Cosmic Truths of the Ages, Revealed

Is It Possible--Mind You, Just Possible--That the Mysteries of the Pyramids, the Origin of UFOs, and the Evolutionary Riddle of the Yeti Will be Solved Out of a Basement in Lakeville?

Inspired by such experiments with ESP, Fate recently commissioned an off-site "remote viewing" of Area 51, where the U.S. government keeps its stock of flying-saucer technology. The results, recounted in the June issue, were more poetic than conclusive: "Scattered about this desert are some worn-out boots and a smashed, broken kid's watch with a Mickey Mouse face, with works missing," reported one Fate reader. "The desert sky is very beautiful here at night and reminds me of Egypt when the sky is a cobalt blue with silvery stars, as I rest inside an oasis with palm trees."

There may be no scientific evidence to support such psychic tourism, but Galde likes to point out that science has always lagged a step or two behind Fate. Two years ago, for instance, the magazine published a story positing the existence of an enormous squid. Then, this last April, fishermen pulled just such a creature out of the icy waters near Antarctica.

 

The story of Fate properly begins on June 24, 1947, in the sky over Washington's Mount Rainier. On that afternoon, a traveling salesman and amateur pilot named Kenneth Arnold was returning home from a business trip in his small plane when he saw nine metallic objects darting through the sky. They moved, he later said, "like a saucer would if you skipped it across water." When he landed, Arnold dutifully reported what he'd seen. The next day, a Portland newspaper reporter coined the phrase "flying saucer." And so the UFO craze was born.

Shortly after Arnold went public with his close encounter, he was contacted by Ray Palmer, an editor for the pulp magazine Amazing Stories. Even by the standards of the company he kept, Palmer was a strange, shadowy character. Crippled in a childhood car accident, he stood less than five feet tall. He was also a notorious raconteur: Palmer is widely credited with orchestrating (or at least perpetuating) the world's first UFO hoax, when, only two days after Arnold's sighting, an Oregon man claimed that debris from a UFO had killed his dog.

Palmer was, at the time, working for Ziff-Davis, a Chicago publishing house that owned a number of fly-by-night pulp magazines. A few years previous, he'd begun receiving rambling letters from a Pennsylvania welder named Richard Shaver about a race of underground goblins called Deros, who, Shaver claimed, were controlling events on the Earth's surface with ray guns. Harold Browne, Palmer's associate editor, later called the stories "the sickest crap" he'd ever run into. Palmer loved it.

When Amazing Stories began publishing the so-called Shaver Mysteries, circulation jumped tenfold almost overnight and letters began pouring in from Americans claiming to have had experiences with the Deros and their mysterious mind-control rays. Palmer had inadvertently tapped a deep and still-rich American vein: The paranoid conspiracy theory.

Jerry Clark, who worked as an editor for Fate in the 1970s, once had occasion to meet Palmer. "He had the instincts of a carnival barker--always working up a hustle," Clark says from his home in Canby, Minnesota. "But he wasn't a con man. Palmer saw the Shaver mysteries as a chance to get some controversy going. But he also believed it on some level. Or he believed there was some truth in it."

Despite Palmer's reputation, he and Arnold struck up a partnership. Along with a fellow Ziff-Davis editor, Curtis Fuller, Palmer put together his own pulp magazine. The first issue of Fate, from the spring of 1948, featured Arnold's account of his UFO encounter, titled "The Truth About Flying Saucers."

This was the beginning of the Cold War, when malevolent forces descending from the skies seemed like something more than an idle phantasm. Fate was a runaway success, eventually reaching 100,000 subscribers. Yet, says Clark, there was also tension between Palmer and Fuller over what shape the magazine ought to take: Palmer wanted a fast and loose outlet for sensationalistic semi-fictional fare like his Shaver stories; Fuller, a conservative businessman who made his money with an RV camping magazine, was more interested in scientific anomalies and paranormal phenomena. In 1955, Palmer sold his interest in Fate to Fuller and moved from Chicago to Amherst, Wisconsin, where he drifted into oblivion.

Clark, who began writing book reviews for Fate in the '70s, eventually grew very close to Fuller and his wife Mary, who became the magazine's associate editor. "They were people who it was easy to respect," he says. "They had this extraordinary decency and integrity. Just really good people."

In those days, Fate operated out of a nondescript office building in Chicago's north suburbs. Among Clark's duties was dealing with readers who through luck or single-minded determination managed to track down the office's location. "Mostly the readers were normal, nice people who just had this one unusual interest," he recalls. "But there were also some raving loons. I remember this one time a guy showed up claiming he was receiving messages through his TV telling him to kill people. Of course, I tried to usher him out the door. But I was also trying not to do anything to upset him. You do develop great social skills."

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