A man ahead of his time

Charles Fort blew my mind. For a guy who died nearly 30 years before I was born, that’s no small accomplishment.

Fort was a New York resident, born in 1874, who collected odd bits of information.

If a man was reported to have burst into flames in his New York apartment, Fort made note of it. If the man’s burned body was found in an un-singed armchair in his equally untouched living room, that was even better fodder for Fort.

How about a rain of frogs? Fort was all over it.

For a couple of decades, Fort scrutinized newspapers and scientific journals and haunted libraries and museums, looking for reports of disappearing people and objects that appeared in places they didn’t belong.

Fort collected these strange tidbits in a series of books, including “Lo!” “Wild Talents” and “The Book of the Damned.”

The books were reprinted in paperback in the 1960s and early 1970s, when I — like other fans of what became known as Fortean phenomena — discovered them.

It’s possible, I think, to draw a line from Fort’s oddball reports to classic TV shows like “The Night Stalker” and “The X Files,” and certainly Fort’s bread and butter, baffling happenings and unexplained events, are the stuff of modern-day shows like “Fringe.”

So it’s appropriate and perhaps inevitable that Fort would be the the subject of a movie. Robert Zemeckis, who directed the “Back to the Future” movies as well as animated films like “The Polar Express,” is bringing Fort to the big screen.

Zemeckis sees Fort as something of a real-life Ghostbuster, according to recent news stories. I don’t recall Fort ever reporting busting any ghosts or getting slimed, but considering that all modern movies must be boiled down to a pitch like “It’s ‘Twilight’ meets ‘Star Trek,'” I guess it’s as good a comparison as any. It’ll be interesting to see how Hollywood treats Fort.



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