Sunday, April 9, 2017

LO! and Strange (Dis) Appearances

Welcome to my new blog, "Fiction and Reality II."  I didn't use F&R One often enough, apparently, so Blogger shut it down.  This time around I'll try to come up more frequently with interesting things to say.

If you've been to my web site, the  Fantasy World Project

you probably noticed that I've devoted space over the past couple of years to the Missing 411 books of David Paulides:

Missing 411 Annotations
As I've written there, that series of strange disappearances reminded me of many other phenomena, some of which I would never have thought had any connections with one another.  This despite the criteria Paulides uses to weed out the hundreds of cases that might have more mundane explanations.

For instance, going way back to Charles Fort's LO! (1931), specifically Chapter 17, we are presented with a series of strange events that occurred in the early 20th Century that I always believed to be totally unique in the annals of paranormal/fortean stories.  Basically, men were being found, naked and amnesic, across England.

An excerpt from LO! chapter 17:
"Naked in the street -- strange conduct by a strange man." See the Chatham (Kent, England) News, Jan. 10, 1914. Early in the evening of Jan. 6th -- "weather bitterly cold" -- a naked man appeared, from nowhere that could be found out, in High Street, Chatham.

The man ran up and down the street, until a policeman caught him. He could tell nothing about himself. "Insanity," said the doctors, with their customary appearance of really saying something . . . This naked man of Chatham appeared suddenly. Nobody had seen him on his way to his appearing point. His clothes were searched for, but could not be found. Nowhere near Chatham was anybody reported missing.
And, farther along, ending Chapter 17:

Hants and Sussex News, Feb. 25, 1920 -- "one of the most sensational discoveries and most mysterious cases of tragedy that we have been called upon to record" -- a naked body of a man, found in a ploughed field, near Petersfield, Hampshire, England.

The mystery is in that there had not been a murder. A body had not been thrown from a car into this field. Here had appeared a naked man, not in possession of his senses. He had wandered, and he had died. It was not far from a road, and was about a mile from the nearest house. Prints of the man's bare feet were traced to the road, and across the road into another field. Police and many other persons searched for clothes, but nothing was found. A photograph of the man was published throughout England, but nobody had seen him, clothed or unclothed, before the finding of the body. At the inquest, the examining physician testified that the body was that of a man, between 35 and 40; well-nourished, and not a manual worker; well-cared-for, judging from such particulars as carefully trimmed finger nails. There were scratches upon the body, such as would be made by bushes and hedges, but there was no wound attributable to a weapon, and in the stomach there was no poison, nor drug. Death had been from syncope, due to exposure. "The case remains one of the most amazing tragedies that could be conceived of."

The mystery did not immediately subside. From time to time there were comments in the newspapers. London Daily News, April 16 -- "Although his photograph has been circulated north, east, south, and west, throughout the United Kingdom, the police are still without a clue, and there is no record of any missing person, bearing the slightest resemblance to this man, presumably of education and good standing."

* * * * * *
Ever since I first read LO! as a teenager, I thought nothing else in the literature resembled this series of naked men from nowhere.  Now, however, they sound like the ending of many a Missing 411 case:  People found with clothing gone, in "bitterly cold" weather, with no memory of what happened to them (if alive) and no obvious signs of death (if dead).

Heck, it seems like everything I read nowadays reminds me of the 411 books, somehow.  I bought an old issue of Argosy Magazine (Sept. 1974).  It was the "special shark issue," in honor of a blockbuster movie then in production called, of course, JAWS.  In an article called "Silent Death," author Fred Mackerodt suggests that there are many more shark attacks at America's beaches than the authorities would like us to know.  This article seems to have two strikes against it right out of the gate, since Paulides tries to filter out disappearances that 1) might be due to someone drowning/being lost at sea, and 2) might be due to an animal attack.  But Mackerodt writes (page 44B):

"Last year the National Safety Council reported that over 3000 people were 'drowned' at the beach.  In many of these cases, the bodies were never recovered . . . The swimmer simply doesn't show up back on the beach when it's time to go home, a search is made and nothing is found.  He is listed as drowned, body never recovered."

Mackerodt was suggesting that sharks ate these unfortunate people.  Forty-something years later, the above quote reminds me of how National Parks authorities will search for a missing person for a week or so, then apparently forget about him or her.  Then, eventually, they'll declare the victim "missing, presumed dead," and remove the name from any lists of vanished people.  And a different kind of amnesia sets in.

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