Book Review – Charles Fort: The man Who Invented the Supernatural
In the early twentieth century one writer looked at the paranormal in a way which straddle the line between science and entertainment, Charles Fort. His works has inspired countless others and in the world of the paranormal we even have to term “Fortean” in honor of the man. From the time they were originally published his books detailed strange phenomena and challenged science to come up with a satisfactory answer for them. He exposed many readers to the ideas of; poltergeist, animals mysteriously falling from the skies, spontaneous combustion, UFOs, historical artifacts which are out of place, and many other topics which are now hallmarks of paranormal research. While his books about the unexplained may be well known, the story of the man is one that is unfamiliar to many. And this is the focus of the biography by world-renowned illusionist and special effects artist Jim Steinmeyer, Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural. From a young man who left behind the family business to travel the country to an established writer who bucked traditional scientific theories, Steinmeyer tells a story of a man most know only by reputation.
As previously mentioned as a young man Charles Fort was expected to take over his father’s grocery store and keep it in the family. Instead Fort, with the encouragement of his grandfather, travelled the country and eventually got a job as a writer. From this point Steinmeyer documents his growth in this profession both in the newspaper industry and as a fiction writer, even including excerpts from his early shorts stories. From there we follow Fort as he ventures through reading rooms in both the United States as well as the British Museum researching old journals and newspaper articles finding stories about the unknown and unexplained. This began his new path as a writer culminating with the publication of the Book of the Damned.
In this biography, Jim Steinmeyer is smart in focusing on the man rather than his works. Fort is already so heavily associated with tales of strange phenomena such as; frogs falling from the sky, spontaneous combustion, fantastical creatures and the like, that the impact of his work is fairly well known. Instead Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural, takes a look at his travels and his relationships throughout his life and how he impacted those around him. But one could not help but wish that Steinmeyer had included a bit more of this just to keep things interesting and help newcomers who may not be familiar with Charles Fort. A great deal of this book looks at how Fort impacted others whether it is his friends gushing over his revolutionary ideas, scientists who dismiss him as a charlatan, or his followers who dubbed themselves Forteans. In fact I got great enjoyment from the final chapter which detailed the legacy of this controversial writer. The influence Fort had on luminaries such as; Robert Ripley, Erich von Daniken, Charles Berlitz, and many more are is perfectly displayed as well as the fact that the magazine Fortean Times is still in publication. In his life Charles Fort opened up the world of the paranormal up to so many people, but in this book Jim Steinmeyer gives us a fresh look at this cult icon. We see him as an adventurer, husband, researcher, writer, and overall being more than just an adjective to describe the bizarre.