Shockingly Close To Charles Fort

Min Bannister

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#1
Nice little history of Charles Fort and Fortean Times that I had forgotten about in January's edition of Saucer Smear
One very rarely hears the name of Charles Fort in urological circles, and this is indeed a shame, as he was the modern founder of the study of anomalies, including what we now call flying saucers. Fort, an American who lived from 1874 to 1932, literally went nearly blind as a collector of oddities from newspapers, magazines, scientific journals, etc., spending most of his time in the New York Public Library and the British Museum Library. He published four books crammed with these oddities plus his own philosophical thoughts - and these appeared from 1919 to 1932. Unlike most saucerers, he held no dogmatic views, but merely enjoyed pointing out things that science could not explain. Said he: "I conceive of nothing, in religion, science, or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for awhile."

Fort had friends who were major writers of his generation, and some of these formed an early version of the Fortean Society. We understand that Charles Fort himself gave little or no encouragement to this effort to keep his legacy alive. Tiffany Thayer, one of these well-known writers from the 1920s, became secretary of the Fortean Society around the time of his mentor's demise, and edited a slick little magazine called "Doubt" - a very appropriate title. We used to have quite a few issues of "Doubt", which we exchanged in the 1950s for our zine "Saucer News". Thayer had no use for flying saucers, recognizing correctly that the field was more of a cult than a serious inquiry. We corresponded with Thayer a bit, and once asked him to send back a printable comment about "Saucer News". He answered to the effect that since he could say nothing good about it, he would be kind enough to say nothing bad!

After Thayer's death in the late 1950s, the original Fortean Society folded, but there were several attempts to revive it in subsequent years. The (then) well-known naturalist Ivan Sanderson formed an organization called SITU (Society for the Investigation of the Unknown), which for many years published a slick magazine named "Pursuit". This struggled on after Sanderson's death, and then went out of business. Another Fortean organization has its home base in Maryland, and still exists, in that it sponsors annual conventions there. And then there was a short-lived attempt by the notorious John A. Keel to run a Fortean Society in New York City in the 1970s. Such a group should, by definition, have the same sort of openminded skepticism as did Fort himself, but Keel's highly opinionated beliefs may well have contributed to the death of this particular group. Also lack of funds, as often happens.

In 1973 the British newsstand magazine "Fortean Times" was founded by Bob Rickard, who was later joined by two other gentlemen. This zine is a force to be taken seriously. Currently it is a very professionally-done monthly production of about 80 pages, sold on some newsstands on both sides of the Atlantic, and available by subscription for the hefty price of $59.40 per year. Getting in touch with them may be somewhat difficult, but the subscription address appears to be: Fortean Times, Cary Court, Bancombe Road Trading Estate, TAll 6TB, United Kingdom (UK). Here you have in-depth articles on an endless array of interesting off-beat subjects, written by professional writers rather than amateur hacks. Karl Pflock and Jim Moseley have contributed a few times, and your humble "Smear" editor has crossed the Pond twice, in 1997 and 2002, to speak at their annual "UnConventions" in London.

For devotees of "Fortean Times", UFOs are only one topic out of many, and we have noticed, in our two convention appearances, that the interplanetary hypothesis, even among those drawn to the topic of saucers, is far less prevalent over there than it is here in America. Charles Fort reported on countless mysterious lights in the sky, on the Moon, etc. - seen through telescopes or by the unaided eyeball - and he facetiously suggested that these might be spaceships from other planets. But he most definitely did not make a quasi-religion out of it!

Our gratitude to "Fortean Times" is not only for the honor of having been invited to two of their "UnConventions" in London, but for the remarkable tolerence they have shown for the fact that we "borrow" material from them (mostly in the form of little printed vignettes) in almost every issue of "Saucer Smear". We doubt that the present "plug" in our magazine will do much to increase their circulation, but we do want to express our thanks for the intellectual enlightenment we have received from them, over the years. We wish a very long life indeed to Bob Rickard and his literary efforts!
I expect there must be old issues of "Doubt" still surviving. Anyone here care to own up? :)
 
A

Anonymous

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#2
Doubt

Doubt, also less alluringly called The Fortean Society Magazine, still exists in Fort's old haunt, the New York Public Library.

Thayer initially wanted to call the magazine of the Fortean Society The Fortean [Thayer-Dreiser Feb 26, 1935] but this was abandoned in favour of the simpler The Fortean Society Magazine; however from its eleventh issue (winter 1944) the title was changed to Doubt and the former title became its subtitle

The New York Public Library [http://www.nypl.org] has in its collections no's. 1-61 of Doubt: all were edited by Thayer and published by him at his own expense as a hobby. The first and second editions were published in September and October of 1937 respectively and referred to as 'volume one.' Sept. 1937 - Dec. 1939 (nos 8-10 are undated) and their call number, should you ever be near the NYPL, the call numbers are:

3-OA (Doubt) Library has: No. 1-no. 10.

Issues 11-16 enjoy the calendrical reordering of the Fortean Society's thirteen-month calendar (the new month naturally being called 'Fort' - copies of this 13-month calendar are available in the Donald Beaty Bloch papers, again at the NYPL) and so are dated years 13-16, i.e. 1943-46. No. 17 is undated and numbers 28-61 are called volume 2-3. Their call number is:

3-OA (Doubt) Library has: No. 11-no. 61.

In any case it seems that the magazine inherited the excesses of the Society, violating Fort's non-judgemental attitude to the data and, later, succumbing to Thayer's political ventings.

Some collections may also still be held by (or mouldering in the basements of) older Forteans; Damon Knight says that Vincent Gaddis loaned him his complete file of Doubt and perhaps other copies exist elsewhere. Knight's book Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained features the covers of no. 20 and another undated issue (so no.8, 10 or 17) [fig 14 in Knight] and discusses the magazine on p.185-200.

Ian
[/i]
 
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Anonymous

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#4
I think that Doubt would only really be of interest to Fortean scholars; although it did continue Fort's work of reporting and discussing anomalous data it seems to have done so without the wit and wisdom of Fort himself, and its later politicalisation and crankery (say as Thayer's objections to water fluoridation and his ideas about the geometricity of the planets and Moon) are quite distant from Fortean Times' style. Perhaps one day, though, they could be reissued for Fortean scholars (either in print or electronically) in the future when and if sufficient interest arises to meet the costs.

Ian
 
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#5
Min Bannister said:
Nice little history of Charles Fort and Fortean Times that I had forgotten about in January's edition of Saucer Smear
One very rarely hears the name of Charles Fort in urological circles,
Taking the piss surely?

---------------
Before I get my coat it might be worth checking the copyright situation......
 

Jerry_B

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#6
Sometimes it's not easy to tell what's a typo and what's not with Smear ;)

As for Doubt being only of any interest to 'Fortean scholars' (if there is such a thing) one would hope that somehow, someday it would be available as part of the Fortean Library idea that occasionally surfaces here...
 
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Anonymous

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#7
JerryB said:
'Fortean scholars' (if there is such a thing)
Hmm, maybe I meant ''purist'' or something similar, but I think Mr X, the resologist of http://www.resologist.net, would certainly count as a Fortean scholar: for his recovery of Fort's stories and correspondance, his editing, correction and referencing of Fort's books and his other researches into Fort and Forteanism in general.

Ian
 

Min Bannister

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#8
Re: Doubt

There probably wouldn't be much demand for a reprint but certainly it would be interesting to happen upon some elderly Fortean's cellar collection. 8)
Iankidd said:
Issues 11-16 enjoy the calendrical reordering of the Fortean Society's thirteen-month calendar (the new month naturally being called 'Fort' - copies of this 13-month calendar are available in the Donald Beaty Bloch papers, again at the NYPL) and so are dated years 13-16, i.e. 1943-46. No. 17 is undated and numbers 28-61 are called volume 2-3.
[/i]
Interesting that the original Fortean Society had a thirteen month calendar. FT is produced every four weeks is it not, so there are 13 issues a year? Is that a throwback to this?

Thanks for all that info Ian, if I ever go to New York I'm visiting the library!
 
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Anonymous

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#9
Re: Doubt

Min Bannister said:
if I ever go to New York I'm visiting the library!
In May or April 2001 I went to California and spend a day in New York: seeing as my family and I didn't have lots of time we wandered around a lot and I made a 'pilgraimage' to NYPL and sat in one of their beautiful reading rooms reading FT issues 1-15 :) It was great; I even took notes!

Ian
 

Min Bannister

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#10
Hehe cool. 8)

Seems as if Doubt at least started off in the right vein as you say with people collecting newscuttings to put in it. This was an interesting one I found in UFO Roundup vol 8 no.23. I think it shows the importance of collecting these things as one day the mystery may be solved.

In the June 1943 issue of The Fortean Society Magazine, Thayer ran a strange little news item from Switzerland.

"Grey snow fell in Basel, Switzerland 2-7-42 (February 7, 1942). Orthodox explanation: 'caused by an oily substance of the nature of soot produced by combustion at some great distance.' As far away as Mars, perhaps?"

Two years later, the phenomenon repeated itself. "A Sofia (Bulgaria) dispatch quoted by UP (United Press, forerunner of today's United Press International--J.T.) 3- 29-44 (March 29, 1944) stated that black snow had fallen 'in some parts of Bulgaria.' Ash clouds from (Mount) Vesuvius, as usual."

Today it appears obvious that the grey and black snows were caused by the mass cremations at the Auschwitz- Birkenau vernichtungenslager (death camp) in southern Poland. The ashes were carried into the stratosphere and subsequently precipitated out as dark-colored snows. When the cremations halted, the "phenomenon" disappeared, as well.
:( Certainly makes you think.

I wonder if this one will ever be explained?

"British scientists, 14 strong, under (Lieutenant Commander) J.W.S. Marr were reported 4-24-44 (April 24, 1944) in Antarctica. The mission began secretly, is proceeding mysteriously, and will end in confusion for poor Homer Sap."

The mission may have ended, but the scientific and military results--if any--of the 1944 Marr expedition never became public knowledge. What were the Allies up to on the frozen southern continent? An enterprising World War II historian might want to find out.

"Echo, 12-29-45 (December 29, 1945): Mr. Shaw of West Bromwich again--reported the first quake, in his 38 years of experience, within 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of the South Pole. It lasted FOUR HOURS."

This phenomenon was never explained, not even during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) expeditions in 1957. (See The Fortean Society Magazine for June 1943, "Gray snowfall," page 7; Doubt: The Fortean Society Magazine for Winter 1945, "Black snow," page 164; and Doubt, ibid. page 164.)
Glad there still seem to be plenty of archives of these things though. Who knows what treasures are buried within?
 
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Anonymous

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#11
Strange doings transpiring in Antarctica

Min Bannister said:
"British scientists, 14 strong, under (Lieutenant Commander) J.W.S. Marr were reported 4-24-44 (April 24, 1944) in Antarctica. The mission began secretly, is proceeding mysteriously, and will end in confusion for poor Homer Sap."

The mission may have ended, but the scientific and military results--if any--of the 1944 Marr expedition never became public knowledge. What were the Allies up to on the frozen southern continent? An enterprising World War II historian might want to find out.
As an interesting Fortean aside, in 1916 Fort completed the manuscript of Y which proposed the existence of a sinister civilization at the South Pole (though differing sources disagree about at which pole this civilization was located). Perhaps Lt Cmdr. Marr and his team were either searching for or attempting contact with this alleged Hyperborean civilization? If they did find something, no wonder that the data never became public knowledge.

We could speculate that the 1961 Antarctic Treaty was not so much a ''hands-off'' agreement as a treaty between the world's nations and the Hyperboreans; consider the Treaty's aims to:

* to demilitarize Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only;
* to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica;
* to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.
The treaty seems to ensure that no military forces will be stationed in Antarctica and that no nuclear or radioactive pollution find its way there, that international scientific efforts will be concentrated towards co-operative scientific development with the Hyperboreans and that until such positive reations can be established, that all other diplomatic and strategic disputes are put to one side. Considering that ''[t]he treaty remains in force indefinitely'' it seems that the research will take some time. [http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/About_Antarctica/Treaty/] See Lo! pt 1 ch 6 for more on ''loony theories.'' [http://www.resologist.net/lo106.htm

Glad there still seem to be plenty of archives of these things though. Who knows what treasures are buried within?
Having the records extant is one thing; actually processing them into a useable form is another. There is plenty of Fortean material in the world but most of it is gathreing dust in library backrooms, archives, council and parish records, etc., and locating, recording and providing it to researchers and interested Forteans is a whole new ballgame. For more on this see:

http://www.forteana.org/html/reference.html
http://www.forteana.org/html/BR-intro.html
http://www.forteana.org/html/MD-museum.html

Someday there will be a permanent, operational Fortean museum but until then, it's back to the clippings and folders...

Ian
 

Jerry_B

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#12
I'm not sure why the secrecy about a military expedition in 1944 would be so unusual. It was, after all, a military expedition, made during wartime.
 
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Anonymous

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JerryB said:
I'm not sure why the secrecy about a military expedition in 1944 would be so unusual. It was, after all, a military expedition, made during wartime.
But who was at war with who? Maybe all those Nazis who fled to South America were actually using Montevideo, etc., as stepping stones for their flight to the Hyperboreans? And what else could have been of military interest in Antarctica back then? It's too remote and inhospitable to be of serious strategic value (in 1944 anyway) and too far from Nazi influence to be under threat anyway...perhaps there are, or were, sinister civilizations at *noth* poles (notwithstanding the lack of a fixed physical North Pole) - the Nazis went for the Thuleans and the Allies for the Hyperboreans?

Of course, this is just a loony theory!

Ian
 

Jerry_B

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#14
Secrecy doesn't necessarily imply anything of big importance. It doesn't sound like a particularly large expedition.
 

Min Bannister

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#16
Secrecy during a war is no big deal right enough but something that is still secret 60 years later is a bit unusual surely? I'd love to know what they were up to!
 
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Anonymous

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#17
Maybe the information

I know there are different rules for when certain kinds of records are released - the Thirty Year Rule for civil government stuff, one hundred years for military intelligence or indefinite withholding for very sensitive materials (feel free to correct any of this), so records for a 1944 exploration of Antarctica should hve been released (or at least, be accessible) now (after all, alsorts of WW2 records have been released): anyone interested enough could have a look through http://www.national-archives.gov.uk or http://www.iwm.org.uk

Ian
 

Jerry_B

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#18
The fact that this went on all that time ago does not exclude from still being secret - and the reasons for it still being secret doen't necessarily imply any unusual reasons. Altho', anyone could file a FOI claim and see if anything comes up.
 

Creamstick1

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#19
Thinking about the idea of re-prints of Doubt, there have been a couple of editions of re-prints of John Willie's Bizarre (not least the complete editions box that rests on my shelf).

I would think that if these have done wll enough, the Doubt should be able to sell.
 

fortist

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#20
Doubt issues

I had a quick look through the online catalogues of the New York Public Library (www.nypl.org) and the British Library (www.bl.uk) and their holdings include Doubt numbers:

1-2, 8-12, 11-16, 17, 28-61 NYPL
1-10, 11, 14-15 BL

So numbers 13 and 18-27 are missing ... but perhaps they exist in a private collection somewhere? Perhaps someone sufficiently interested could run an add in Fortean Times and get the rest? I think the copyright should have expired by now,but that's more X's area.

They would make a lovely volume, though: "Doubt: the complete set of the Fortean Society Magazine

Ian
 
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#22
In 1947, a Diffusionist Writer Sicced the FBI on the Fortean Society for Rejecting His Anti-Columbus Book
9/10/2016

While skimming through some of the FBI paranormal files presented in The Black Vault, I came across a fascinating letter sent from Tiffany Thayer, the secretary of the Fortean Society, to Jennings C. Wise, a soldier and lawyer, regarding their shared belief that the New World had been colonized from Europe before Columbus. This letter ended up in the FBI files not because they cared in the least about diffusionism but rather because Thayer was being investigated for sedition due to his controversial publications in the Forteans’ official journal denouncing World War II as “World Fraud II” and alleging that the Great Powers conspired to foment war. Thayer would be investigated several more times, including once for claiming that “FBI men outnumber the Communists on our rolls by 2 to 1,” prompting an outraged Hoover to send agents to demand Thayer prove that Bureau men were subscribes to Doubt. (Thayer eventually withdrew the claim.)

Thayer has a mixed legacy among Forteans, praised for his advocacy of Fortean investigation, and criticized for the iron fist with which he controlled early Forteanism in the two decades after he helped found the Fortean Society in 1931. The FBI files preserve several issues of Thayer’s Doubt magazine, and frankly they suck. The issues—admittedly preserved because various informants found them seditious—contain a deeply uninspiring mix of leftist politics, rehashed Fort, and summarizing news stories about everything from weird rain to the FBI’s role in the development of a police state. Thayer’s politically oriented Fortean Society collapsed after his death in 1959, and it was replaced with the less political International Fortean Organization (INFO).

Before we get to Jennings Wise, I did want to point out a fascinating paragraph from a 1951 edition of Doubt (vol. 2, no. 3), authored almost certainly by Thayer, bemoaning the rise of the flying saucer:Forteans have a legitimate gripe at the usurpation of our long-time franchise upon lights and objects in the sky by the military and its lackey freeprez. In a field where competent witnesses have ever been a rarity, the propaganda machinations have so conditioned the public that “saucer” comes to mind first, no matter what is seen, and if the witness does not use the word, the reporters put it in their accounts anyway.
Thayer didn’t like flying saucers and seemed to find the scientific orientation of early nuts-and-bolts ufology anathema to his preferred Gothic Grand Guignol of anti-science, anti-government, and anti-elite propaganda.

Anyway, our story concerns Jennings C. Wise. Wise, an Army lieutenant colonel and one-time assistant federal attorney-general, wrote a series of books in the 1940s advocating fringe conspiracy views about Columbus and making the case for European colonization of America prior to Columbus. He was, like so many of his era, partially correct: He trusted that the Icelandic sagas correctly identified Viking routes to Canada, for example. He was also largely wrong, accepting, for example, the Kensington Rune Stone as proof of Vikings in Minnesota. He was a Freemason, and the Masons eagerly embraced his books, praising them loudly in publications like the 1948 volume of the Scottish Rite News Bulletinand the 1947 volume of The New Age Magazine. However, scholars thought little of his work. The Handbook of Latin American Studies for 1959 said it possessed “little or no historical merit.” It will probably surprise no one that he also theorized about how “large, blond, red-haired Aryans” civilized the world and carried the secret of the New World from ancient times down to the age of Columbus. ...

http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/i...-society-for-rejecting-his-anti-columbus-book
 

amarok2005

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#23
Doesn't everybody have their complete collection of Doubt from The Sourcebook Project? Tut-tut!
 

Austin Popper

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#25
In 1947, a Diffusionist Writer Sicced the FBI on the Fortean Society for Rejecting His Anti-Columbus Book
9/10/2016

While skimming through some of the FBI paranormal files presented in The Black Vault, I came across a fascinating letter sent from Tiffany Thayer, the secretary of the Fortean Society, to Jennings C. Wise, a soldier and lawyer, regarding their shared belief that the New World had been colonized from Europe before Columbus. This letter ended up in the FBI files not because they cared in the least about diffusionism but rather because Thayer was being investigated for sedition due to his controversial publications in the Forteans’ official journal denouncing World War II as “World Fraud II” and alleging that the Great Powers conspired to foment war. Thayer would be investigated several more times, including once for claiming that “FBI men outnumber the Communists on our rolls by 2 to 1,” prompting an outraged Hoover to send agents to demand Thayer prove that Bureau men were subscribes to Doubt. (Thayer eventually withdrew the claim.)

Thayer has a mixed legacy among Forteans, praised for his advocacy of Fortean investigation, and criticized for the iron fist with which he controlled early Forteanism in the two decades after he helped found the Fortean Society in 1931. The FBI files preserve several issues of Thayer’s Doubt magazine, and frankly they suck. The issues—admittedly preserved because various informants found them seditious—contain a deeply uninspiring mix of leftist politics, rehashed Fort, and summarizing news stories about everything from weird rain to the FBI’s role in the development of a police state. Thayer’s politically oriented Fortean Society collapsed after his death in 1959, and it was replaced with the less political International Fortean Organization (INFO).

Before we get to Jennings Wise, I did want to point out a fascinating paragraph from a 1951 edition of Doubt (vol. 2, no. 3), authored almost certainly by Thayer, bemoaning the rise of the flying saucer:Forteans have a legitimate gripe at the usurpation of our long-time franchise upon lights and objects in the sky by the military and its lackey freeprez. In a field where competent witnesses have ever been a rarity, the propaganda machinations have so conditioned the public that “saucer” comes to mind first, no matter what is seen, and if the witness does not use the word, the reporters put it in their accounts anyway.
Thayer didn’t like flying saucers and seemed to find the scientific orientation of early nuts-and-bolts ufology anathema to his preferred Gothic Grand Guignol of anti-science, anti-government, and anti-elite propaganda.

Anyway, our story concerns Jennings C. Wise. Wise, an Army lieutenant colonel and one-time assistant federal attorney-general, wrote a series of books in the 1940s advocating fringe conspiracy views about Columbus and making the case for European colonization of America prior to Columbus. He was, like so many of his era, partially correct: He trusted that the Icelandic sagas correctly identified Viking routes to Canada, for example. He was also largely wrong, accepting, for example, the Kensington Rune Stone as proof of Vikings in Minnesota. He was a Freemason, and the Masons eagerly embraced his books, praising them loudly in publications like the 1948 volume of the Scottish Rite News Bulletinand the 1947 volume of The New Age Magazine. However, scholars thought little of his work. The Handbook of Latin American Studies for 1959 said it possessed “little or no historical merit.” It will probably surprise no one that he also theorized about how “large, blond, red-haired Aryans” civilized the world and carried the secret of the New World from ancient times down to the age of Columbus. ...

http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/i...-society-for-rejecting-his-anti-columbus-book
Sounds to me like them fellers would have been in heaven if they'd had the interwebz to fill up with their propaganda. Their spiritual heirs are legion anyway, so I reckon it wouldn'ta mattered a whole lot.
 
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