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Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015): The Fortean Legacy

You’ve probably already heard that Leonard Nimoy has passed, and the retrospectives on his life are bound to start rolling in over the course of the day.

The first you should read is probably his own. This is his last tweet from Monday, by which point he had probably been given word that he would not have very long to live:

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Twitter’s Aaron Muszalski also dug up an interview with Walter Koenig from last July that sheds some light on what Nimoy stood for in his professional life, above and beyond the roles he played:

“Leonard (Nimoy, Mr. Spock) was always kind of unapproachable. But a very good man. Sound ethics and a good sense of morality.

How so?

“When it came to the attention of the cast that there was a disparity in pay in that George and I were getting the same pay but Nichelle was not getting as much, I took it to Leonard and he took it to the front office and they corrected that.

He was sort of the captain, then?

“On that issue, he was. You could count on Leonard for that kind of thing.”

Playing the most famous extraterrestrial in the biggest sci-fi franchise in history would have been enough to secure Nimoy’s legacy in the Fortean community, but that’s not all there was to him. Not by a long shot.

The 144 original episodes of In Search Of… reflected Nimoy’s lifelong fascination with the paranormal, the mysterious, and the simply compelling. Airing from 1977 to 1982, the series introduced millions of viewers to Fortean controversies and laid the groundwork for future paranormal documentary series such as Unsolved Mysteries.

He never really left the paranormal-narrator genre, either, returning to host A&E’s Ancient Mysteries for three seasons in the 1990s.

Fans of more recent sci-fi television may also remember Nimoy’s recurring role as the megalomaniacal time traveler William Bell, the lead villain in Fox’s Fringe.

Nimoy was many other things, too: an author, a poet, a photographer, a musician. But if we count his full contribution to paranormal topics—in fiction and nonfiction, in his own work and the work he influenced—Leonard Nimoy was the single greatest Fortean of the television age, and he clearly enjoyed his work. Everyone who writes or otherwise works in this field owes him a debt of gratitude.

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Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.

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