"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Strange crossroads: the weird and the Fortean

The intersection of spectral literature and Forteana always interests me. The 2019 book Weird Wires: Strange Reports from the Past by Samuel Fort is a good example. Readers of Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook," with its underground worship chambers and catacombs, will be struck by Fort's chapter "The Harlem Ruins."

Fans of Laird Barron (among whom S.T. Joshi is apparently no longer counting himself) will appreciate this chapter of logging lore, as I did:

The Abandoned Camp

As reported by the Pittsburgh Press, September 7, 1900:

Canadian Linemen Found a Complete Plant Long Deserted

The steamer Boscowitz, the last arrive from the north, brings details of one of the strangest mysteries connected with the exploration and development of Alaska, says a special to the Chicago Record from Seattle. For several months the Canadian government has had laborers at work surveying and putting in a telegraph line from Vancouver to Dawson. A few days ago, while working near the old Juneau trail, in a dense forest, about 100 miles from the coast, where it was thought white men had never been before, the surveying party, that was several days ahead of the pole and wiremen, made a strange and ghastly discovery.

As they were making their way through the forest, they came to a heavily timbered marsh, and near the center of this marsh, they suddenly came upon a tract of several acres on which all the timber had been cut. Near one side of the clearing was a sawmill, still in a good state of preservation. The machinery had evidently not been disturbed since the premises were vacated by the operators.

With the exception of a little rust on some of the bearings, the engine seemed to be ready to tire up and start at a moment's notice. The boiler was in good condition, and in different parts of the mill crosscut saws, cant hooks, axes, beetles, wedges, a blacksmith's forge with all appurtenances, a kit of carpenter's tools, and other implements used around a completely equipped sawmill. The lumber of the mill itself had evidently been cut on the spot, and there were several thousand feet of lumber which, to all appearances, had been cut about three years.

Near the sawmill was a shed that had evidently been used for horses, and at intervals of a few feet around the shed were the skeletons of 12 horses, most of them, judging from the bones, being large animals. The bones were entirely free from flesh, indicating that they had been there almost two summers. They were lying in such positions as to show that had never been disturbed by man. Lying beside the skeletons were weather-beaten ropes and straps, the remains of the pack blankets, and a quantity of half-decayed flour and other provisions that had rolled from the backs of the horses.

Near the mill were three small cabins constructed of lops and sawed lumber, and carefully stored away was a quantity of provisions, canned goods, bacon and flour. The bunks on the wall contained a small quantity of bedding and a grindstone, and several pairs of overalls were found In one corner of one of them.

A search was made, but no human skeletons were found. The discovery was made about 40 miles off the old Juneau Indian trail, and all conditions point to the conclusion that the clearing was made three years ago, and the horses perished the latter part of the same season. The trees were blazed on four sides, indicating that the party in some mysterious way had separated, and were unable to get together again.

The members of the surviving party think that if the forest were searched, the skeletons of the former owners of the camp could be found. The theory of murder by the Indians is not entertained, for In that case the provisions and tools would surely have been taken.

It is estimated that the engine, boiler, circular saw and the rest of the mill outfit, when new, must have cost at least $3,000.

7 September 2019

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