First Graf(s): The Book of the Damned

Fig. 1

CHARLES HOY FORT HAS A special place in my weirdological heart, as he was the first writer to compile an exhaustive list (four books full, in fact) of oddities and anomalies. He is thus the (unwilling) intellectual godfather of every “strange but true” book, magazine, radio show, film and television program (network and streaming) since the 1920s. The recipient of a modest endowment, Fort spent his spare time combing through old newspapers and magazines at the New York Public Library looking for articles on aerial phenomena; rains of fish, blood, hay and other objects; dogs who said “Good morning” before vanishing in a puff of green smoke; the so-called Tumbling Coffins of Barbados; and in general every freaky occurrence that ever prompted anyone to gasp Such Things Can’t Be. His first published work, The Book of the Damned, is considered by many to be his finest (as is usually the case with budding writers) and his dryly acerbic style showcases a keen sense of mordant humor. He — well, let’s let him tell you himself, in his own words:

A procession of the damned. By the damned, I mean the excluded. Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten…

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