Let’s Read Fortean Times, June/July 2001!

Fortean Times is a British paranormal magazine named for the American author Charles Fort, who was one of the first popular writers on the subject of anomalous phenomena, more commonly known as the paranormal or “the unexplained” (but anomalous phenomena just rolls off the tongue so beautifully!). The magazine launched in 1973 as The News by fans of science fiction, gained a large cult following of sci-fi enthusiasts and genuine weirdos and genuine weirdo sci-fi enthusiasts, went through a few name changes, and has been chugging along ever since, miraculously even selling copies in print today. The editorial style of the magazine is objective and casual, neither seeking to discredit nor definitively prove what they report on (which is supplied heavily by reader-submitted “weird news” from all over the world). To put it simply, Fortean Times embodies the “I want to believe” approach to the paranormal and presents their features at face value in the name of entertainment. For an exhaustive history on the magazine, check out their wiki.

This marks our first foray into magazines from the early 2000s. Normally I try to keep things to pre-1999, but how could I resist when the material is this good? And trust me, there is much forgotten and dated material to be remembered here, for better or for worse. These issues were generously gifted to me by a fellow Avocado (thanks a bunch rev_skarekroe!), without whom I would have never heard of Fortean Times. Reading through it, I had a distinct feeling of where was this when I was a paranormal-obsessed teenager in the 90s?, because I would have absolutely lived for this magazine back then. I received the June and July 2001 issues, and given the lightness of the issues I’ll be featuring a combined review of both.

June 2001


I don’t know what to be more excited for, a DVD-ROM game or a feature of Chris Carter just talking about every episode of season two. Remember when they used to advertise dvd extras in length of hours?


We’re a few months away from September 2001, so while it’s easy to think that the Taliban just came out of nowhere it is significant to see that the media was paying attention to what they were up to. While this article is positively Time-level investigative journalism in comparison to the rest of the magazine, it’s not really focused on the paranormal so I’m unsure of why it was included here.


I had to read this a good five times before I figured out what was happening, but I’m pretty sure that if you read this out loud on a public bus you’ll get to keep a whole seat to yourself.


As their website has gone under (no way!), apparently Nookii was some kind of sexy couple’s board game, according to the Amazon listing of “Love Honey Nookii Couple’s Board Game” frequently bought with “XXX-opoly” and now my Amazon product recommendations are ruined forever thank you very much.


Peter and his Spirit Guides had a nasty falling out when Peter called out John and Wilhelm for not paying their share of the rent for the last 500 years.


This magazine leaves me wondering about exactly how much absolutely insane shit these editors are sent every day, and what the process of sifting between “entertaining” crazy and “I’m sorry we ever published our mailing address and I need to go lay down” crazy.


Austin Osman Spare, per Wikipedia, created a magico-religious philosophy in which Zos was the embodiment of the physical human being. He also called himself Zos, which is the point where your well meaning philosopher wizard goes off the deep end.

As for Retro Rebels, I like the phrasing of “EYE BALL UPDATED SITE”, which took me a minute to figure out meant “check out our new website”.


From the cover feature on being buried alive. I know that one didn’t really ever have the luxury of quitting a job in the 1800s, but imagine being a graveyard watchman and being told by your boss that now thanks to advances in coffin technology and the paranoia of the wealthy, you now had the additional job of making sure that the graveyard smelled like rotting flesh and that the ringing of bells was indeed because of bloating corpses triggering the alarm inside the coffins. I have a feeling that if anyone in a fancy coffin ever actually did wake up and start shouting for help, the night watchman would probably just make the sign of the cross and set the plot on fire.


If you spend over $20 you get a free black shirt, and I really hope you only made the face that the model in the bottom corner is making whenever you wear it.


I love the flashlight that’s advertised as “Brighter than Carol Vorderman“, whom I guess is a Professional Smart Person well known in England. It’s just so matter of fact, like the American equivalent of the ad would be “Waterproof and scratch resistant. Sharper than Bill Nye the Science Guy’s bow tie. Requires one watch battery. Man made materials.”

I was about to go full tilt on the layout editors that kept the placement instructions in the top of the personal massager ad, but looking at it again I realize that it’s nearly impossible to chop that part off without also chopping off the top of the ad. In fact, this ad is pretty much a perfect lesson in how to make a terrible, unreadable magazine ad that I feel like it should be taught in editing classes, from the awful background to the bad photographs to the tiny and way overpacked text to the clashing fonts and oh god I can’t look at it anymore.


The Men Who Stare At Birds In The Road, some shitbag kid broke your window with a sourball, Satan drives a limo in the fog, naturally occurring rock dicks, and oh I’m sorry did you not get enough to say in your full article that was published last month and you have to keep writing in the letters to the editor column?


I don’t have much to say here other than I was really confused by the usage of “jug of ice” in the wide mule recipe, and a quick survey of British Avocados didn’t turn up any answers either.


You too can dress like the edgelord who sat behind me in economics and smelled like weed! I’d ask you what “Too small to cope, too big to care” means, but I don’t want to hear you  talk about it for the next four hours. Don’t trip on that wallet chain, now.


Alright, this is actually pretty great.


Yeah, 11th grader me in 2001 would have wanted this shit.

A flask with the kanji for “truth” on it. So deep.


Hmm, do I want the glow in the dark pentagram bellybutton ring or the glow in the dark Om symbol bellybutton ring? Oh, I know! I want the glow in the dark radioactive symbol bellybutton ring. Gonna look so good at prom.


Remember when this was actually controversial, and then we all lost our collective ability to be disturbed by the commodification of death and now every second grade class in America has seen this exhibit on a field trip?

July 2001




The vagueness of the calling card makes me think that you didn’t actually get a card worth any money, just a plastic card with Richard Dean Anderson’s face on it. Maybe it was a plastic card with a picture of Richard Dean Anderson holding a phone. Anyway, don’t you all run out to Tower Records at once to buy three whole episodes of Stargate SG-1 that probably cost the equivalent of $50 today.


I love that none of this has anything to do with Toxico being an online retailer of goth clothing (still going, too!)


When ordinary people are thrown into a crumbling spooky castle in Scotland, they experience spooOOOooky results! Amazing!


Cat pretends not to hear terrorists when called. Cat expresses strong preference for one terrorist and shuns the other for snuggles, causing rift between terrorists. Infighting increases and cat is credited for the downfall of an entire terrorist cell. Cat is now terrorist mastermind.

I like that the family in Pakistan blamed the “djinn” for their teenage daughter running off with her boyfriend that clearly no one in the family liked.


I wonder if they ever caught the Swedish tree murderer.

I bet that priest is annoying everyone now with his constant need to go raiding and trading in Pokemon Go.


While a lot of this feels a little untraceable, I can definitely back up the Robbie Williams story. Yikes.


Unfortunately the government still refuses to count Jediism as a legitimate religion in New Zealand. “There was a fall in the number of New Zealand Jedi five years later, with some 20,000 people giving this as their religion in the 2006 census. It is unknown whether the numbers have continued to fall as the 2011 census was not completed due to an earthquake in Christchurch.” Sad trombone.


This gross dead fish can buy so many blank CDs!

Seriously though, what was WRONG with advertising in the early 2000s?


I genuinely love the illustration in this ad, and overall the magazine’s graphics are really charming. Wish I could say the same for these god awful ads.


Trying (VERY HARD) to look past the egregious misuse and abuse of the apostrophe in “logo’s”, I guess this was a service where one would call a number, tell the operator what logo they wanted by number, pay by credit card, and then wait for the company to proto-text them some ugly ass corporate logo. This seems like a perfectly sound use of money and technology to me!


From the cover story, which seems to just be a collection of short reports of dubious credibility of “alien phenomena happens, person mysteriously dies”. I love the illustration, which makes me think of that seminal YA Fiction masterpiece My Teacher Fried My Brains. There’s also a quote from a page I cut that says “the death ray may be a sci-fi staple, but it seems to have become a reality in Brazil”, and that is an amazing quote out of context.


I’m not into weed, but even I have to say that surely one could have found a better image of a plant that didn’t look like something dredged up from the Bog of Eternal Stench.


Sadly, “Big Mouth Billy Bass” being a harbinger of catastrophic fire didn’t catch on as an urban legend.


I was sorta hoping that “Simulacra Corner” would just be recurring reader-submitted pictures of things that could plausibly look like phalluses if one squinted and held the picture far away at arm’s length. This dumb “fountain is the Virgin Mary” picture did not live up to last month’s issue.


I am booking “Mystery Cats of Cornwall” tour RIGHT. NOW.

We’ve come full circle back to Freaked and mentions of Peter Jackson’s “upcoming” LOTR trilogy, right where we left off in 1993.


They had me at “Guts ‘n Roses”.


I would totally wear a BEWARE OF THE GOD t-shirt.


That list of chart-topping ringtones is taking me back. To a place I don’t want to be.

That leather bomber jacket is a recipe for a sex machine. Or the wingman of a small Grey alien looking for a good time. Your call, weirdass Fort Apache ad.


Apparently there is a theory that Morrissey predicted the death of Princess Diana (“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” was only released as a single in FRANCE!), so have fun looking THAT up on the interwebs, of which there is more information than you’ll ever have thought possible

And that’s it for this week! I’m sorry I had to cut a lot out, I had a hectic week and was short on time. Next week we’ll be looking at the sexy heydays of Nick Nolte with People Magazine, October 8 1979!