Charles Hoy Fort is my hero. He was a super-sceptic. What he believed as far as I can work it out is that people see what they want to see and what they are trained to see. He saw that the dominant world view was scientific. He believed that many things happen that are beyond or outside scientific explanation and he made careful notes about these. The film “Magnolia” draws on his ideas. There was an impish side to his character an it is always impossible to determine his real views. He first posed the idea flying saucers and alien abduction as well as phenomenon that are investigated seriously such as ball-lightening. Some of his ideas such as synchronicity were also explored by Jung. Although fascinated by evolution he was sceptical about its use as an explanation for everything. If he lived now he would have more to be sceptical about. But all this misses the point… he was just enormous fun and an asker of awkward questions. His method was to turn the scientific method on itself. My other hero is Walter Benjamin but… another time.
Anyway as I was saying before I interrupted myself Charles Hoy Fort was an observer of mysterious events and an event in Blackpool caught his eye. It was 12.00 noon on Saturday 6 August 1926 and the Midland Bank in Talbot Square (now the Counting House) d was closing. There was a commissionaire on duty who was unlocking the door to let customers out. A Tramways Department motor appeared to deposit money. A cashier from the Tramways Department brought in a large bag and deposited on the counter and then went for another bag. The commissionaire let him out by unlocking the door. When the cashier returned moments later the bag was gone. Now the thief must have taken a large leather bag and concealed it and stood at the door while the commissionaire unlocked the door in the few moments when the cashier was gone. The bag contained £800 in notes. The Police were summoned. There had been about twenty customers in the bank. None of them had seen anybody take the bag and the commissionaire had not seen anybody leave with a bag. An hour later the bag was found between Queen Street and Talbot Road in what is now the Strand. It was still locked. It had an especially intricate lock and a person from the Tramway Department had to be summoned to undo it.
The question Charles Hoy Fort asked is how could somebody spirit away a bag in full view of twenty people and be let out by the commissionaire who had to unlock the door to let anybody out without the bag being seen. Another problem is how did the thief undo the intricate lock and having done so why did the thief bother to lock it again when he must have been keen to escape. Possibly the thief concealed it under a coat or the thief had a woman accomplice who could conceal it more easily. If the thief was an opportunist and happened to be lucky he was very lucky indeed and also very bold to wait while the commissionaire unlocked the door for him and his concealed leather case. And he was exceptionally fortunate to have the skills to unlock the case and to lock it again after he had removed the banknotes. He must have been very pleased with himself that Saturday Evening almost ninety years ago. He had stolen eight hundred pounds. The minimum wage for an agricultural labourer working forty-nine hours a week was one pound and fifty six pence, unemployment was very high. Maybe he was driven by desperation.
Elsewhere in the world Marilyn Monroe and Fidel Castro were born that year. The hit of the year was “Bye, bye blackbird.”