The Strange Case of Isaac Martin - Solved

A field, somewhere near Salem, Va., in the year 1885 — and that in this field there was a suction. In the New York Sun, April 25, 1885, it is said that Isaac Martin, a young farmer, living near Salem, Va., had gone into a field, to work, and that he had disappeared. It is said that in this region there had been other mysterious disappearances.
- Charles Fort, Lo! (1931)

Fort quotes innumerable stories of this kind: more or less weird (often much weirder than this), puzzling and uncanny. He seldom gives any background, since the clippings he used usually didn't. And he hardly ever makes the slightest attempt to explain the supposed mysteries in a real way; "explain away", as it's often called by people who find truth boring.

Here is the original article of the mysterious disappearance of Isaac Martin:

Mysterious Disappearances in Virgina
Lynchburg, April 24. — Isaac Martin, a young farmer, near Salem, Va., left his home Wednesday and went into the fields to work, and nothing has been heard of him since. This is the second case of mysterious disappearance in that neighborhood in the last two weeks. The list of such disappearances in the western portion of the State in the past few months is remarkable, quite a number having occurred during that time, and no clue has ever been discovered to any of them.
- The Sun (NY), April 25, 1885

"The region" Fort refers to isn't the field as he suggests ("in this field there was a suction"), but the western portion of Virginia, at least according to the newspaper. As for the other mysterious disappearances, we would have to keep digging to tell whether they were indeed remarkably many and/or mysterious.

Fort wasn't interested in such research. Why spend time ruining the stuff he had spent time finding? And the same goes for the innumerable enthusiasts of mysteries who kept and keeps repeating and spreading his stories and others, embellishing and improving them on the way. Here's an example of how the case of Isaac Martin can be told today:

The latter part of the nineteenth century produced several classic disappearances. [...] on Thursday, April 23, 1885, another farmer named Isaac Martin walked into a field near Salem, Virginia, and [...] dissolved into nothingness.
- John A. Keel, Our Haunted Planet (Galde Press 2002), page 186

The Sun simply wrote that Martin "went into the fields to work", not returning; more precise data weren't given since they weren't known. Fort doesn't really change anything in that description, though he does put it in a way that strongly suggests a supernatural explanation. Keel, however, gives us a version where Martin is the unfortunate victim of something very supernatural indeed.

(On a minor note: The first article is dated Friday April 24, which was a Friday. It states that Martin was last seen on the Wednesday before, i.e. April 22. How come Keel tells about Thursday, April 23? It is telling that this fact has been distorted; though completely unimportant of course, it was clearly stated. What can the rumour mill do to less clear facts which are central to the case?)

Since Fort the story has been retold in two ways: In one version Martin dissolved in thin air, in the other the field somehow got him ("there was a suction"). Here are modern examples of both:
Virginia farmer Isaac Martin is rumored to have succumbed to the depredations of his angry fields, as were others in western Virginia at roughly the same time.
- EsoterX: Old McDonald Had a Trans-dimensional Farm, E-I-E-I-Oh My God!, September 26, 2014
Here is another case involving a farmer that disappeared into thin air while crossing into a field. There is little information about this case, other than what appeared in the New York Sun on April 25, 1885.
Oddly they said there may have been no witnesses to this disappearance. So I wonder how they found out?
- Odd Random Thoughts: Bizarre Cases Where People have Vanished without a Trace, July 28, 2014

In Fortean Times 335 (Christmas 2015), Theo Paijmans and Chris Aubeck had a lengthy and excellent article chronicling the development of a very similar story: The Strange Disappearance of Oliver Lerch. (Briefly: The tale was created by writer Irving Lewis in 1904. Oliver went out on Christmas Eve to fetch some water; he is heard crying for help, possibly from above; everybody rushes out to find his foot prints in the snow, stopping short of the well; and Oliver is never seen nor heard of again ... It's one of the most common "mysterious stories" there are, frequently told as if it had actually taken place.) In a sidenote, Paul Sieveking mentions the case of Isaac Martin. As for an explanation, he considers the major emigration that took place at the time due to a severe drought. Maybe Martin simply went west?

In response, Theo Paijmans (who apparently was unaware of the sidenote before it was published) reminded the editors that he had solved the case years before. Go to FT262 for the solution ... Or keep reading.


Maybe Isaac Martin never existed, and it's a tall tale to begin with? Such were told and believed long before Facebook ... But then again, the story was decidedly un-exciting until Fort came along and gave it a twist.

Maybe he went west, or left the state in some other direction? If he did and changed his name, we'd possibly be out of luck tracing him.

Maybe he was killed? If his body was hidden well enough, we'd possibly be out of luck.

Maybe he was the victim of some accident; fell and hit a stone, wounded himself during work and bleed to death, got bitten by a venomous snake, fell into a stream..? In case his body likely would have been found, sooner or later.

And of course: If he was beamed up by aliens, or dissolved into molecules by an anomalous field hovering near Salem, Va., or stumbled into a time portal and ended up in the Mesozoic, we'd be very much out of luck.

However; we're not out of luck. The fate of Isaac Martin is known. It's none of the above, and it's not harder to find than the original article in The Sun.


Here is a small article printed a month and a half after the "mysterious disappearance". It tells us all we need to know.

Found Hanging Near His Home
Lynchburg, Va., May 26 — Isaac Martin, a young farmer near Salem, who mysteriously disappeared over six weeks ago, and for whom an exhaustive search was made, was unaccounted for until Saturday, when his body was found hanging to a tree not far from his home.
- The Evening Star, May 26, 1885

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