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Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  132 ratings  ·  17 reviews
The seminal biography of the twentieth century's premier chronicler of the paranormal, Charles Fort--a man whose very name gave rise to an adjective, "fortean," to describe the unexplained.
By the early 1920s, Americans were discovering that the world was a strange place.
Charles Fort could demonstrate that it was even stranger than anyone suspected. Frogs fell from the sk
ebook, 352 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Tarcher (first published September 28th 2007)
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Dave Maddock
Jan 13, 2015 Dave Maddock rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dave by: Curtis
Shelves: biography
You have to know a bit about Charles Fort and his work before reading this biography (otherwise there's little reason to bother doing so), but it is a very well done account of his life and writings. For starters, Steinmeyer is generally skeptical of Fort's claims, but not an ass about it. As he put it in this interview:
I tend to be skeptical, but I don't consider myself a "debunker," and maybe that's why I appreciated Fort's work, even if I didn't always accept the phenomena.

The book is about F
Sep 07, 2008 Caleb rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Fort, the literary world of the '20s
Shelves: non-fiction
No one wrote quite like Charles Fort, whose four books on the strange phenomena we now call Fortenalia can be read cover to cover in endless rotation and always offer something new and engaging to the reader (In that respect, they're not too different than the Bible).

Author Jim Steinmeyer doesn't write at all like Fort, but he sure has rounded up an awful lot about the writer, and recovered a lot of Fort's writing that was done outside of his four major works.

This was a great way to re-encouter
Charles Dee Mitchell
Years spent in the used book trade assures that I have always been aware of figures such as Charles Fort, and I can use the term "fortean" in a sentence. But it was while I was reading Sister Carrie a few months ago that I looked up some background material on Theodore Dreiser, and learned that he was largely responsible for getting Fort into print. When I spotted a secondhand copy of Fort's complete works, I picked it up and quickly realized that he would be more interesting to read about than ...more
Jim Steinmeyer's biography of the man who inspired the Fortean Times, Charles Fort: The Man who Invented the Supernatural, was an enjoyable, though not very revealing, popular/populist biography of a genuine and important eccentric.

The biography fails to reveal the deeper psycho-pathologies at work in Charles Fort but tends to skim along the surface. What annoys in the book is the over-abundance and lengthy quotes from Mr. Fort's books. It almost seems as if these lengthy quotes function as fil
Charles Fort's renown rests primarily on four books -- The Book of the Damned, New Lands, Lo!, and Wild Talents -- unclassifiable shaggy dog collections of old newspaper and magazine accounts of rains of frogs and other assorted critters, mysterious disappearances, unexplained phenomena of all sorts, and so forth, all shot through with wryly sardonic humor and a palpable sense of glee at tweaking consensus reality. Unlike Charles Berlitz, Erich von Daniken, or most of the other hucksters who ped ...more
Was Charles Fort a crank, a genius, or something else all together? Jim Steinmeyer's biography of the little known writer of the early 20th century delves into just what made Fort tick, from his passion for collecting and cataloging true stories of the unexplained to the self doubt and anti-social tendencies that both seemed to hold the author back and were, to some extent at the root of his ability to distance himself from both scientific and religious dogma forging his own objectivist view of ...more
A moderately interesting biography of the source of the eponym "Fortean". Charles Fort started out as a ne'er-do-well writer and journalist and upon inheriting a modest legacy, compulsively collected anecdotes of various strange and unexplained phenomena from newspapers and magazines. He summarized and published these in four books, his most first and most famous being "The Book of the Damned".

Fort himself would be best described as an interested skeptic, like so many who today would watch 'docu
Mark Potts
If I have one criticism of this book it is that Jim Steinmeyer has chosen a subject, about which, there is just too much information to absorb in just one reading. I'm sure that I didn't take in half of the content.

Fort was a strange man, of that there can be no argument.

Perhaps a genius, perhaps a crazy bloke. I still am not sure. One thing is for sure - he was different. What's more, he ruffled a few feathers too. Perhaps he chose to ignore the facts that didn't fit with his train of thought,
I've been meaning to read up on Fort since reading Chasing Vermeer, in which he is mentioned. Actually, he comes up in Good Omens, so I've been curious to learn more since 1991 or so.


Poor guy never did quite get the hang of people. But, boy, didn't journalism produce some fine short story writers? Very like Ring Lardner is what I mentioned to the husband, a comparison that Steinmeyer made just a few pages later on. Fort would have loved the modern age for making his collections. He could just
Before reading the book, I knew nothing about Charles Fort. Madman or visionary? At the beginning of the book, I was convinced that he was insane (mostly based on his decision to refer to himself as "we" in his autobiography of childhood) but the more I read, the more I grew to admire him and his journey as a writer. His friendship with Theodore Dreiser is an endearing story, and even Robert Ripley makes an appearance.

If you like books about writers, introverts, hypergraphia, those who don't "fi
Aug 07, 2008 Melody rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Forteans
Fort was a fascinating character. This biography is far more readable than any of Fort's actual books. Interesting and just the right length. I was surprised to learn that Fort was reporting a great deal with his tongue in his cheek. I always thought he was a great big crank. Turns out that's not true. Odd, yes. But crazy? No. There's also a lot of information about Theodore Dreiser here, as he was more or less Fort's mentor. And H. G. Wells provides background snark, as does Mencken. The book i ...more
Peter Salva
A wondering book about a confounding subject. Steinmeyer' s attention to detail is complete.
Charles Fort is one of those peripheral figures you’ll encounter if you venture into the territory of mysteries and the unexplained.

Except for Tiffany Thayer’s brief introduction to Fort’s “Book of the Damned,” little biographical material has been available on the man. Jim Steinmeyer, a historian of stage magic and illusion, has attempted to fill that void with this biography.

My full review is available at
I didn't get much insight on the weird occurrences that Fort discussed (for that I probably need to read his actual books) but I was quite taken by the portrait of the cult figure as a homebody and a struggling writer.
I was disappointed at the lack of information about the supernatural. The original writings included were good. I'm now convinced I should look at the Book of the Damned, one of his books.
Great bio of a far more interesting person than I'd expected.

If nothing else, the world owes Charles Fort for having coined the term "teleportation."
What is this weird Charles Fort phase I'm going through?
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Jim Steinmeyer was born and raised just outside of Chicago, Illinois, and graduated in 1980 from Loyola University of Chicago, with a major in communications. He is literally the man behind the magicians having invented impossibilities for four Doug Henning television specials, six touring shows, two Henning Broadway shows, and numerous television and Las Vegas appearances.For one of David Copperf ...more
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