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William R. Corliss's Sourcebook Project books


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
Does anyone have any thoughts about the work of the industrious William R. Corliss (1926-2011)?

He compiled thousands of pages of "anomalous phenomena" accounts. Arthur C. Clarke (according to Wikipedia on Corliss) said, "Unlike [Charles] Fort, Corliss selected his material almost exclusively from scientific journals like Nature and Science, not newspapers, so it has already been subjected to a filtering process which would have removed most hoaxes and reports from obvious cranks. Nevertheless, there is much that is quite baffling in some of these reports from highly reputable sources." However, according to Wikipedia, geologist Henry Faul said that Corliss sometimes classified things as "unexplained" although relatively mundane explanations were possible. Wikipedia also says: "In a review for a book that documented astronomical anomalies, the astronomer Joseph Veverka believes that in the book of Astronomical Anomalies Corliss was not privy to developments of the astronomical scientific literature for more than a decade and ended up making some incorrect statements."

I haven't read any of Corliss's books, but I inherited a couple of them, Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling Artifacts and Unknown Earth: A Handbook of Goelogical Enigmas, from my dad. My father wasn't a reader of your usual pop "weird phenomena" books, but he had a lively interest in history, geology (passionate rockhound in his day), etc.

Anyway, I wondered if anyone here had read any of Corliss's many books, had any thoughts about their intellectual value, and so on. At a glance in the two I have, I'd say that they seem to be written in a dry style worlds away from Fort's breathless manner, and amazing for the labor that must have been involved in preparing them. (NB I don't have any of Fort's books, but I must have picked up one or the other throughout the years.)

William R. Corliss - Wikipedia