Growing Up Fortean


Ephemeral Spectre
Aug 26, 2005
Reaction score
Not literally about Fort himself, but certainly his influence, is this little essay I scribbled a few years back:


In the childhood play of my little brother Mark and I, a large stable of continuing characters evolved over a period of years. A few of these imaginary people fell into disuse as we grew older, but others fought or stumbled or puzzled their ways through adventures than ran day to day and night to night -- sometimes involving long, endless plots, sometimes jumping from story to story without rhyme or reason.

In these prehistoric times of the 'sixties and 'seventies, we had not yet suffered the overabundance of action figures that now accompany every movie and TV show. We did, admittedly, demand from our parents plastic heroes such as the old-style G.I. Joe, Commander Matt Mason, and Captain Action, but we made up plenty of protagonists of our own, and we sent the above-mentioned characters off in strange directions.

Many fortean writers acknowledge the influence of biologist Ivan T. Sanderson on their lives. Would any of them admit to being influenced as early as I? A parody of Sanderson was one of the main actors in our fantasy troupe.

The famous explorer and biologist "Ivan C. Tangerine" headed a group known as "the Society for the Investigation of the Not Known," or SINK for short. One of his associates, Don A. Keel, was, as you might guess, was a slightly altered version of John Keel. The remaining membership of SINK consisted of an ever-changing array of fictional folk. In the one SINK story clunked out on a toy typewriter many years agone, Ivan spent the night in a house haunted not only by ghosts but by a Thing too horrible to contemplate (stolen from the story of 50 Berkeley Square).

When I received my first cassette player, one Christmas decades ago, my brother and I performed radio-plays of a sort, including the adventures of Ivan C. Tangerine and SINK. One story featured "The Crystal Creature," an alien monster like a giant slug made of diamonds. Another tale featured the more prosaic "Vampire Viscount." Much of the narration consisted of we boys wandering though the back yard, garage, and garden at night, commenting on the "phenomena" we encountered. Odd-looking branches, rocks, noisy crickets, or hooting owls were obviously evidence of unknown creatures. A lumpy block of concrete, scraped across a sidewalk, represented the Crystal Creature, and a quart jar shattered on cement served as the Vampire leaping through a window at us.

A second running storyline in a fortean vein was "Henry and Martha," about a middle-aged married American couple, the ultimate tourists in their Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts. In play they were usually represented by a station wagon made of Lego blocks, but they had their own voices (both provided by the present writer) on the "radio" program. Henry and Martha, on the way to famous U.S. landmarks like the Grand Canyon, would get lost and end up at Castle Dracula (!) and other strange places. Nothing they saw -- Sasquatch fighting Ogopogo, Close Encounters Motherships, or the Bates Motel -- ever fazed them. But they did end up with lovely slide shows for the Tuesday night bridge games.

Other fortean phenomena invaded our home-made comics, crudely-written stories, home movies, and general play-acting. Our G.I. Joes, green "army men," and rubber Dracula and Wolfman figures encountered UFOs, Mothman, Yeti, Jack the Ripper, Mokele-Mbembe, cattle mutilators, and Men-in-Black.

I can't speak for my brother, but my interests faded only slightly as I put away my toys and entered high school and college. Drawings and sometimes outright comic strips bordered my notebooks. (How I dreaded the possibility that one of my instructors might want to take up our notes sometime!) Aside from "ordinary" subjects like James Bond and comic-book heroes, I adorned my Physics and Calculus notes with UFOs and USOs, poltergeists and ghosts, Bigfeet and sea serpents. One of the strangest ideas I had concerned Charles Fort himself as a caped hero, the Positive Absolute Man!

At present I hold down a prosaic bookkeeping job, but when I have time I write stories of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, along with the occasional article -- mostly on fortean subjects. And I sometimes stare off into a corner, wistfully remembering Ivan Tangerine’s search for the Bermuda-Triangle-esque Cape Hatteras Hexagon or the Mysterious and Exasperating Verplup-plup Bird.