Charles Hoy Fort would eventually give his name to the Fortean Society, making him the rather reluctant founder of modern-day paranormal studies and research. Most of his work involved compiling stories. He scoured newspapers, journals, and magazines to find anything and everything that was out of the ordinary and couldn’t be explained by conventional science. Amid his obsessions with UFOs, teleportation, and objects falling from the sky, he wrote several books detailing his theories on the supernatural and the paranormal with just as much rambling lunacy as you’d expect from someone who often referred to the “priestcraft” of science.
10. The Marsh Paper
Charles Hoy Fort spent much of his adult life compiling some of the most bizarre phenomena that he could find records of while taunting the scientific community for their explanations and theories. The Book of the Damned was published in 1919, and in it, he explored phenomena like the marsh paper.
According to his research, a group of workmen in the German city of Memel came across a mysterious mass lying on the frozen, snow-covered ground in 1686. Witnesses claimed that the mass, which was described as a flaky, damp, leafy, black substance that smelled vaguely like seaweed when wet, had fallen from the sky. When it was dried, the bad smell disappeared, and it became more fibrous, reminding them of paper.
The explanation of the day was simply that it was some sort of plant matter that had been picked up in the recent snowstorm and dumped on the ground. The Royal Irish Academy claimed that they even knew what it was—a substance (albeit a rare one) that was known to form on the marshlands under certain circumstances.
Fort was offended by the comparison and the attempt, as he put it, to simply claim the unknown substance is a known one rather than figure out what it was—even if the evidence doesn’t seem to line up. The Memel mystery marsh paper was black and leafy, while the Irish marshland substance was green and felt-like. It clearly wasn’t the same stuff, Fort concluded, in spite of some similarities under certain conditions.
Later, Fort said, it was determined that the now-named “meteor-paper” was mostly of plant origin. He likens the findings to the idea that a peanut and a camel are the same thing, which is an obviously wrong conclusion that he says only happens when you’re just looking at the hump. He goes after the other explanation that it was clearly picked up and deposited by the wind or another storm by pointing out that there were no other mysterious appearances of things like fence posts.
There are also records from 1686 of another mysterious substance, this one described as leaf-life and looking like burned paper, being identified as the black scale from meteorites. Fort didn’t say what he believes about the substance, aside from the fact that it was clearly misidentified. He wondered if there had been any otherworldly writing on the sheets to give further clues as to what it was, if only people had bothered to look.