Chapter 3: An Amazing Story (or The Fateful
of Ray Palmer And Richard Shaver)

In order to tell this story we’ll need to rewind a bit.

While there are excellent early examples of fictional stories that fit into the Science Fiction category from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the stories of H.G. Wells, the term “Science Fiction” was officially coined in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback who is credited with cementing it as a writing genre. He published the first Science Fiction (Scifi) magazine which was “Amazing Stories.”

Gernsback, considered the father of Scifi, had a lot of ideas and big hopes for the genre. Essentially he wanted the genre to encourage discovery, invention, and learning of real science as well as functioning as a method of sharing speculative science ideas or theories. Many readers worked on projects and obsessions such as HAM radios or other gadgetry.

He basically envisioned this fictional story genre as recruitment for the scientific mission. It would seem that fate had other plans for this project. The readers of Scifi were the first to be called “fans” (from the word fanatic) and one of those fans was a young man by the name of Ray Palmer.

Raymond Alfred Palmer was born on August 10th 1910 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a child he was featured in a Gridley’s milk advertisement as one of “Milwaukee’s Healthiest Babies.” He enjoyed spending time at his grandparent’s farm and was fascinated by nature and books about science.

At age seven, while playing in the street outside his family home, Palmer’s foot was caught in the wheel of a passing milk truck. The accident resulted in broken vertebrae and a severely damaged spine. Despite the driver offering, Ray’s father did not take him to the hospital. Two years later, at the age of nine, due to Ray’s pain from the accident, a specialist operated and he was given a spinal column bone graft. Because of an infection, he wasn’t expected to make it more than 24 hours.

The pain caused him to sit up in bed that night, he couldn’t unbend his spine, and the doctors told him not to try it. He had a hunchback for the rest of his life. He spent the rest of childhood in hospital beds, often strapped down on a Bradford canvas frame to prevent him from moving and further hurting himself. At the age of twelve, his mother died. During his recovery, Ray had a tutor and was sent books to read by the Milwaukee school board. Palmer became something of a bitter loner and a voracious reader on the subjects of history and science which led him to science fiction.

I. Ray Palmer – Scifi Fan / Writer / Publisher:

In 1926, at the age of 16, Ray Palmer first spotted the debut issue of Amazing Stories on a newsstand and from there became a loyal fan, diligently reading the magazine’s science fiction tales from the start and aspiring to one day write his own fiction. (Not unlike Charles Fort who also began with attempts at being a fiction writer.)

He then met fellow Scifi fan Walter Dennis while working at a sheet metal company in Milwaukee in 1928. Together they created one of the first Science Fiction clubs which won a Gernsback $100 cash prize contest in 1929 for helping to spread Scifi. Palmer and Dennis also reportedly made the first Scifi “fan-zine,” meaning fan-made magazine, which was titled “The Comet” and released in May 1930.

Ray was able to get his first Scifi story “The Time Ray of Jandra” published in the June 1930 issue of the “Science Wonder Stories” magazine. In the story, a wrecked sailor discovers a time machine within ancient ruins and travels back to see what happened to the civilization. There he finds warring factions fighting over if they should drill to the center of the Earth to find riches, as well as a hungry tyrannosaurus rex. Palmer, through his Scifi club, continued corresponding with fellow fans of the genre and working on more stories.

In September 1930, at the age of 20, Palmer was sent to Muirdale Sanatorium with another infection in his spine. He was reportedly expected to die within six months. Palmer supposedly bet the doctor $5 that he would recover. He began doing mental visualization exercises in hopes of healing his damaged spine. During his stay in the sanatorium, he witnessed many patients die. In 1932, Palmer was surprisingly able to recover and was released.

Palmer then helped co-found “The Time Traveler” fanzine and began writing the column “Spilling The Atom With Rap” (Rap meaning Raymond A. Palmer) for “Science Fiction Digest.” Ray also worked on a collaborative novel titled “Cosmos” with each chapter written by a different early Scifi writer. He continued writing and publishing stories, collaborating, corresponding, and serving as literary editor.

Side note: In Halloween of 1938, Orson Welles performed the infamous radio broadcast of the H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds which blurred the lines between truth and fiction in the public consciousness. In some ways, this event would be shades of things to come.

Hugo Gernsback had lost ownership of Amazing Stories in 1929 and began working on other magazines but the editor of Amazing Stories, T.O’Conor Sloane, continued to work for the publication until 1939 when he resigned. The phone rang at Palmer’s residence and after a successful interview at the Ziff-Davis office, Ray had gotten the job. He was officially the editor of the first Scifi magazine, the very same he’d read since age 16, and a whole new craft was about to begin.

Palmer brought his own style to Amazing Stories, bringing the casual and witty style of his “Spilling The Atoms” column to his new column “The Observatory.” The stories he selected also departed greatly from the Sloane era and more reflected Palmer’s tastes for the genre and a focus on younger readers. Palmer favored action filled dramatic adventure stories with less poetic language and less focus on technical or scientific knowledge. This style became increasingly apparent over time. 

Rap published the works of several important and up-and-coming Scifi authors. He published the first two stories of Isaac Asimov (who later went on to write “I, Robot”) as well as the work of Ray Bradbury (famous Scifi writer) and the already well established author Edgar Rice Burroughs (of Tarzan fame). Amazing Stories, which was failing by the time Sloane departed, was now growing in circulation and attracting new readers under Ray’s leadership. To some, Palmer was a breath of fresh air but, to others an unwelcome change. In December of 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, America entered into World War II. During war time, pulp media thrived as a cheap form of entertainment and escapism.

At one point in his time at the office, Palmer claimed to see a light in the sky outside the twenty second floor window which stayed there for about ten minutes before disappearing, though he dismissed it as a possible mirage.

Occasionally Palmer blurred the line between truth and pulp fiction in his columns, placing himself as a character in the action, and when publishing stories under pseudonyms he would sometimes write fake “Meet the author” pages for them. For the cover art of the July 1943 issue of Amazing Stories, artist Harold W. McCauley depicted Ray Palmer as a mad scientist with his secretary, Elaine, aiming a ray gun at him.

Side note: During World War II, British pilots in the Royal Air Force began to jokingly attribute technical difficulties to mischievously little creatures called “Gremlins.” These soon became a sort of mythical scapegoat for accidents or equipment failure and were used in British safety related propaganda. The concept of the Gremlins purportedly helped the morale of the air troops and kept them from blaming each other or their machines.

In 1942, British pilot Roald Dahl reportedly popularized the idea of Gremlins outside of the Royal Air Force. He wrote a children’s book called “The Gremlins” which was sent to Disney and published in Cosmopolitan magazine. Despite the joking origin of the gremlins concept, pilots later claimed real encounters with such creatures actually tampering with or sabotaging their planes. This has some similarities or parallels to the subject of the rest of this chapter. (The much later 1963 Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with William Shatner famously featured a gremlin on the wing of the plane and the 1984 Steven Spielberg film Gremlins was of course hugely popular. American Motors also manufactured the compact “AMC Gremlin” vehicle from 1970 to 1978.)

II. Palmer Discovers Shaver:

In December of 1943, at the Ziff-Davis office, Palmer’s assistant editor Howard Browne mockingly read aloud part of a supposed “crank” letter before throwing it away. Rap, with a keen eye for story telling, retrieved this discarded six-page letter from the trash can. 

It was written by a steelworker from Pennsylvania named Richard Shaver and told of an alphabet or language called “Mantong” meaning “man tongue” that he thought might be linked to the Atlantis myth. Palmer decided to print the letter in the January 1944 letter column of Amazing Stories and began corresponding with Shaver and asking him for a story. Thus would begin the fateful friendship of Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver.

Shaver mailed Palmer a manuscript titled “A Warning To Future Man” which was a 10,000 word story detailing Shaver’s strange and imaginative worldview. 

In Shaver’s mythos,  extraterrestrial beings came to Earth millions of years ago but left after discovering the sun’s rays were harmful to them. Some of these beings supposedly stayed behind and hid underground, continuing to live on Earth with their amazing technology. However, the maddening rays of the sun corrupted some of these beings which Shaver labeled “Deros” short for “detrimental robots.” Though they weren’t literally mechanical, they behaved robotically, like zombified beings. 

According to Shaver, the deros began plotting the destruction of mankind through the use of their sinister influence machines and tampering with the affairs of man. Meanwhile the unaffected beings, labeled “Teros,” began attempting to aid mankind through helpful energy producing machines. Shaver’s writing at the time could use some work but Rap saw the incredible potential in the creative world he described. Richard Shaver had allegedly been diagnosed with Schizophrenia and reportedly spent years hospitalized, but Palmer was purportedly not aware of this.

Palmer privately showed the manuscript around to several people to get opinions on the curious tale and received a mixed reaction. Some didn’t know what to make of the story while some, like typist Bob McKenna, were so struck by it that they suddenly had an interest in cave exploring. Palmer saw that this story could be the key to an exciting new direction for the magazine.

In the pages of Amazing Stories in May of 1944, Palmer built up hype for the release of the story, promoting it as the first “true story” the pulp magazine would ever publish. Palmer saw Shaver’s world as a setting or a universe in which a whole series of pulp tales could be based. 

In February of 1945, Rap visited Shaver and his wife at Shaver’s home in Pennsylvania. After eating dinner with them and having many conversations about writing, Shaver’s ideas, underground civilizations and other material within the manuscript, Palmer went to bed for the night. 

That’s when Palmer reportedly heard five unique voices conversing with Shaver in the other room, telling him things about the caverns. These voices then switched to a foreign language when Palmer sat up in bed and asked what was going on. Rap claimed to have found no explanation for what he heard. 

After this Ray reportedly dove into extensive research into topics such as spiritualism, psychics, mediums, and the occult. Rap claimed that before this he had no interest in philosophy or anomalous phenomena and hadn’t even read Charles Fort. A whole new world had opened up to him.

Palmer reworked Shaver’s manuscript into a 30,000 word narrative titled “I Remember Lemuria.” In Palmer’s version of the story, the underground caverns were set in Lemuria, a hypothetical lost civilization popularized by the Theosophy movement which was an off branch of Spiritualism. With this title, it seemed, Palmer was attempting to attract readers interested in esoteric or occult subjects as well as Sci-fi fans.

Side note: “Lemuria” was a hypothetical continent that sank into the Pacific ocean. The idea was proposed by 19th century scientist Phillip Sclater in the 1864 article “Mammals of Madagascar” to explain why lemur fossils were found in India and Madagascar but not in Africa. The theory was later debunked as total nonsense but the theorized lemur-filled landmass then became the subject of myth, not dissimilar to the fictional Atlantis invented by Plato. Helena Blavatsky of the Theosophy movement used lost civilizations in her writings which helped popularize the concept.

III. The Shaver Mystery (1945):

In March 1945, “I Remember Lemuria” hit the stands and a phenomenon known as “The Shaver Mystery” was born. In the footnotes, Rap declared the material to be “racial memory” from Shaver, meaning that much of the information supposedly came from the ancient memories of the human race being obtained somehow by Shaver’s mind. This part was reportedly not a claim Shaver had made but a way of presenting the concept to the audience as supposedly “true.”

Many readers were bewildered by the story, with some believing that it could be true, others greatly doubting yet finding it entertaining, and a certain section being completely disgusted at Palmer’s attempts to pass it off as “true” in any way. The Shaver Mystery strayed far from the path Hugo Gernsback had dreamed for Science Fiction.

In a 1945 issue of James Kepner’s fanzine “Forward Tomorrow,” a dedication page read “Amazing Stories R.I.P. Dedicated to the fond memory of a good magazine, Amazing stories, dead for twelve years, and buried by Raymond Palmer in March, 1945.”

Throughout the rest of the 1940’s (from 1945 to 1949) Amazing Stories published over twenty pulp stories about The Shaver Mystery written by Shaver and Palmer and labeled as true stories or inspired by racial memory. The Shaver Mystery covered the front page issue after issue. Where most Science Fiction focused on the far future and the stars, the Shaver stories focused on advanced ancient beings living underground, though the narrative of good versus evil remained with the Deros versus the Teros in their fight for influence on mankind. 

Palmer marketed the Shaver tales as the next evolution of Scifi, claiming that fact had finally caught up to the fiction. Shaver’s private fantasy world was now filling the pages of Amazing Stories and effecting the minds of its readers. Hundreds of letters and correspondence poured in of people claiming their own experience with the strange people and cave beings. A Shaver Mystery fan letter section was added to Amazing Stories. Palmer recruited other authors to write about Shaver-type true stories and pulp tales set in the Shaver universe. By 1946, a Shaver Mystery Club was established, followed by a Shaver Mystery Club Newsletter in 1947.

Shaver fanatics were sucked into the inner Earth mythos and prepared to storm into the caves to find the truth. Meanwhile die-hard Scifi fans were becoming more and more outraged as time went on and the magazine changed gradually to accommodate the Shaver story.

Early Scifi fan Forrest Ackerman reportedly sent around a petition demanding Palmer end the Shaver Mystery. The early Scifi fan group “The Queens Science Fiction League” started by James Taurasi and Sam Moskowitz declared The Shaver Mystery to be a threat to the sanity of readers and sent their concerns to the “Society for the Suppression of Vice” in attempts to suppress this supposedly dangerous material. Palmer was even given the title of “The Man Who Killed Science Fiction.”


The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey (2012) by Fred Nadis

The Fortean Influence on Science Fiction (2020) by Tanner F. Boyle


Chapter 4: Kenneth Arnold’s Flying Saucers (1947)

On June 24th 1947, something happened that changed the world forever. Pilot Kenneth Arnold reportedly witnessed nine unknown shiny objects flying over Mount Rainier in Washington. Arnold said they were flying diagonally in a backwards echelon formation with the leading craft at higher elevation than the rest. Blue-white flashes of light reportedly reflected off each craft’s shining surface from the sun rays. They supposedly flew in formation but moved erratically like a speedboat on rough water.

He described them to news media as flying through the sky “like saucers skipping across water.” From there the term “Flying Saucer” was coined and took off as a new paranormal sensation. Kenneth Arnold freely admitted that he had no idea what these objects were but felt it was his civic duty to report it. He was open to speculation but made no claims on their origin.

In the October 1947 issue of Amazing Stories, Ray Palmer declared that an aspect of The Shaver Mystery was potentially proven by the Kenneth Arnold Flying Saucers sighting, stating that these objects could be ships visiting earth from elsewhere including outer space or the inner earth. Of course he encouraged fans to keep reading the magazine for updates.

A bluegrass song by The Buchanan Brothers entitled “When You See Those Flying Saucers” was released in 1947 which claims that the Flying Saucers are a sign of the biblical Day of Judgment approaching. The folk song states: “You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those Flying Saucers. It may be the coming of the Judgment Day.”

In March 1948, Ray Palmer and Curtis Fuller co-founded “FATE magazine.” It was considered the first of its kind, a paranormal magazine devoted to unexplained reports and articles on anomalous phenomena and other esoteric topics. 

The first issue was of course about the Kenneth Arnold sighting; it featured an article titled “The Truth About The Flying Saucers” written by the man himself, Kenneth Arnold. Palmer had persuaded him via letter to send details of his experiences, which Palmer then used as a piece for the magazine. Arnold had never heard of Ray Palmer or his work before but found the letter to be a very sincere and genuine inquiry into the sighting, as Palmer had a certain charm to his writing style. What Arnold sent was a carbon copy of a report he had written up for the command of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The publication of the FATE magazine article helped promote the story to pulp fans as well as occult and paranormal interested readers.

I. Shades of Things To Come: Meade Layne and The Etherians: 

Meade Layne was a parapsychologist who studied psychic phenomena in the 1930s. He founded the Borderland Sciences Research Association (BSRA) in 1945. The idea behind the BSRA was to explore “borderland” facts that didn’t fit to the supposed orthodoxies of science and religion, much in the same way that Charles Fort saw his own work. In 1945, he established a publication or journal titled “Round Robin” which featured Fortean anomalous data, psychic phenomena, and occult notions. The journal made reference to Fort as an inspiration. That same year, he met a trance medium named Mark Probert.

In September of 1945, at their second meeting, Layne arranged a séance at which Probert reportedly contacted members of “The Inner Circle.” These were spirits who aided Probert in his psychic development. Layne and Probert continued these repeated communication sessions until they’d met at least fifteen members of the Inner Circle, including the famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. (It should be noted that Layne and Probert’s séance practices at the time were no doubt inspired or influenced by the movements of Spiritualism and Theosophy from the 1800’s, even if they themselves didn’t subscribe to those fully.)

On October 9th 1946, during a meteor shower, Meade Layne reportedly witnessed a strange flying machine. On the advice of his psychic medium friend Mark Probert, he attempted telepathic communication with the craft. Through communication, he soon supposedly learned that these were “Ether Craft” piloted by “Etherians” from a parallel realm or “ether.” He explained that these beings materialize and dematerialize by lowering or raising their vibration. Layne posited sightings or interactions with the Etherians to be the explanation for much of mankind’s myths and religions. He described them as moral beings trying to share technology and spiritual knowledge with the psychically attuned.

In the summer of 1948, in the second issue of Ray Palmer’s FATE magazine, Layne published an article of Mark Probert’s claims of contact via séance. Meade Layne wrote two books “The Ether Ship Mystery And Its Solution (1950)” and “The Coming of The Guardians (1956).” The Borderland Sciences Research Association (BSRA) continued to be influential in the study of anomalous phenomena as well as Flying Saucers.

II. The Tacoma Affair / The Maury Island HOAX (1948):

In July of 1948, Ray Palmer sent another letter to Kenneth Arnold informing him that he had been sent a mysterious cigar box by harbor patrolmen Harold Dahl and Fred Crisman from Tacoma, Washington. The box contained lava rock-like material allegedly obtained from six large “doughnut shaped” Flying Saucers. Fred Crisman had also reported contact with the Shaver Mystery “deros” to Palmer in the past. Palmer wanted Arnold to go talk to these two men and investigate their unusual claims. Ray sent him $200 to travel to Tacoma, which he did on July 30th.

Arnold met Harold Dahl at a hotel room and Dahl told him of the supposed sighting he had while patrolling the east bay of Maury Island near Tacoma by boat. He described five shiny doughnut shaped objects circling a center object in the same shape which spewed out dark metal-like lava rocks that Dahl supposedly picked up and sent to Palmer. According to him, a dog was allegedly killed by a piece of the falling debris. Dahl also claimed to be experiencing a lot of misfortune in his life which he attributed to the saucers he saw, not unlike the tampering deros. 

Harold Dahl claimed that the morning following his sighting, a man in a dark suit driving a 1947 Buick visited his home and supposedly told him not to talk about his experience for his family’s well being. Kenneth Arnold was very skeptical of these claims. (It should be noted that this alleged happening is very similar to later reports of supposed “Men In Black” though the term had not been coined yet. This story is more of a proto-example of an idea that would later take hold in the saucer community.)*

The next day, Kenneth talked with Dahl and his friend Fred Crisman at the hotel. Crisman also excitedly claimed to have his own sighting of the saucers after hearing his friend’s story and visiting Maury Island to investigate. Arnold was also very skeptical of Crisman’s story. Kenneth then invited a friend of his, pilot Smith, to help him. On August 1st, Dahl and Crisman brought lava rock samples to the hotel for Arnold and Smith to examine, though they weren’t very impressed.

Arnold then called army intelligence, Lieutenant Brown and Captain Davidson, to assist them and possibly expose the case as a hoax or stunt of some kind. Kenneth thought perhaps, if this wasn’t just simply deceptive story telling, it could be a ploy, maybe even by the Russians, trying to extract more information on Flying Saucers or unknown aircraft. The two men arrived at the hotel room, listened to the bizarre tale, and left puzzled with a cereal box full of lava rock or “saucer material.” That’s when tragedy struck. 

On August 2nd, Kenneth Arnold read the paper to see that the plane piloted by Davidson and Brown had caught fire and crashed, killing them both. Kenneth called Ray Palmer, informing him that he no longer wanted to investigate the case and offering to give him the money back. Palmer declined the refund but told Arnold to return home. 

Smith contacted army intelligence officer Major George Sander, who met with Smith and Arnold and assured them that the accidental crash had nothing to do with the lava rocks which upon his examination, he determined to be slag from a nearby smelter. He drove the pair to the smelter where he showed them very similar rocks to the ones Dahl and Crisman had presented. After Arnold and Smith inspected his plane very carefully, just in case, Arnold took off and tried to put the whole Tacoma case behind him.

Crisman and Dahl eventually admitted to journalist Ernie Vogel that the whole story was just a hoax and signed a statement saying that the rocks had nothing whatsoever to do with Flying Saucers.**

Kenneth later printed his story about Tacoma through publisher and editor Ray Palmer in their book “The Coming of The Saucers” in 1952.

One curious detail that Arnold mentioned in the book was about the small 1912 vintage house reportedly belonging to Harold Dahl’s secretary which Arnold had visited to speak with him. Before making his exit, Kenneth Arnold supposedly returned to this property only to find that the place was completely filled with cobwebs as if it had been abandoned for several months. Kenneth was only left to wonder if he had mistaken the location for an identically designed house or if he was losing his grip on sanity. Readers were left to ponder and speculate on this bizarre occurrence for themselves. This addition adds a rather paranormal seeming twist to what otherwise appears to be a straightforward yet tragic Flying Saucer hoax.

The book also covered the legendary “Foo Fighters” which were anomalous glowing orbs reportedly witnessed by US pilots in 1944 during World War II. The word supposedly comes from the French word “feu” meaning fire. The stories of the foo fighters took on new popularity once Flying Saucers were in the media. 

III. Saucer-Mania Begins:

In fall of 1948, the first “Flying Saucer Convention,” attended by about thirty people, many of them readers of FATE magazine, was reportedly held in New York at the Labor Temple on 14th street. The convention allegedly devolved into a loud argument. Kenneth Arnold’s story grew immensely in popularity as it spread throughout multiple publications and news sources until Arnold and his sighting was incredibly well known far beyond just those interested in the unexplained. The Flying Saucer craze swept the nation with the average person staring skyward.

With continuing criticism against Amazing Stories over the Shaver Mystery, in December of 1948, Palmer quietly stopped labeling Shaver stories as authentic accounts or “racial memories.” In 1949, Rap polled the audience about whether he should continue the mystery, with 132 voting that he should and 6 voting that he shouldn’t. Though this still wasn’t enough of a dedicated readership to sustain further commitment. 

In 1949, Palmer moved to a farm in Wisconsin where he was then neighbors with his longtime friend Richard Shaver who had moved there years prior. On Shaver’s recommendation, Palmer would loudly sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to supposedly get “the teros” attention so they would help his crops grow. When local kids in Wisconsin would ask Ray Palmer about his height and peculiar appearance, he would respond that he was in fact “from mars.” Later, in the 1960s, Shaver took up the hobby of amateur archeology in which he either made trippy pareidolia themed rock art or discovered “rock books” that contained supposed information about the past, depending on your perspective on such things. 

After years of stories, the Shaver Mystery had run its course. The inaccurate rumor that the Shaver Mystery had been banned spread throughout the community. Palmer soon left Amazing Stories to pursue his other projects such as FATE magazine and his Scifi pulp magazine “Other Worlds Science Stories.” Over time he focused more and more on the paranormal and Flying Saucer crowd. Shaver’s deros burrowed back deep underground while the Flying Saucers enjoyed their time in the sun. The procession of the damned continued marching.


⦁ The Coming of The Saucers (1952) by Kenneth Arnold and Ray Palmer

The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey (2012) by Fred Nadis

⦁ “A” is for Adamski: The Golden Age of the UFO Contactees (2018) by Adam Gorightly and Greg Bishop