The Fortean researcher Theo Paijmans recently remarked, “With the sad passing of Lou so fresh, I was thinking of another fortean researcher who passed away not so long ago: W. Ritchie Benedict. Sadly, Ritchie’s demise did not get the attention he deserves, so I am writing a short bio on him and a partial bibliography.”
Today, as a guest blogger, Theo shares what he wrote with Cryptomundo:
Fortean scholar W. Ritchie Benedict, An Appreciation and Partial Bibliography
“It is always best to go back to the source…”
W. Ritchie Benedict, ‘John Wilkes Booth: The Ultimate Survivor?’, Fate Magazine, October 2007.
William Graham Ritchie (1943 – 2011) was a Canadian fortean writer, researcher and reviewer whose work appeared in many fortean publications and magazines. He lived in Calgary where he was born and where he became an authority on local history. W. Ritchie Benedict as he was known to the international community of forteans, passed away on Monday, September 26, 2011. He was 68 years of age.
His geneological details are found in his obituary: “Ritchie was the son of Muriel (Ritchie) Benedict and George Alexander Benedict, also native-born Calgarians. Ritchie’s paternal grandfather, Peter George Benedict, was a well known barber at the Alberta Hotel downtown and came from Ontario in 1903. His maternal grandfather, William G. Ritchie, was a captain with the Calgary Fire Department.”(1)
Ritchie had his own fascinating memories to add: “Many years ago, I recall my grandfather mentioning the infamous Spring-heeled Jack. As my grandfather was born in Scotland and the sightings occurred generations before he was born, it illustrates how the fame of this phantom of the night spread beyond the confines of England.”(2)
I contacted Ritchie somewhere in the mid 1990’s. I was involved in researching and writing my biography on inventor John Keely. Through the fortean grapevine of the early internet days I learned of his reputation. In a few phone conversations we exchanged data on little known inventors and pioneers of novel energy production methods. He mailed xerox copies of clippings on amongst others Hendershot and Grindell-Matthews. As I found out much later he wrote a review of my book briefly mentioning our telephone conversations.(3)
Ritchie was a first class real world researcher thoroughly grounded in the resources of the analog age. He knew his way amongst archives composed of imposing brick, dimmed lights, dusty rows and shelves and cellars instead of bytes, search engines and proper interfaces. He never went online and as far as I know didn’t own a computer. He was one of those fortean legends only reachable by phone or better still, by good old fashioned letter. My e-mail programs have crashed many times and while I lost valuable exchanges with other forteans this way, Ritchie’s copies and letters safely reside in my file cabinet. There’s a subtle irony in that.
Ritchie diligently studied reels and reels of microfilm of Canadian newspapers that to this day remain undigitised and unseen by many a fortean eye. Being an excellent researcher with a keen sense, he always found clippings on strange fortean events utterly unknown to me and others. Inspired by his discoveries I followed their trails through the digital domain, forming the ideal combination of offline microfilm and online digital archives research. This way I further researched a number of his finds, cases I labeled ‘the Thing at Magnus Quarry’, Indiana, 1893, where a pterodactyl-like creature frightened two women on a lonely country road(4) or ‘the ten feet monster-man with catlike eyes’ that horrified unsuspecting citizens of the little village of Mexico, Missouri in 1883.(5) More recently, there was the case of the strange ring that appeared in a field near Helena, Ohio in 1886 with hints of its manifestations in earlier years and of a mysterious disappearance. These fascinating cases I owe to Ritchie.
Apart from his many articles published in fortean magazines such as Fate Magazine, INFO Journal and Strange Magazine, he did research on behalf of John Colombo’s book on the Canadian UFO phenomenon Ufos Over Canada: Personal Accounts Of Sighting sand Close Encounters. As Ritchie would tell in December 1993: “During the past year, I have engaged in some extensive research in the back microfilm files of Canadian newspapers, from Victoria to St. John’s, concentrating on the 19th century and early 20th century. My original purpose was to collect material for the Canadian author/researcher John Robert Colombo, but I have found so much of a remarkable nature on all manner of phenomena, that I am seriously contemplating assembling a book of my own in early 1994, tentatively entitled: ‘Strange Tales From The Past’.(6)
In an article for Fate Magazine, he again expressed his amazement at the rich lode he had discovered: “When I started researching back issues of Canadian newspapers on microfilm I didn’t expect to discover anything out of the ordinary. However, I found much more than I bargained for…I found them to be rich with unusual material, which made the task both fascinating and addictive. There are literally hundreds of references to everything from ghosts to lake monsters to sponteaneous combustion…”(7) In this, Ritchie was of the school of Canadian forteans such as Mr. X who systematically and methodically explored and consulted primary sources with a passionate fervour and discovered much.
In tune with his intellectual curiousity, Ritchie had brushings with the unknown, too. In Colombo’s book , Ufos Over Canada: Personal Accounts Of Sightings and Close Encounters, Ritchie confided how he saw “this UFO from afar — hovering high over Calgary about 4 :30 pm, Monday, October 24, 1974. Benedict expressed amazement, and to this day he shares that sense of amazement with the witnesses whose words are reproduced in this book. Benedict ended his account with a question…”(8)
Ritchie often gave lectures on the subject for Calgary’s school system.
Then there is the unsolveable mystery of the thunderbird photo in which Ritchie’s remembrances played an essential part. “Keel’s writings prompted a memory from W. Ritchie Benedict, who recalled seeing Ivan T. Sanderson display the photo on a Canadian television show. Unfortunately, no copies of the show have ever been found.”(9)
His generous contributions to the fortean fields and to other forteans are many. Even now writing this, I found another reference to Ritchie’s presence in a fascinating blog post about man-eating plants and trees: “As a postscript to Madagascan mystery flora the Canadian researcher W. Ritchie Benedict has uncovered a newspaper account of the man-eating tree dating back to 1875 i.e. three years before the controversial Liche letter. This article indicates that the tale originates not from Madagascar but from New Guinea…”(10)
Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, his book Strange Tales From The Past projected for a release in 1994, never occurred past this all too brief glimpse on what certainly was to have been a fascinating tome. What bizarre and strange cases unknown to us would Ritchie have included? I would have welcomed that book on my shelf. Perhaps a brave publisher one day will release a collection of his articles in a ‘Fortean Scholar Series’, including other influential but sometimes overlooked fortean pioneers as Jacques Bergier, Helmut Richter, P.G. Heims, Richard Henning, Ron Calais, Gerry Vassilatos, Mario Pazzaglini and bibliophile Jacob. Perhaps someone may find in Ritchie’s papers a manuscript of his book and make it ready for print. Until then, there’s the bibliography below. Some of the articles in my preliminary bibliography are published online. Reminiscent of the fantastic oeuvre of Jorge Luis Borges, it is remarkable that the legacy of an inspired offline fortean scholar and author is luckily preserved online.
- W. Ritchie Benedict, ‘Spring-Heeled Jack Does America’, Fate Magazine, June 2005, Volume 58, Number 6, Issue 662, page 19.
- Theo Paijmans, ‘Topography Of The Damned’, Anomalist 14: Electricity Of The Mind, Anomalist Books, 2010, pages 11-14.
- Theo Paijmans, ‘The Black Flash of Cape Cod: True Heir Of Spring-heeled Jack’, Anomalist 13: Intermediate States, Anomalist Books, 2007, page 27.
- ‘Book Review: Visitors From Time, The Secret Of The UFOs’, Flying Saucer Review, vol. 40, number 1, 1995, page 20. W. Ritchie Benedict’s letter was dated December 31, 1993.
- ‘Was There a Roswell in 1865?’, Fate Magazine, July 1998, Volume 51, Number 7, Issue 580, page 46.
- John Robert Colombo, Ufos Over Canada: Personal Accounts Of Sightings and Close Encounters, Hounslow Press, 2nd printing, 1992, preface, page 1.
A partial bibliography of the writings of W. Richie Benedict (1984 – 2008)
Specific bibliographies of the writings of forteans rarely exist. Although forteana is rich in notes and there is a general tendency towards proper references and notations of obscure sources, there is as of yet no centralised, all encompassing system of bibliographies, personal or otherwise. I have assembled a partial bibliography of the writings of W. Ritchie Benedict both by browsing through my personal library and consulting online resources. As such this bibliography is incomplete. For instance, Ritchie wrote many more reviews than I have listed here. And while I know in which issues of INFO Journal Ritchies’ contributions appeared, since I do not have these particular issues myself, I can only list issue numbers. Then there is the suspicion that in his rich and productive life Ritchie published in more publications and magazines than I was able to locate online and in my own library. However, this preliminary bibliography is extensive enough to chart his legacy and intellectual pursuits. Ritchie’s fortean interests covered a wide spectrum, indicating a fine sense of curiousity at the world around us and from it the level of scholarship he attained.
Articles by W. Ritchie Benedict in various fortean magazines
- ‘The Unknown Lake Monsters of Alberta’, Strange Magazine, issue 5, Spring 1990, p. 47.
- INFO Journal, issues 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 77. See http://www.forteans.com/journalbackissues.htm
- ‘The Ghost In The Cowshed A Multiple Witness Case, Classic Mysteries’, Alternate Perceptions Magazine, Issue 122, March 2008, http://www.mysterious-america.net/classicmystery0a.html
- ‘Viewpoint: Humanoid or Merely Human? Why standard alien Grays may be mega-evolved earth humans coming back from the future.’ UFO Magazine, vol 15, number 10, Issue 91, December/January 2000 http://www.ufomag.com/ufo-magazine-archive/volume-15-2000/vol-15-no-10-91.html
- ‘Pre-WWI UFOs Over Western Canada’, MUFON UFO Journal, December 1994 http://www.theblackvault.com/encyclopedia/documents/MUFON/Journals/1994/December_1994.pdf
Articles by W. Ritchie Benedict in FATE Magazine
- Sasquatch Sighted Near Winnipeg, Fate, March 1984, Volume 37, Number 3, Issue 408
- The UFO Cult of “The Two”, Fate, October 1984, Volume 37, Number 10, Issue 415
- Israelis Unearth Ancient Altar, Fate, January 1985, Volume 38, Number 1, Issue 418
- Acting on a Premonition, Fate, July 1985, Volume 38, Number 7, Issue 424
- Wild Men Leave Hairy Trail, Fate, August 1985, Volume 38, Number 8, Issue 425
- Soviets Bait Bigfoot, Fate, September 1985, Volume 38, Number 9, Issue 426
- Trash Triumphs Over Tombs, Fate, October 1985, Volume 38, Number 10, Issue 427
- Working Against the Sands of Time, Fate, February 1986, Volume 39, Number 2, Issue 430
- Pied Piper Still Haunts Hamelin, Fate, March 1986, Volume 39, Number 3, Issue 431
- A $3.2 Million Dream, Fate, October 1986, Volume 39, Number 10, Issue 438
- A Nice Place to Visit, fate, November 1986, Volume 39, Number 11, Issue 439
- More Trouble Than They’re Worth, Fate, January 1987, Volume 40, Number 1, Issue 441
- Mammoth Void Feeds on Stars, Fate, February 1989, Volume 42, Number 2, Issue 467
- Interest in Spiritualism Increases, Fate, March 1989, Volume 42, Number 3, Issue 468
- Two Holes in One No Lie, Fate, February 1989, Volume 42, Number 2, Issue 467
- Ghosts Pay Off in Lawsuit, Fate, August 1989, Volume 42, Number 8, Issue 473
- Roman Theatre-Found, Fate, August 1989, Volume 42, Number 8, Issue 473
- The Secrets of Pirates, Fate, November 1989, Volume 42, Number 11, Issue 476
- Priest Exorcises Trawler of Ghost Sailor, Fate, July 1989, Volume 42, Number 7, Issue 472
- Where is William Butler Yeats?, Fate, July 1990, Volume 43, Number 7, Issue 484
- A Frog Without a Tadpole, Fate, September 1990, Volume 43, Number 9, Issue 486
- Supernatural Supermarket, Fate, October 1990, Volume 43, Number 10, Issue 487
- A Second Extinction, Fate, March 1991, Volume 44, Number 3, Issue 492
- Antimatter Technology, Fate, April 1992, Volume 45, Number 4, Issue 505
- Sinister Snake Puzzles Indian Village, Fate, September 1992, Volume 45, Number 9, Issue 510
- Was There a Roswell in 1865?, Fate, July 1998, Volume 51, Number 7, Issue 580 http://www.think-aboutit.com/ufo/was_there_a_roswell_in_1865.htm
- The Haunted Parks of Calgary, Fate, October 2000, Volume 52, Number 10, Issue 606
- Proof of the Philadelphia Experiment?, Fate, April 2001, Volume 54, Number 4, Issue 613
- Thunderbirds in Canada, Fate, June 2002, Volume 55, Number 5, Issue 626
- The Great Alberta Airship of 1915, Fate, August 2002, Volume 55, Number 7, Issue 628
- The Dragons That Stalked America, Fate, November 2002, Volume 55, Number 10, Issue 631
- The Reality of Bigfoot, Fate, July 2003, Volume 56, Number 7, Issue 639
- The Bear in the UFO, Fate, August 2003, Volume 56, Number 8, Issue 640
- The Coleman Frog, Fate, January 2004, Volume 57, Number 1, Issue 645
- Frontier Phantoms, Fate, May 2004, Volume 57, Number 5, Issue 649
- Sea Serpents, Fate, November 2004, Volume 57, Number 11, Issue 655
- Spring-Heeled Jack Does America, Fate, June 2005, Volume 58, Number 6, Issue 662
- The Magic of Old India, Fate, November 2005, Volume 58, Number 11, Issue 667
- The Widow and the Gold, Fate, December 2005, Volume 58, Number 12, Issue 668
- They Never Returned, Fate, February 2006, Volume 59, Number 2, Issue 670
- The Mounties vs. The Unknown, Fate, August 2006, Volume 59, Number 8, Issue 676
- John Wilkes Booth: The Ultimate Survivor?, Fate, October 2007, http://www.fatemag.com/issues/2000s/2007-10article4.html
- Light in the Void Do we survive death? And how?, Fate, January 2008, Volume 61, Number 1, Issue 693
- Bigfoot in the Sixties—the 1860s, Fate, September-October 2008, Volume 61, Number 8, Issue 700
Reviews by W. Ritchie Benedict in Alternate Perceptions magazine
- Graham Phillips, The Templars and the Ark of Covenant: The Discovery Of The Treasury Of Solomon, Number 95, November 2005, http://www.mysterious-america.net/booksdvds1105.html
- The Ghosts Among Us, December 2005, number 96,
- April 2007, Number 111
- Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt, Witness To Roswell: Unmasking the 60-year cover-up, November 2007, number 118
- Review of Forbidden Archeology. The X Chronicles, vol. 1, no. 5, November, 1995, p. 1.
- ‘Book Review: Visitors From Time, The Secret Of The UFOs’, Flying Saucer Review, vol. 40, number 1, 1995, pages 20-21.
- ‘W. Ritchie Benedict Reviews Free Energy Pioneer:John Worrell Keely by Theo Paijmans’, http://www.elfis.net/rnr/rnr9/wrbk.htm
- Review of Opening Minds, Fate Magazine, April 2004.