinking that 'if something looks a bit like X from the modern world, then it must be X but made in the ancient world'. This is why some people still believe that the Nazca lines are runways for ancient spaceships. Another problem is that those positing certain assumptions aren't usually qualified in the subject they're objecting to, which tends to fuzz the issue. Objections to their line of reasoning and offered proofs has been around for quite some time - take, for example, this programme from 1977. This has not stopped such ideas in their tracks, despite the authors being caught for being somewhat 'flexible' with the truth. Daniken and others are still making a living out of such stuff, and are amply supported by various websites.

Anyway, here's a taster...

Ancient American - I have various books which chase this theme, but the debate over such things is still on-going- at least, in some quarters. The date for when humans first came to the Americas has been pushed back in recent times, but others think that more modern humans came from China, Rome, Phoenicia and other places. This is, of course, not the standard model of American history.

There Were Giants In Those Days and Forbidden Archaeology - one wing of alternative archaeology takes it cues from the religious outlook of various proponents. Some are Christians, others have other beliefs. This means that some think that modern humans have only been around for thousands of years (without any ancient ancestor species), whilst others think that modern humans have been around for millions of years.

The Montauk Project - some offshoots of the UFO phenomenon have created their own offshoots, and this is a good example.

Don't get me wrong. I love the idea of ETs visiting Earth in the distant past. After all, the Cthulhu Mythos rests on this premise. I love the idea of armoured giants or ancient cultures living in the US well before Columbus arrived. Nazi time machines and Nazi UFOs are wacky and interesting at the same time. It's just that the reasoning of the various proponents of such ideas strike me as being particularly iffy. If anomalies are thrown up by scientific literature, then to my mind that's more convincing than one that simply crops up in the mind of someone who may not actually understand what they're looking at or reading about. At the end of the day, the reason I enjoy reading about such things (despite not being a true believer) is the because of the imagery they conjure up. They're a great source of ideas for RPG stuff, if nothing else.

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