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Magazine / Fortean Times

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A whole World of Weirdness between the covers

The Fortean Times can trace its roots back to a 1960's-1970's Fanzine called The News — "A Miscellany of Fortean Curiosities. This was self-produced by creator Bob Rickard, and from its earliest beginnings drew in people who would become famous for other works, such as Steve Moore and Colin Wilson. Like so many other print media these days it can be found online.

Dedicated to the works and philosophy of Charles Hoy Fort, an eccentric American who meticulously collected and catalogued anomalous phenomena inexplicable or thought impossible by orthodox science, the magazine soon took on a more professional footing and was professionally produced on a bimonthly basis. Paul Sieveking joined the production team in 1978, and he and Rickard have been at the heart of the publication ever since. As revenue increased, the magazine went from monochrome to full colour to a larger A4 format, published monthly, in the early 1990's.

Areas covered by FT include:

The magazine takes a careful non-judgmental middle line, avoiding the worst excesses of either New Age credulity or James Randi-style skepticism.

Tropes currently anomalous and incapable of being explained by science include:

  • Alien Fair Folk: One of Hunt Emerson's "Phenomenomix" comic strips dealt with a bunch of fairies leaving their mound to terrorize a lone traveler. A young rebellious fairy spent the strip moaning about how dull and routine the procedure had become, before in the final panel sneaking off to a secluded dungeon to work on his "fairy chariot"... a stereotypical Flying Saucer.
  • Aliens Steal Cattle: A perennial favorite.
  • Arkham's Razor: While holding to the sensible point of view that Occam's Razor is generally the right approach to take in evaluating evidence, FT is keen to point out that Arkham's Razor should not be scorned and may, in some circumstances, at least be more entertaining and maybe even potentially useful.
  • Aura Vision: The whole field of auras, from mysticism, psychic claims, through Kirlian photography and medical conditions such as HSD migraines.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: FT has collated these stories from around Great Britain, ones which began almost as soon as the first cars rolled off the production lines and those which seem to go back even further and have been "repurposed" for the internal combustion engine. The legend of the phantom hitch-hiker on Bluebell Hill in Essex, for instance, appears to date back to the 1950's but the ghostly girl hitching a lift has been seen and reported on so often that this now has all the status of myth.
  • Black Bead Eyes: The panic about "Black-Eyed Children" who are weird and sinister and not all they seem to be. The magazine has explored this phenomena which is on the borderline of being an Urban Myth, noting that these sinister entities are said to approach isolated people, claiming to be children in distress needing help, but who radiate malevolence and sinister intent. They are often drawn/depicted with the classic Black Bead Eyes and depictions of them can be very sinister-looking indeed. A far cry from cuteness, humor or whimsy.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: The BEK (Black Eyed Children) as above.
  • Chupacabra: The magazine has a fascination with this example of cryptozoology.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: The magazine drily catalogs the latest instances of Wild Mass Guessing by them.
  • Creepypasta: A recurring theme concerns how much classical childrens' TV content of The '60s and The '70s had a weird, disconcerting, Fortean dimension that had almost completely died out of childrens' TV by The '80s. The magazine as a whole probably qualifies as the print equivalent of Creepypasta.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: They've toned it down a bit recently and hopefully listened to reader criticism. Experimenting with different styles of font and background color is all very well and in the eyes of a keen designer, probably a lot more fulfilling than that boring unimaginative black-type-on-white-page, but what got lost in the enthusiasm was that it still has to be readable. Combinations like red or yellow type on black background could make the pages horribly hard to read. FT went trough a phase of things like this.
  • Flying Saucer: A regular forum for UFO theorists and investigators, principally British, who tend to be more pragmatic than American theorists.
  • Flying Seafood Special: The rare, but well-attested, occasions where the skies rain with fish, sometimes Flying French Food Specials of frogs and toads.
  • Just Before the End: Doomsday cults and eschatology in general.
  • Museum of the Strange and Unusual: Pretty much a print version. But the magazine reports on many actual examples around the world.
  • Never Mess with Granny: In July 2015, Fortean Times reported on the case of 62 year old grandmother Audrey Ranch, from West Virginia, who won a fight with a pit-bull dog by biting its testicles off.
  • Not So Extinct: FT likes this aspect of cryptozoology. For instance, it has covered the possibility that the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine) might not be as extinct as people think it is.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: Being a British mag, a lot of space is given over to cryptozoology in the British Isles. But it neglects nothing of interest regardless of source. The Jersey Devil has been extensively covered.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: No two tales of haunting and apparitions are completely alike, and theories abound. FT collects and catalogues.
  • Past-Life Memories: * Critical commentary has suggested other mechanisms than actual literal past lives might account for the phenomena. The human being has been described as "a story-telling ape", and human imagination has been cited as something that separates humans from animals. People remembering past lives might simply be using the active imagination to plot and construct "historical novels". note . Another, more prosaic, explanation is that people undergoing "past life regressions" are simply being led on by credulous hypnotists asking leading questions, and a sort of folie a deux co-dependency arises where a hypnotic subject obligingly provides what the hypnotist wants to hear. Therapist and patient build a convincing narrative together. note  The Arthur Guirdham case discussed more than once in FT is often cited as an example of this. note 
  • Phony Psychic: Many have been covered, both historic and contemporary. The issue of why people believe in psychic powers is as interesting as the methods used to deceive and debunk and of course wiggle-room is allowed for in those truly perplexing cases that indicate just now and again, something truly weird is going on.
  • Police Psychic: The publication has reported on this phenomenon and assessed the evidence for people such as Dutch psychic Peter Hurkos, who has been acclaimed as a psychic aid to police investigations in Europe and the USA.
  • Rain of Something Unusual: The magazine loves this sort of story. In fact, one of the Ur-Example Fortean phenomena was a mysterious shower of fish and shellfish over Cromer, Norfolk, in 1887. Explained away as a mysterious, unwitnessed and never-found Mad Fishmonger who went around town in the early hours of the morning flinging buckets of produce everywhere, the mystery may have been solved. East Anglia gets tornadoes (yes, we have them in Britain too, but not to Mid-Western standards of severity or destruction). A waterspout originating at sea might have travelled inland, depositing marine life it picked up as it ebbed and died. Similar rains of fish have been reported world-wide and have happened often enough and to too many people to be dismissed as hoaxes or delusions. People have reported seeing fish seemingly flying through the air in high winds and storms...
  • Reptilian Conspiracy: A favorite topic. David Icke and his beliefs have been covered, discussed and debunked. But as always, the reasons why people like Icke believe what they believe is far more fascinating.
  • Sand Worm: The Olgoi-Khorkhoi (Mongolian Death Worm), a legendary beast said to inhabit the Gobi Desert, is a 2-5 foot long worm capable of spitting acid and able to electrocute prey. FT regularly covers Mongolia to summarize the latest reported sightings and seeks to evaluate the evidence, using cryptozoologists who have made expeditions here as a sort of "roving reporter".
  • Science Is Wrong: Not necessarily, but FT might take the view that science as we have it is incomplete and anomalous phenomena are a clear sign of things going on that we haven't even begun to properly investigate yet.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Paranormal investigators and parapsychologists are, after long experience, open to the possibility that in some cases they might be manipulated for financial ends. One British ghost-hunter, called to investigate an alleged haunting at a country hotel, spent a month looking and mounting vigil, on and off over the course of a year. When he finally said to the owner that he was almost absolutely certain nothing was there, the hotel owner begged him to make something up and fabricate a ghost, as it would be so good for business to be able to advertise his business as a haunted hotel. The same ghost hunter noted, some time later, the hotel was advertising itself as "having repeatedly been investigated by psychic detectives and ghost-hunters".... The Scooby-Doo Hoax is a whole interesting Fortean area on its own and regularly covered for what it has to tell concerning greed and gullibility.
  • Scully Syndrome: Frequently lampshaded and examined.
  • The Shangri-La: FT likes to visit this land for what it can tell us about human credulity and desire to believe.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: The lurid and sensationalist imitator Bizarre, that focused on the sexual, violent or generally sensationalist aspects of Forteana with lots of pictures and less words. Embarrassingly, it was released by the same publisher.
  • Signs of the End Times: Panics and concerns about the end of the world from evangelical religion through Martian scares to global warming.
  • Singing Telegram: The magazine reported that in 1943, an unpopular and disliked spy operating in the diplomatic community in Istanbul was "outed" at a diplomatic reception where the dance band had been primed to play a comedy song about an ineffectual spy - the moment he walked into the room. After that, in a profession where discretion and deniability are essential, his country had no option but to recall him home, his cover broken.
  • Spooky Photographs: This is an area that's been of interest ever since the first primitive cameras emerged in the 1840's. FT regularly covers, discusses and either debunks the phenomena, or puts a question mark against genuinely perplexing specimens. There are lots of spooky photographs in the FT archives.
  • Spoon Bending: Uri Geller has been covered, as much for his showmanship as for his self-proclaimed psychic powers
  • Suspiciously Stealthy Predator: The Alien Big Catsnote  suspected to be resident in Great Britain, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, which are frequently glimpsed but never definitively proven.
  • Tears of Blood: Forteana has its religious dimension, and FT reports on occurrences of statues and devotional icons which are seen to bleed, as well as the phenomena of "stigmata" among devout believers, whose feet and palms bleed just where Christ is reputed to have been nailed to the cross. FT is not exclusively Christian: related events in other religions, such as Hindu devotional statues of gods which sweat milk, are also covered.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Either via "normal" synchronicity or because some people are messing with our minds.
  • Walking Techbane: People who can fritz electronics just by being in the same room. FT broke the story of Jaqueline Priestman, who says she's gone through dozens of various appliances, and causes TV sets to change channels just by passing near. She was found to have ten times the usual amount of electricity in her body. The magazine also speculated on how some people can cause street lights to blow just by walking underneath them.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Some people and places are naturally strange. Like the one corner of the north of England that has seen as many UFO sightings as the rest of the country put together.
  • World of Weirdness: We live in one, and FT exists to document it.