Wild Talents Detailed Book Summary

Title: Wild Talents
Author: Charles Fort

TLDR: Charles Fort dives deep into a treasure trove of unexplained events, challenging scientific dogma and exploring the possibility of “wild talents” – latent human abilities that blur the lines between mind and matter. Think teleportation, spontaneous combustion, poltergeists, and more.

Chapter 1: The Relatability of the Seemingly Unrelated

Fort opens with three seemingly unrelated criminal cases: a housemaid accused of arson, a millionaire’s disappearance, and a theater manager’s suspicious death. In each case, a strong motive exists for a specific individual, yet evidence fails to convict them. This sets the stage for Fort’s central question: are these merely coincidences, or is there an underlying, unseen connection?

He then explores a series of seemingly coincidental deaths: a cyclist found dead alongside a crow, two unrelated women drowned near each other, and two men found dead in a desert. These seemingly random occurrences challenge the easy dismissal of “coincidence” and hint at a deeper, hidden order.

Fort argues that the concept of coincidence is often a lazy explanation, a way to avoid grappling with the complexity of reality. He suggests that all things are interconnected, and that what we perceive as random events may be connected in ways we haven’t yet grasped.

Chapter 2: Mass Psychology and the Need for Taboo

Fort delves into the concept of “mass psychology,” questioning its explanatory power. He presents cases of unexplained fainting spells in a girls’ school, sudden deaths in a vineyard, and guests collapsing at a wedding party. He argues that while imitation and emotional contagion can play a role, dismissing these occurrences solely as “mass psychology” ignores the possibility of external factors.

He then examines cases of “gas poisoning” where no gas leak can be found, unconsciousness spreading through streets, and hunters dying mysteriously without struggle or injury. This reinforces the idea that conventional explanations often fail to capture the full complexity of these events.

Fort explores the idea of interconnectivity further, suggesting that even seemingly unrelated phenomena, like the disappearances of Ambrose Small and Ambrose Bierce, may be linked by subtle, unseen forces. He acknowledges the need for “taboo” in human thought, the need to draw a line and reject certain ideas to maintain a sense of order and identity. This sets the stage for his exploration of events that defy conventional explanations and challenge the limits of what we consider possible.

Chapter 3: Mysterious Attacks and Emerging Forces

Fort transitions from cases of unexplained deaths and illnesses to what appear to be directed attacks. He cites cases of miners collapsing in a mine without a trace of gas or violence, people being inexplicably struck by invisible forces in crowded streets, and a film actress suddenly dislocating her shoulder without any apparent cause.

He questions the explanatory power of “mass psychology” in these cases, as the victims are often isolated and not subject to social contagion. This further strengthens his argument for the existence of unseen forces that can affect individuals in targeted and specific ways.

He presents a case of a wedding party overcome by an unknown malady, which also affects people in neighboring houses, suggesting an external, localized influence. Another case involves occupants of three houses being mysteriously affected by gas fumes, while occupants of a house in between remain unaffected. These localized phenomena point towards the possibility of directed, targeted attacks by means unseen and inexplicable in conventional terms.

Fort then explores the baffling case of a lace curtain vandal who repeatedly enters locked houses, destroying curtains and ornaments but stealing nothing. This seemingly senseless act with its element of defiance hints at a motive beyond mere material gain, suggesting a desire to mystify and confound. This theme of a “show-off” element in inexplicable events will recur throughout the book.

Chapter 4: The Haunt of the Unconventional Repeating

Fort focuses on cases of seemingly impossible thefts, exploring their repeating patterns across time and location. He begins with the disappearance of a bag containing £800 from a crowded bank, the bag later found empty. This echoes the vanishing money from a locked drawer in a haunted house where other poltergeist phenomena are observed.

He argues that while some commonly repeated stories, like pearls found in oyster stews, may be based on occasional truth, the repeated appearance of unconventional events, like objects vanishing from locked containers, points to something beyond the realm of ordinary lies.

He explores the case of a “cat burglar” who repeatedly enters locked houses and steals valuables with seemingly impossible ease. The burglar leaves marks on drainpipes and window sills, perhaps as deliberate misdirection to divert suspicion from their true method of entry.

Fort presents the case of an “uncanny burglar” in Vienna who terrorizes a block of houses, stealing small objects but leaving valuables behind, as if to demonstrate their skills and defy authorities. The thief even enters a policeman’s house and steals his revolver. This element of showmanship and defiance further strengthens Fort’s argument for a motive beyond mere material gain in these inexplicable thefts.

The chapter culminates with the audacious theft of the Ascot Cup from a heavily guarded exhibition, followed by the disappearance of valuable jewels from Dublin Castle, also under heavy security. These brazen acts, executed with seemingly impossible ease, solidify Fort’s argument for the existence of “wild talents” that defy conventional explanations.

Chapter 5: The Uncatchable Hair Clipper

This chapter introduces a recurring theme of hair-clipping incidents, exploring its potential significance beyond mere petty theft. Fort notes his initial skepticism, attributing early cases of stolen hair switches to the hair trade. However, he then presents a series of baffling cases where hair is cut from victims without their knowledge, often in public places.

He describes an “uncatchable thief” in Ohio who repeatedly enters houses and cuts off hair without stealing anything else. The case of a little girl in Canada whose braid is almost entirely cut off while in the presence of her family, followed by her adopted brother’s hair being mysteriously cut in chunks, further strengthens the argument for a force beyond conventional explanations.

Fort cites a case in London where a woman’s braid is cut off in a crowd, followed by a wave of hair-clipping incidents attributed to a “vanishing man” operating in broad daylight. These public attacks, defying detection and leaving no trace, suggest a deliberate desire to mystify and terrorize.

He then recounts a hair-clipping panic in China, where people believe invisibles are cutting off their pigtails. While acknowledging the role of mass hysteria, he suggests the possibility of genuine cases amidst the panic, citing reports of children losing parts of their queues.

The chapter concludes with a case in London where a girl’s hair is repeatedly clipped, culminating in an arrest based on circumstantial evidence. However, neither scissors nor a significant amount of hair are found on the accused. This highlights the lack of concrete evidence in many hair-clipping cases and reinforces the sense of an elusive force at work.

Chapter 6: Animal Mutilations and the Specter of Lycanthropy

Fort explores the unsettling phenomenon of animal mutilations, suggesting a possible connection to the ancient concept of lycanthropy, or the transformation of humans into animals. He begins with cases of sheep and cattle being viciously slashed and ripped, often leaving behind no trace of the attacker. He casts doubt on attributing these attacks solely to baboons, citing the precise and seemingly deliberate nature of the wounds.

He delves into the infamous case of George Edalji, a young lawyer wrongly convicted of cattle mutilations based on circumstantial evidence and prejudice. Despite his later exoneration, the actual perpetrator remained unknown, highlighting the mystery surrounding these attacks.

Fort explores the idea of “irresistible impulses” driving some slashers, comparing them to “vivisectionists” who operate under the banner of science. He then introduces a series of automobile accidents that defy explanation, suggesting a possible connection to minor attacks on other cars and individuals. This introduces the possibility of an “occult criminal” with the ability to influence machinery and events at a distance.

He examines the case of a schoolgirl shot by an unseen assailant, alongside the discovery of tortured chickens in a nearby building. This juxtaposition reinforces the idea of a malicious force targeting both humans and animals. He then presents a series of “phantom sniper” attacks in Camden, N.J., and Boston, where windows and windshields are pierced by unseen projectiles that leave no trace. This further strengthens the possibility of a force that can manipulate objects and events in inexplicable ways.

Chapter 7: The Vampire’s Shadow

This chapter delves into the lore of vampires, exploring their potential reality beyond the realm of myth and superstition. Fort begins with the news of rabid vampire bats in Trinidad, questioning the scientific sensationalism surrounding their alleged ability to transmit rabies. He argues that the deaths of humans and cattle in Trinidad may be unexplained, and that attributing them to “rabid vampires” is a modern equivalent of the ancient explanation of witchcraft.

He presents a collection of stories about children developing small, unexplained wounds at night, conventionally attributed to rat bites. However, he cites a case where an elderly woman is found dead with similar wounds, raising doubts about the rat bite explanation.

Fort examines the “kissing bug” scare of 1899, where people across the U.S. developed mysterious swellings, mostly on their lips. He questions the scientific dismissal of this scare as “mass psychology,” suggesting the possibility of genuine cases amidst the hysteria.

He then delves into accounts of individuals being mysteriously bitten or stabbed, often without feeling pain until later. He cites a case of a woman who is inexplicably wounded by something resembling a hat pin in a crowded street, followed by other individuals reporting similar injuries. This public and brazen attack, defying detection, reinforces the theme of an elusive, unseen force at work.

The chapter concludes with the chilling case of Miss Jean Milne, found murdered in her home with unexplained perforations on her body, alongside the mysterious death of Miss Maud Frances Davies, found on train tracks with puncture wounds on her heart. These unsolved cases, with their echoes of traditional vampire lore, leave open the possibility of a force beyond conventional explanations.

Chapter 8: The Vanishing Men and the Phantom Stabbers

Fort explores a series of inexplicable stabbing attacks, highlighting the recurring theme of a “vanishing man” who operates with seemingly impossible ease. He cites cases in London where men are stabbed in the neck in the same location, yet claim to have no knowledge of their attacker. This suggests the possibility of victims being wounded without realizing it until later, further blurring the lines between the real and the imagined.

He recounts a panic in Lahore, India, where people believe a “Mumiai,” an invisible being, is grabbing people in broad daylight. While acknowledging the potential for mass hysteria, he suggests the possibility of genuine cases amidst the panic, highlighting the recurring theme of attacks occurring in crowded, public places.

Fort presents a series of stabbing attacks in Japan where victims report being slashed by an invisible force. He then examines a similar wave of attacks in New York City, where a “vanishing man” stabs multiple individuals before disappearing. While a man is arrested and declared insane, the attacks cease after his arrest. However, Fort casts doubt on the official explanation, suggesting the possibility of an uncaught perpetrator.

He then delves into a series of stabbing attacks in Kiel, Germany, where over 80 people are wounded by an unseen assailant. Victims report feeling no pain until several minutes after the attack, further highlighting the uncanny nature of these events.

Fort explores the motivations behind these attacks, suggesting a connection to the mischievous pranks of childhood, escalated to a more powerful and disturbing level. He introduces the case of a “phantom stabber” in Bridgeport, Conn., who terrorizes girls for three years, stabbing them in public places but inflicting only minor wounds. This long-running series of attacks, culminating in a dramatic stabbing on a department store staircase, suggests a deliberate play for notoriety and a desire to mystify authorities.

Chapter 9: The Ghoul and the Disintegrating Prison

Fort examines the disturbing case of Sergeant-Major Francis Bertrand, a seemingly respectable soldier convicted of grave robbing and corpse mutilation. Bertrand claims to be driven by an “irresistible impulse,” experiencing a trance-like state after each desecration. This case challenges conventional notions of criminal motivation and introduces the possibility of a split personality or possession by an outside force.

He then delves into the story of John Lee, the man who could not be hanged. Lee, sentenced to death for murder, survives three attempts to hang him as the trapdoor repeatedly fails to open. Despite thorough investigations revealing no mechanical fault, the execution is ultimately abandoned and Lee’s sentence commuted.

This seemingly impossible event, witnessed by multiple observers, defies conventional explanation. Fort suggests that Lee’s survival was due to an unseen force, possibly emanating from his own powerful will to live or an external influence sympathetic to his plight.

The chapter concludes with a brief account of a decaying prison in England, where walls dissolve and iron bars disappear as if eroded by an invisible force. This eerie image serves as a metaphor for the disintegration of traditional explanations and the crumbling walls of certainty surrounding our understanding of reality.

Chapter 10: The Parthenogenetic Universe and the Organizing Tendency

This chapter delves into Fort’s philosophical musings on the nature of reality, arguing for a parthenogenetic universe where phenomena arise from within rather than through external creation. He challenges the traditional scientific view of cause and effect, suggesting that phenomena are not “produced” but rather emerge from a continuous, interconnected field of potentiality.

He uses the analogy of a boy mislabeling canned goods, blurring the lines between categories and highlighting the arbitrary nature of classifications. He then explores the concept of “mass psychology” further, arguing that it applies to all phenomena to some degree, as the mind is a community of interconnected mental states.

Fort introduces the idea of an “organizing tendency” inherent in all things, a force that drives towards patterns and structures. He compares this tendency to the formation of crystals, where minerals arrange themselves into geometric forms without conscious design. He argues that all theories, whether theological, scientific, or philosophical, represent this same organizing process, reflecting a deeper pattern inherent in reality itself.

He challenges the notion of a “real” or “objective” existence, arguing that everything we perceive is real-unreal, fluctuating between individuality and interconnectedness. He critiques traditional logic and reason, highlighting their limitations and circular nature. He then presents his own view of the mind as a collection of experience-states, governed by organizing tendencies that drive towards harmony and coherence.

Chapter 11: Explosions from the Imaginary World

Fort explores the phenomenon of unexplained explosions, suggesting that some may be manifestations of “psychic bombs” projected from the realm of imagination into the physical world. He begins with examples of poltergeist disturbances where objects move and sounds resembling gunshots are heard, always at the height of a man’s shoulder. This targeted aspect suggests a deliberate, if invisible, attack.

He presents cases of houses being shaken by unexplained explosions, some leaving behind fragments of unknown objects. He then links these occurrences to modern experiments with “rays” that can detonate explosives at a distance, suggesting the possibility of a subtler, unseen force at work.

He recounts stories of “globe lightning” appearing in houses and exploding, seemingly guided by intelligence or controlled from afar. These luminous objects, appearing without storms, further challenge conventional explanations.

Fort presents the case of a young boy severely injured by an unexplained explosion in his mother’s house. No cause for the explosion is ever found, leaving behind a sense of mystery and unease. He then examines a powerful explosion that destroys a house in London, initially attributed to gas but later explained away as the delayed detonation of two spirit lamps. Fort casts doubt on this explanation, highlighting inconsistencies and suggesting the possibility of a more elusive force at work.

He concludes the chapter with accounts of mists appearing before violent explosions, suggesting a connection to the “invisible bombs” hurled by witches and wizards in traditional folklore. He links these occurrences to modern experiments with “anti-war rays” that can detonate explosives at a distance, blurring the lines between science and magic.

Chapter 12: The Scorched Body and the Unreliable Confession

This chapter focuses on cases of individuals found burned to death under inexplicable circumstances, questioning the reliability of confessions extracted under pressure. Fort revisits the story of the woman burned to death on an unscorched bed, highlighting inconsistencies in the official explanation and suggesting the possibility of a genuine anomaly dismissed by authorities.

He examines the case of J. Temple Thurston, found dead in his room with severe burns on his body but no trace of fire on his clothing. The rest of the house is engulfed in flames, but the fire’s origin remains unexplained. Fort suggests Thurston may have been scorched by an unseen force, perhaps the realization of a visualization from a distant mind intent on his demise.

He explores cases where people are found dead with bullet wounds under clothing that shows no sign of penetration, challenging the conventional police explanation of victims being dressed after death. This echoes the case of Lavinia Farrar, stabbed to the heart through unpunctured garments, with a blood-stained knife found nearby but no evidence of a struggle or robbery.

Fort then presents the baffling case of Isidor Fink, shot to death in his locked and bolted room with no sign of forced entry. The police theorize the murderer entered through a narrow transom, but Fort dismantles this explanation, highlighting inconsistencies and suggesting the possibility of a more elusive force at work.

He concludes the chapter by questioning the reliability of confessions extracted under pressure, arguing that they often reflect what authorities want to hear rather than the truth. He presents the case of Rhoda Colwell, accused of setting multiple fires in her home, who confesses after being pressured by police. However, some of the fires are witnessed by policemen and firemen, defying conventional explanation. This echoes the case of Margaret Dewar, who recants her story of finding her sister burned to death on an unscorched bed after being pressured by authorities.

Fort suggests that these confessions, extracted under duress, obscure the genuine mystery of these unexplained deaths and fires, highlighting the role of social pressure and Taboo in shaping official narratives.

Chapter 13: The Dying Girl and the Hostile Demonstrations

This chapter explores a recurring theme of hostile demonstrations accompanying illnesses and deaths, suggesting a potential link between physical ailments and unseen forces. Fort presents cases of dying individuals whose homes are bombarded by stones of unknown origin, challenging the conventional view of these events as mere coincidence.

He cites the case of a young girl dying in Clapham, London, whose home is pelted with stones during a poltergeist disturbance. This juxtaposition of death and inexplicable phenomena suggests a potential connection, though dismissed by conventional science.

Fort examines the case of an invalid boy in Aberdeen, Scotland, whose room is shaken by explosive sounds and objects move inexplicably. Despite the police attributing the sounds to wind, the disturbances continue, highlighting the inadequacy of conventional explanations.

He presents a series of cases where individuals suffering from illnesses experience poltergeist phenomena, including objects moving, stones falling, and unexplained fires. These cases, spanning various cultures and time periods, suggest a potential link between physical ailments and unseen forces, though often obscured by conventional explanations.

Fort introduces the concept of “comparative anatomy” of circumstances, arguing for a broader, holistic approach to understanding these events. He suggests that by examining seemingly unrelated phenomena and identifying recurring patterns, we can begin to build a model for understanding the underlying forces at work.

He concludes the chapter with the case of Mr. Gaskin, an American inventor suffering from sciatica, whose home is bombarded by stones despite a heavy police presence. The attacks cease after extensive investigations, but no explanation is found, leaving behind a sense of mystery and the possibility of a targeted attack from an unseen source.

Chapter 14: The Sterility of the Whole and the Hyphenated State

Fort delves further into his philosophical musings, arguing for a “hermaphroditic” universe, characterized by an unproductive wholeness that manifests in a continuous interplay of opposites. He suggests that phenomena arise from within this sterile whole, not through external creation but through a self-fertilizing process.

He compares the unproductive state of the universe to the mathematical concept of a circle, a “perfect figure” that symbolizes a return to its starting point, signifying a lack of progress or creation. He argues that humanity, like all other phenomena, sustains itself through self-fertilization, with no evidence of external invigoration or enrichment.

Fort critiques traditional theories of creation, arguing that they are inherently limited and circular, reflecting a partial perspective rather than capturing the full complexity of reality. He challenges the idea of absolute distinctions, arguing for a hyphenated state where all things are real-unreal, material-immaterial, fluctuating between individuality and interconnectedness.

He criticizes traditional logic and reason, highlighting their limitations and circular nature. He then introduces his own view of the mind as a collection of experience-states, governed by organizing tendencies that drive towards harmony and coherence, but ultimately arising from a deeper, unproductive wholeness.

Fort examines the concept of “opposition” in this context, arguing that it is only one aspect of a more complex interplay between stimulation and suppression. He suggests that religion and science, often seen as opposing forces, are essentially the same in their function as suppressors of “wild talents” and enforcers of Taboo.

He concludes the chapter by suggesting that the ultimate reality lies beyond the realm of phenomena, in a non-phenomenal realm where “offspring-realnesses” may be produced. This hints at a transcendent realm beyond our limited perception, a source of genuine creation and individuality.

Chapter 15: The Unholy Path to New Enlightenments

This chapter explores the concept of witchcraft in greater depth, arguing for its potential reappearance in a new, more sophisticated form. Fort suggests that many phenomena attributed to spirits or divine intervention may be manifestations of “wild talents” that can be developed and harnessed for practical purposes.

He criticizes the dogmatic stances of both religion and science, arguing that they often reject or disregard data that challenges their established views. He suggests that both institutions are driven by a fear of contamination and a desire to maintain their own power, hindering the pursuit of genuine knowledge.

Fort examines the phenomenon of “handwriting on the wall,” presenting cases where words and images appear inexplicably on various surfaces. He suggests these may be telepathic transferences or external stigmata, similar to the phenomenon of prenatal markings, where a mother’s thoughts or experiences are imprinted on her unborn child.

He explores the possibility of pre-natal markings influencing not only physical characteristics but also mental states and abilities, suggesting a link between thoughts and physical reality. He cites cases of infants born with unusual markings, including a kitten born with the figures “1921” on its belly and a child marked with the letters “R.I.C.”

Fort then delves into the phenomenon of stigmata, where individuals develop wounds resembling those of Christ. He presents cases of stigmatics who exhibit bleeding wounds, often accompanied by intense religious experiences. He suggests that these phenomena may be psychosomatic manifestations of intense religious fervor, but also acknowledges the possibility of external stigmatism, where visualizations from a distant mind are imposed upon an individual’s body.

He concludes the chapter by suggesting that many data traditionally claimed by religionists will someday be accepted by science, once freed from their theological interpretations. This foreshadows a future where the boundaries between science and magic blur, and “wild talents” are recognized and harnessed for practical purposes.

Chapter 16: The Imaginary Assailant and the Limits of Proof

This chapter focuses on cases where individuals are mysteriously wounded or killed, exploring the possibility of attacks originating in the realm of imagination. Fort presents a series of cases where victims claim to have been assaulted by a “vanishing man” who disappears without a trace. He suggests that these attacks may be manifestations of visualizations from a distant mind, imposed upon the physical world.

He examines the case of Matilda Crawford, who falls from a moving train, claiming to have been pushed by a young man who insulted her. However, a detective in the next compartment witnesses no one else entering or leaving her compartment. Fort suggests that Crawford may have been physically affected by her own fearful imaginings, fueled by stories of assaults on women traveling alone.

He then presents a series of cases where individuals are stabbed or shot in locked rooms, with no sign of forced entry or escape. He revisits the case of Isidor Fink, shot to death in his bolted room, highlighting the lack of a convincing explanation and suggesting the possibility of an attack originating in the realm of imagination.

Fort explores the concept of “proof” in this context, questioning the limitations of conventional methods of investigation. He argues that many cases remain unsolved because authorities focus on finding evidence that fits within their established paradigms, disregarding anomalous data that challenges their assumptions.

He then delves into the phenomenon of “phantom bullets,” presenting cases where windows and windshields are pierced by unseen projectiles that leave no trace. He suggests that these attacks may be manifestations of a malicious intent focused solely on the act of penetration, with no consideration for the physical trajectory of a bullet.

He concludes the chapter by highlighting the limitations of our current understanding of reality, suggesting that the gap between the subjective and the objective, the imaginary and the physical, may be bridged by unseen forces. This opens the door for the possibility of “external witchcraft,” where thoughts and visualizations can directly affect physical events and the bodies of others.

Chapter 17: Bridging the Gap: From Pigeons to Presidents

This chapter focuses on personal experiences and anecdotes, further exploring the possibility of bridging the gap between the subjective and the objective. Fort recounts his own experiences with pigeons that seemingly materialize in his London flat after he wishes for their presence. This highlights the potential for realizing desires through focused intention, suggesting a connection between thoughts and physical manifestations.

He then examines a series of uncanny incidents, including a scythe blade falling from a hook just as a detective walks underneath, money disappearing from a locked bag, and pictures inexplicably falling from walls. These seemingly coincidental events, defying rational explanation, suggest the presence of an unseen force influencing events.

Fort presents the case of a lost dog that mysteriously returns home after being abandoned ten miles away, suggesting an ability to navigate through unseen means. He then examines cases of horses appearing in seemingly locked rooms, barrels of lime being hurled down stairs without visible agency, and locked doors opening without force. These inexplicable events, defying conventional explanations, further blur the lines between the real and the imagined.

He recounts a series of personal experiences where he “sees” objects in distant, invisible shop windows by visualizing specific phrases. While acknowledging the possibility of coincidence, he suggests the possibility of a nascent clairvoyant ability that manifests sporadically and elusively.

Fort concludes the chapter with the story of Angelo Faticoni, “The Human Cork,” who could float for extraordinary lengths of time and perform seemingly impossible feats of aquatic endurance. Despite medical examinations failing to explain his abilities, Faticoni dies without revealing his secret. This unexplained talent reinforces the theme of “wild talents” that defy scientific understanding and hint at the potential for extraordinary human capabilities.

Chapter 18: The Virgin Hailstones and the Artistry of the Imaginary

This chapter explores the phenomenon of pictures appearing on unlikely surfaces, suggesting a connection between mental imagery and physical manifestation. Fort begins with the story of hailstones imprinted with images of the Virgin Mary, challenging the conventional dismissal of this event as mere pious imagination.

He suggests that the imprints on the hailstones may be analogous to illustrations in a book, not simply imagined by observers but reflecting a deeper, unseen source of imagery. He then presents cases of pictures appearing on windowpanes, walls, and even clothing, defying attempts to remove them and suggesting a deliberate, if inexplicable, act of creation.

Fort examines the case of a damp blotch on a cathedral wall forming a lifelike outline of a deceased dean, suggesting the possibility of an intense mental image being transferred to a physical surface. He then presents cases of portraits appearing on church walls, defying attempts to erase them and suggesting the work of an “artistic magician” operating through unseen means.

He explores the concept of protective coloration in animals, highlighting the uncanny realism of insects that mimic leaves, thorns, and other natural objects. He questions the conventional explanation of natural selection, suggesting that the artistry of these imitations transcends mere survival value and hints at a deeper creative force at work.

Fort introduces the idea of “were-creatures,” arguing that the transformation of humans into animals, while scientifically implausible, may be a symbolic representation of the power of the human imagination to shape physical reality. He concludes the chapter by suggesting that the various cases of pictures appearing on unlikely surfaces may be linked to the phenomenon of telepathy, hinting at a connection between mental imagery and physical manifestation that can be developed and harnessed.

Chapter 19: Witchcraft in Science and the Realization of Imaginings

This chapter explores the concept of “witchcraft in science,” arguing that many scientific discoveries and experiments may be manifestations of the same unseen forces at work in traditional accounts of magic. Fort critiques the scientific establishment’s tendency to embrace sensationalism and exaggerate the significance of their findings, while simultaneously rejecting or disregarding data that challenges their established views.

He examines the case of Emil Abderhalden, who announced the synthesis of edible substances from inorganic materials, based on experiments where dogs fed synthetic food gained weight. However, the discovery is later forgotten, and Fort suggests that Abderhalden’s success may have been a temporary realization of his own imaginings, fueled by his strong belief in the possibility of synthetic food production.

He then presents the case of Wilhelm Gluud, who announced the production of synthetic albumen from coal, only to later admit his claim was “premature.” Fort suggests that Gluud’s initial success may have been another example of a realization of his own expectations, defying chemical principles but demonstrating the power of belief to influence experimental outcomes.

He explores the controversy surrounding Ivan Pavlov’s experiments with white mice, where he claimed to have observed improved teachableness in a second generation of mice trained to respond to a bell at mealtime. However, other scientists were unable to replicate his findings, and Pavlov ultimately withdrew his claim, blaming a deceptive assistant. Fort suggests that Pavlov may have genuinely observed the effect he claimed, but that it was a localized, temporary manifestation specific to his own experiment and influenced by his own expectations.

He then examines the case of Paul Kammerer, who committed suicide after being accused of faking “acquired characters” on the feet of toads. Fort suggests that Kammerer may have genuinely observed some changes in the toads, but that he exaggerated them to support his theory, demonstrating the blurred lines between genuine observation and self-deception in scientific research.

Fort concludes the chapter by arguing that many scientific pronouncements, especially those involving miraculous cures or revolutionary discoveries, may be temporary realizations of the experimenters’ own imaginings, influenced by their strong beliefs and expectations. He suggests that the power of the human mind to shape physical reality is not limited to the realm of superstition, but may also be at work in the supposedly objective world of science.

Chapter 20: The Witchcraft of Dowsing and the Power of Belief

This chapter focuses on the phenomenon of dowsing, or water divining, arguing for its legitimacy as a manifestation of practical witchcraft. Fort challenges the scientific dismissal of dowsing as mere superstition, presenting evidence of its successful use by individuals and even government agencies.

He cites the case of Dr. Charles Albert Browne, who witnessed a famed dowser in Germany accurately locate underground water sources using a divining rod. Despite skepticism from some scientists, Dr. Browne’s investigations revealed a consistent pattern of success that could not be explained by chance or luck.

Fort presents examples of governments employing dowsers to locate water sources, highlighting the growing acceptance of this practice despite its seemingly mystical nature. He argues that the opposition to dowsing reflects the same fear of contamination and desire to maintain power that has driven the suppression of other “wild talents” throughout history.

He suggests that dowsing is a manifestation of an unseen force that responds to the dowser’s focused intention, analogous to the way objects move in the presence of a poltergeist girl. He argues that the power of belief plays a crucial role in dowsing, as the dowser’s conviction in their ability influences the outcome.

Fort then connects dowsing to other forms of practical witchcraft, such as the ability to start fires at a distance, stop motors with unseen rays, and influence events through focused intention. He argues that these seemingly disparate phenomena may be manifestations of a single, underlying force that can be harnessed and controlled through training and practice.

He concludes the chapter by suggesting that the development of practical witchcraft could revolutionize human society, offering solutions to problems like water scarcity, energy production, and transportation. However, he also acknowledges the potential dangers of such power in the wrong hands, highlighting the need for ethical considerations and safeguards in its development and application.

Chapter 21: The Stigmatic Bird and the Transmission of Imagery

This chapter explores the idea of “stigmatism” in a broader context, extending it beyond the human realm and suggesting the possibility of images being transmitted and imprinted on other living creatures. Fort begins with the case of a stigmatic bird, the bleeding-heart pigeon of the Philippines, which bears a strikingly realistic image of a wound on its breast.

He argues that this marking, with its detailed depiction of coagulated blood, transcends mere protective coloration and suggests a deeper, symbolic meaning. He proposes that the bleeding-heart pigeon’s marking may be a hereditary transmission of an ancestral trauma, a visual record of a past injury imprinted on the species’ collective memory.

He then explores the possibility of external stigmatism, where an intense mental image from one individual can be imprinted on another creature. He cites the example of the death’s-head moth, which bears a startlingly realistic image of a human skull on its back.

Fort suggests that this marking may have originated in a moment of intense fear or awe experienced by a human observer, the image being telepathically transferred to the moth and imprinted on its physical form. He argues that this phenomenon may be analogous to the way images appear on hailstones, windowpanes, and other unlikely surfaces, reflecting a deeper connection between mental imagery and physical reality.

He then recounts his own experiments with visualization, where he attempted to project images onto physical surfaces but experienced only limited success. He suggests that the ability to transmediumize images may require years of training and practice, echoing the development of other wild talents like dowsing and the manipulation of objects with unseen forces.

Fort concludes the chapter by suggesting that the phenomenon of stigmatism, both internal and external, may be a manifestation of a deeper, interconnected reality where mental imagery can directly influence the physical world. He argues that this power, often dismissed as superstition or delusion, may hold the key to unlocking new possibilities for human creativity and influence.

Chapter 22: The Fuel-less Motor and the Power of “Willing”

This chapter focuses on the controversial history of fuel-less motors, exploring the possibility of these devices operating through a form of mechanical witchcraft fueled by the inventor’s own focused intention. Fort begins with the case of Lester J. Hendershot, a young inventor who claimed to have created a motor that drew energy from the Earth’s magnetic field. Despite initial support from a U.S. Army Major who witnessed the motor working, Hendershot’s invention was met with fierce opposition from the scientific establishment.

Fort examines the attempts by Dr. Frederick Hochstetter to debunk Hendershot’s invention, arguing that his motives were driven by a desire to protect the reputation of science rather than a genuine pursuit of truth. He highlights the inconsistencies in Hochstetter’s accusations, noting that Hendershot’s motors worked in Detroit under controlled conditions, but failed to operate in New York when Hendershot was not present.

He then recounts the story of John Worrell Keely, a notorious inventor who claimed to have created a fuel-less motor called the Hydro-pneumatic-pulsating-vacue-engine. Despite years of demonstrations and promises of revolutionary technology, Keely’s motor ultimately failed to deliver on its claims, and he died without revealing his secret.

Fort examines the accusations of fraud leveled against Keely after his death, highlighting the inconsistencies in the evidence and suggesting that Keely may have been more than a mere charlatan. He proposes that Keely’s motor may have operated through a form of “willing” or visualization, a nascent, untamed talent that fueled the device’s sporadic successes but ultimately proved unreliable and uncontrollable.

He compares Keely’s predicament to that of other pioneers and innovators throughout history, arguing that their “wild talents” often manifest in unpredictable and unreliable ways, requiring years of dedication and experimentation to harness and refine. He concludes the chapter by suggesting that the fuel-less motor, while seemingly impossible in conventional scientific terms, may be achievable through the development and cultivation of these latent human abilities.

Chapter 23: Wild Talents and the Era of Practical Witchcraft

This concluding chapter presents Fort’s vision of a future where “wild talents” are recognized, cultivated, and harnessed for practical purposes, ushering in an era of practical witchcraft. He argues that these abilities, currently dismissed as parlor tricks or sideshow stunts, hold the potential to revolutionize human society, offering solutions to problems ranging from energy production to transportation.

He envisions a future where teams of trained witches could perform feats like teleporting objects, manipulating weather patterns, and even controlling the minds of others. He suggests that these powers, currently manifesting in unpredictable and often destructive ways, could be disciplined and directed towards beneficial ends.

However, Fort also acknowledges the potential dangers of such power in the wrong hands, highlighting the need for ethical considerations and safeguards in its development and application. He warns against the temptation to use witchcraft for selfish gain or to exploit others, recognizing the potential for abuse and tyranny inherent in any form of power.

He concludes the book by suggesting that the ultimate challenge for humanity lies in harnessing these wild talents while simultaneously guarding against their misuse. He envisions a future where magic and science merge, where the boundaries between the subjective and the objective blur, and where the human mind’s potential for shaping reality is fully realized, for better or for worse.

This chapter, and indeed the entire book, serves as a call to awaken to the possibilities inherent in the “unseen world,” to challenge the limitations of conventional thought, and to embrace the adventure of exploring the unknown frontiers of human consciousness and its potential impact on the physical world.

Chapter 24: Witchcraft and the Imposition of the Imaginary

This chapter delves deeper into the concept of “witchcraft,” exploring its potential mechanisms and questioning the rigid boundaries between the real and the imagined. Fort argues that witchcraft, rather than being a supernatural phenomenon, is a manifestation of natural forces that operate through unseen channels, blurring the lines between the physical and the mental.

He highlights the hypocrisy of dismissing witchcraft as superstition while simultaneously embracing equally inexplicable concepts in modern science. He points to the quantum theory, with its notions of particles existing in multiple states and disappearing and reappearing, as a prime example of “quantum magic” that defies traditional logic and embraces a form of discontinuity.

Fort reconciles his concept of hyphenation and continuity with the discontinuity of quantum mechanics by introducing a multi-dimensional perspective. He suggests that phenomena can be both interconnected and individualized, reflecting a deeper unity underlying the apparent separation of things.

He challenges the traditional definition of science as “systematized and formulated knowledge,” arguing that any being capable of organizing its experiences and acting effectively in its environment exhibits a form of “science,” regardless of its intellectual capacity. This broadens the definition of science beyond the realm of human intellectual endeavors, encompassing the innate abilities of animals, plants, and even inanimate objects.

Fort then explores the concept of “witchcraft in science,” presenting examples of scientific discoveries that seemingly defy established principles and appear to be manifestations of the experimenters’ own desires or beliefs. He revisits the cases of Abderhalden and Gluud, who claimed to have synthesized edible substances from inorganic materials, suggesting that their successes may have been temporary realizations of their own imaginings, fueled by their strong beliefs in the possibility of such breakthroughs.

He concludes the chapter by proposing that the power of “willing” or visualization, often dismissed as a mere psychological phenomenon, may have a direct impact on physical reality. He suggests that the human mind, through focused intention and belief, can influence events, manipulate matter, and even affect the bodies of others, blurring the lines between the subjective and the objective and opening the door for the possibility of a scientifically-grounded form of witchcraft.

Chapter 25: Internal and External Witchcraft: The Power of the Mind

Fort dives deeper into the potential mechanisms of witchcraft, exploring the distinction between “internal” and “external” witchcraft, both operating through the power of the mind. He begins by examining cases of individuals seemingly inflicting physical effects upon themselves through the power of belief, blurring the lines between psychosomatic illness and intentional self-harm.

He cites the case of Marjory Quirk, who dies after drinking from a cup she believes contains paraffin, even though no paraffin is present. He also presents the story of Harvard medical students experiencing symptoms of paratyphoid after listening to a lecture on food poisoning, suggesting the power of suggestion to induce illness.

Fort challenges the scientific denial of fright causing hair to turn white, arguing that the inability to conceive of a mechanism for this phenomenon does not negate the anecdotal evidence supporting its existence. He presents a case of a sailor whose hair turns completely gray after surviving a shipwreck, suggesting a profound psychological impact manifesting in a physical change.

He revisits the concept of hydrophobia, questioning its actual prevalence and suggesting that many reported cases may be manifestations of personal witchcraft, where the fear of the disease itself induces the symptoms. He cites data from dog pounds and medical reports indicating the rarity of hydrophobia in both dogs and humans, despite widespread fear and sensationalized media coverage.

Fort then transitions to the concept of “external witchcraft,” exploring the possibility of individuals influencing the physical world and the bodies of others through mental means. He examines the phenomenon of stigmata, presenting cases of individuals exhibiting wounds resembling those of Christ, often accompanied by intense religious experiences. He suggests that these phenomena may be instances of external stigmatism, where the visualized image of Christ’s wounds is imprinted upon the individual’s body through unseen forces.

He concludes the chapter by proposing that the power of the mind to affect physical reality is not limited to personal experience, but can extend outwards to influence events, objects, and other individuals. He suggests that this “external witchcraft” may operate through the same mechanisms as internal witchcraft, blurring the lines between the subjective and the objective and opening the door for a new understanding of human potential and its impact on the world around us.

Chapter 26: The Unhangable John Lee and the Futility of Resistance

Fort focuses on the power of resistance, both physical and mental, exploring its potential to defy seemingly unyielding forces. He begins with the story of John Lee, the “unhangable man,” who survives three attempts to execute him as the trapdoor repeatedly fails to open. He highlights the authorities’ bewilderment and the eventual commutation of Lee’s sentence, suggesting that an unseen force, perhaps emanating from Lee’s own willpower, prevented his death.

He then examines a series of cases where individuals exhibit seemingly superhuman strength or resistance to physical harm, defying conventional explanations. He cites examples of women effortlessly lifting heavy objects, individuals remaining unharmed after being impaled on swords, and fire-walkers traversing red-hot coals without injury.

Fort links these seemingly disparate phenomena to the concept of “witchcraft,” suggesting that they may represent a manifestation of latent human abilities that can be developed and harnessed. He argues that these abilities, often dismissed as parlor tricks or hoaxes, may reflect a deeper potential within human consciousness to influence and manipulate physical reality.

He then examines the case of a Parisian woman who claims to be compelled to walk on her hands whenever she enters her apartment. Her son and brother corroborate her story, and even the building’s concierge experiences the same compulsion. Fort suggests that this shared experience may be a form of mass hysteria or a manifestation of an unseen force influencing their behavior, highlighting the blurred lines between individual and collective experience.

He concludes the chapter by exploring the concept of “psychic hounds,” suggesting that visualizations of harm or possession, coupled with a connection to a victim’s personal belongings, can act as a conduit for unseen forces. He presents cases of children mysteriously snatched from their mothers, individuals falling ill after being targeted by a “witch’s curse,” and objects moving inexplicably in haunted houses, suggesting a link between mental imagery, personal objects, and the manifestation of physical effects.

Chapter 27: The Magician’s Apprentice and the Cultivation of Wild Talents

This chapter delves into the concept of “wild talents” and their potential for development and practical application. Fort argues that extraordinary abilities, often dismissed as mere parlor tricks or sideshow stunts, may be nascent manifestations of a deeper human potential that can be cultivated and harnessed for beneficial purposes.

He presents examples of individuals who exhibit remarkable feats of strength, endurance, and control over physical objects, including Lulu Hurst, the “Georgia Wonder,” who could seemingly toss men around effortlessly; Annie Abbott, the “Little Georgia Magnet,” who could resist the combined strength of six men; and Mary Richardson, who could knock men down with a touch.

Fort suggests that these individuals may possess latent “magical” abilities that operate through unseen forces, akin to the power exhibited by poltergeist girls who can move objects without physical contact. He argues that these talents, often manifesting in unpredictable and uncontrolled ways, can be trained and disciplined through practice and focused intention.

He then examines the case of John D. Reese, a “healer” who claimed to have learned his skills from an aged healer in Wales. Reese achieved widespread fame for his ability to cure a variety of ailments, including spinal injuries and muscular problems, through a combination of touch and “willing.” Fort suggests that Reese’s abilities may have been a manifestation of a latent “therapeutic magic” that he rediscovered and developed through years of subconscious practice.

He concludes the chapter by comparing the development of wild talents to the cultivation of wild plants, arguing that many seemingly useless or even harmful natural phenomena hold the potential for beneficial applications. He envisions a future where individuals with extraordinary abilities are recognized, trained, and employed in roles that benefit society, ushering in a new era of practical witchcraft where magic and science merge to expand the horizons of human potential.

Chapter 28: The Desirable Undesirable and the Hyphenated Gamble

This philosophical chapter delves into the nature of desire and its relationship to happiness and suffering. Fort challenges the conventional notion that happiness is a desirable goal, arguing that it is inextricably linked to unhappiness, forming an emotional rhythm that transcends external circumstances. He suggests that pursuing happiness without acknowledging its inherent connection to suffering is a futile endeavor.

He argues that the desirable and the undesirable are not absolute categories, but rather two sides of a hyphenated state, fluctuating and intermingling in a constant dance. He draws a parallel to the concept of action and reaction, suggesting that every advantage or benefit is accompanied by an equal and opposite disadvantage or detriment.

Fort critiques the mechanistic view of the universe, which seeks to isolate and quantify phenomena, arguing that this approach ignores the interconnectedness and fluidity of reality. He suggests that the pursuit of absolute certainty and control is a delusion, and that embracing the principle of uncertainty and the unpredictable nature of life is a more realistic and ultimately liberating perspective.

He then connects this concept to the development of wild talents, arguing that their potential benefits are inseparable from their potential dangers. He warns against the allure of unlimited power, recognizing the potential for abuse and unintended consequences inherent in the pursuit of absolute control.

Fort concludes the chapter by suggesting that the true value of wild talents lies not in their ability to achieve specific outcomes, but in their ability to expand the range of human experience and challenge the limitations of our current understanding of reality. He proposes that embracing the hyphenated state, with its inherent uncertainties and unpredictable outcomes, is the key to unlocking the full potential of human consciousness and its influence on the world around us.

Chapter 29: Catalysis and the Magic of the Everyday

In this chapter, Fort draws a compelling parallel between the seemingly magical phenomena he has been exploring and a well-established scientific concept: catalysis. He argues that catalysis, a process where certain substances accelerate chemical reactions without themselves being consumed, is essentially a form of “everyday magic.”

He points out that just as poltergeist girls can seemingly move objects without physical force, catalysts can trigger transformations in other substances without themselves undergoing any apparent change. He suggests that both phenomena operate through unseen forces that defy conventional explanations, blurring the lines between the magical and the scientific.

Fort explores various examples of catalysis, highlighting its crucial role in a wide range of natural processes and industrial applications. He emphasizes that while the mechanisms of catalysis are scientifically understood to a certain extent, they remain fundamentally mysterious, involving forces and interactions that operate at a level beyond our direct perception.

He then links catalysis to the concept of “wild talents,” arguing that both represent untapped potentials inherent in the natural world. He suggests that just as catalysts can accelerate and facilitate chemical reactions, individuals with “wild talents” may possess the ability to tap into unseen forces and influence events in seemingly impossible ways.

Fort proposes that the key to harnessing these wild talents lies in recognizing their connection to natural processes like catalysis, rather than dismissing them as supernatural or impossible. He encourages a shift in perspective, embracing a more holistic and interconnected view of reality where the boundaries between the magical and the scientific become more fluid and permeable.

He concludes the chapter by suggesting that the development of practical witchcraft, fueled by an understanding of natural principles like catalysis, could lead to breakthroughs in areas such as energy production, medicine, and material science. He envisions a future where human ingenuity, guided by a deeper understanding of the unseen forces operating within and around us, unlocks a new era of innovation and progress.

Chapter 30: Catalysis and the Magic of the Everyday

In this chapter, Fort draws a compelling parallel between the seemingly magical phenomena he’s been exploring and a well-established scientific concept: catalysis. He argues that catalysis, a process where certain substances accelerate chemical reactions without themselves being consumed, is essentially a form of “everyday magic.”

He points out that just as poltergeist girls can seemingly move objects without physical force, catalysts can trigger transformations in other substances without themselves undergoing any apparent change. He suggests that both phenomena operate through unseen forces that defy conventional explanations, blurring the lines between the magical and the scientific.

Fort explores various examples of catalysis, highlighting its crucial role in a wide range of natural processes and industrial applications. He emphasizes that while the mechanisms of catalysis are scientifically understood to a certain extent, they remain fundamentally mysterious, involving forces and interactions that operate at a level beyond our direct perception.

He then links catalysis to the concept of “wild talents,” arguing that both represent untapped potentials inherent in the natural world. He suggests that just as catalysts can accelerate and facilitate chemical reactions, individuals with “wild talents” may possess the ability to tap into unseen forces and influence events in seemingly impossible ways.

Fort proposes that the key to harnessing these wild talents lies in recognizing their connection to natural processes like catalysis, rather than dismissing them as supernatural or impossible. He encourages a shift in perspective, embracing a more holistic and interconnected view of reality where the boundaries between the magical and the scientific become more fluid and permeable.

He concludes the chapter by suggesting that the development of practical witchcraft, fueled by an understanding of natural principles like catalysis, could lead to breakthroughs in areas such as energy production, medicine, and material science. He envisions a future where human ingenuity, guided by a deeper understanding of the unseen forces operating within and around us, unlocks a new era of innovation and progress.

Chapter 31: The Unseen Power of the Will

Fort continues his exploration of the power of the human will, focusing on its potential to influence physical reality and even defy seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He examines cases of individuals surviving fatal situations, overcoming incredible odds, and exhibiting seemingly superhuman strength or resilience.

He cites examples like the case of John Lee, the “unhangable man,” and Angelo Faticoni, “The Human Cork,” suggesting that their extraordinary feats may have been fueled by a powerful, subconscious will to live. He also explores accounts of individuals surviving falls from great heights, emerging unscathed from explosions, and resisting physical attacks that would ordinarily prove fatal.

Fort argues that these cases, while defying conventional explanations, point to a latent human ability to tap into unseen forces and influence events through sheer willpower. He connects this power to the concept of “witchcraft,” suggesting that the human will, when focused and intensified, can manifest in seemingly magical ways.

He examines examples of individuals seemingly unaffected by pain or injury, such as fakirs who impale themselves on swords, fire-walkers who traverse hot coals, and stigmatics who exhibit bleeding wounds without experiencing discomfort. He proposes that these individuals may possess a heightened ability to control their physiological responses through mental discipline and focused intention, essentially overriding their bodies’ natural reactions to pain and injury.

Fort concludes the chapter by suggesting that the power of the will, often underestimated or dismissed as a mere psychological phenomenon, may be a key factor in the manifestation of “wild talents” and the ability to influence physical reality. He encourages readers to explore the potential of their own willpower, recognizing its potential to overcome limitations, achieve seemingly impossible goals, and shape their experiences in profound and unexpected ways.

Chapter 32: Looking at a Picture, Pulling Down a House

In this final chapter, Fort expands on his concept of “willing” as a potent force capable of influencing the physical world. He recounts his personal experiences with pictures falling from walls after he contemplated the phenomenon, suggesting a connection between his thoughts and the physical events.

He explores the possibility of escalating this ability to affect larger and more complex objects, asking provocatively if intently staring at a house could cause it to collapse. This raises the question of whether focused intention, amplified through practice and understanding, could be used to manipulate matter on a grand scale, blurring the lines between thought and action, imagination and reality.

Fort then envisions a future “Era of Witchcraft,” where this ability to influence the physical world through mental means becomes a commonplace reality. He describes a world where trained “transmediumizers” harness their collective mental energy to power motors, construct buildings, and perform other tasks currently reliant on traditional technologies. This futuristic vision suggests a potential for a more efficient, sustainable, and potentially liberating approach to meeting human needs, but also raises concerns about the potential for abuse and unintended consequences.

Fort also highlights the paradox of “usefulness” and the double-edged nature of progress. He argues that every innovation, whether technological or magical, carries the potential for both benefit and harm, and that the pursuit of “betterment” often leads to unforeseen and undesirable outcomes.

He concludes the book by encouraging readers to recognize the potential power of their own minds and to approach the development of “wild talents” with a sense of responsibility and awareness. He suggests that the future of humanity lies in embracing the unpredictable and the unknown, exploring the vast potential of consciousness and its impact on the world around us, while remaining mindful of the ethical implications and the need for balance and wisdom in wielding such powerful forces.

Wild Talents serves as a testament to the boundless possibilities inherent in the human mind and the unexplored frontiers of reality. It challenges readers to question their assumptions, embrace the unknown, and embark on an ongoing journey of discovery, recognizing that the most extraordinary adventures often lie within the realm of our own consciousness and its hidden connections to the world around us.

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