April 16, 2008 - 16:49 — Bob CFI Blog
Inspired by the images of old news clippings posted by Mike Dash and Theo Paixmans in this forum, I'd like to share with you a recent little bonanza. Thanks to a tip from Brian Chapman on the forteana mail list - firstname.lastname@example.org - these digitised clippings came from a recent and short-lived trial run of the long-anticipated digital archive of the Times, spanning 1785-1985. For a few days in mid-August 2007, the Thompson-Gale host site - see www.gale.com/ - made the entire 200-year archive freely available for genealogy researchers as part of National Family History Week.
Alas, I only discovered it one day before the free password expired and had only an hour or so to test it for Fortean data. The Times archive is now only available through their regular subscription procedure - www.gale.com/Times/
As anyone who has used the rather eccentric indexes to ancient runs of the Times will know, they were made for a different era, one of gentlemen scholars with lots of time on their hands. They were indexed, usually, on the short headline so you also had to have a talent for coming at your subject obliquely; a ‘frog fall', for example, may have been indexed as ‘A Curious Phenomenon' or an SHC might be ‘Shocking Death in Putney'.
Without any major reference easily to hand I tapped in some general topics and the result was instantly gratifying. A list of entries appears and clicking on any one brought up a fairly good quality image of the story, clipped cleanly out of its old column and nicely referenced. (Actually, a few of them contained several stories jammed together in the came column, so you sometimes have to look for the story in question.)
Here's a list of the items I found in the space of an hour (nb. some of them are new to me and, I suspect, have not seen mention before) [Where relevant my first ref is to the Holt edition of Fort's Complete Books and the second ref is to Mr X's revised edition published by FT at John Brown Publishing]:
- Fort's famous fish fall - Aberdare, Wales, 9 Feb 1859. [Holt BotD p.83f ; Mr X BotD p.79f ; FT30]
- Shower of frogs - Trowbridge, Wilts, 16 June 1939.
- Shower of (non-meteoric) stones - Iwan, Hungary, 10 Aug 1841.
- Fort's Swanton Rectory poltergeist - 1919. [Holt Lo! P.577f ; Mr X Lo! P.37]
- Poltergeist stones funeral - Karachi, July 1936.
- An Irish spontaneous combustion (SHC) death - May 1834.
- A French double spontaneous combustion death - April 1837. [NB: it's unusual for two people to ‘spontaneously combust' together. Note also the classic signature of SHC, "A few inches above the bodies was a besom made of rush which was scarcely singed..."]
- Another French spontaneous combustion - Feb 1850.
- An account of the famous spontaneous combustion of Countess Cornelia Bandi - Italy, Jan 1862. [A case beloved by Dickens and the Gentleman's Magazine.]
- An east-coast Canadian sea monster - 20 Aug 1859.
- An aquatic monster from the 17th century diary of Evilya Çelebi Effendi (1611-1684), "the Turkish Marco polo". [NB. This one ate a crocodile that had just swallowed a man.]
- A sea monster "with tusks" hit by a Norwegian tanker off Suez - Jan 1950.
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