Ray Palmer, the man who invented flying saucers – – by John A. Keel

(CLICK AND ENLARGE ABOVE – – June, 1947 issue of AMAZING STORIES, featuring underground alien civilizations and alien abductions – – this issue was published a month before the Kenneth Arnold sighting and the Roswell incident)

by John A. Keel, from The JINN – – UFOs aren’t extraterrestrial – they’re extradimensional:



In 1947, the editor of AMAZING STORIES watched in astonishment as the things he had been fabricating for years in his magazine suddenly came true!

North America’s “Bigfoot” was nothing more than an Indian legend until a zoologist named Ivan T. Sanderson began collecting contemporary sightings of the creature in the early 1950s, publishing the reports in a series of popular magazine articles. He turned the tall, hairy biped into a household word, just as British author Rupert T. Gould rediscovered sea serpents in the 1930s and, through his radio broadcasts, articles, and books, brought Loch Ness to the attention of the world.  Another writer named Vincent Gaddis originated the Bermuda Triangle in his 1965 book, Invisible Horizons: Strange Mysteries of the Sea. Sanderson and Charles Berlitz later added to the Triangle lore, and rewriting their books became a cottage industry among hack writers in the United States.

Charles Fort put bread on the table of generations of science fiction writers when, in his 1931 book “Lo!“, he assembled the many reports of objects and people strangely transposed in time and place, and coined the term “teleportation.” And it took a politician named Ignatius Donnelly to revive lost Atlantis and turn it into a popular subject (again and again and again). (1)

But the man responsible for the most well-known of all such modern mythsflying saucers – has somehow been forgotten. Before the first flying saucer was sighted in 1947, he suggested the idea to the American public. Then he converted UFO reports from what might have been a Silly Season phenomenon into a subject, and kept that subject alive during periods of total public disinterest. His name was Raymond A. Palmer:

Born in 1911, Ray Palmer suffered severe injuries that left him dwarfed in stature and partially crippled. He had a difficult childhood because of his infirmities and, like many isolated young men in those pre-television days, he sought escape in “dime novels,” cheap magazines printed on coarse paper and filled with lurid stories churned out by writers who were paid a penny a word. He became an avid science fiction fan, and during the Great Depression of the 1930s he was active in the world of fandom – a world of mimeographed fanzines and heavy correspondence. (Science fiction fandom still exists and is very well organized with well-attended annual conventions and lavishly printed fanzines, some of which are even issued weekly.)

In 1930, he sold his first science fiction story, and in 1933 he created the Jules Verne Prize Club which gave out annual awards for the best achievements in sci-fi. A facile writer with a robust imagination, Palmer was able to earn many pennies during the dark days of the Depression, undoubtedly buoyed by his mischievous sense of humor, a fortunate development motivated by his unfortunate physical problems. Pain was his constant companion.

In 1938, the Ziff-Davis Publishing Company in Chicago purchased a dying magazine titled AMAZING STORIES:

It had been created in 1929 by the inestimable Hugo Gernsback, who is generally acknowledged as the father of modern science fiction. Gernsback, an electrical engineer, ran a small publishing empire of magazines dealing with radio and technical subjects. (he also founded Sexology, a magazine of soft-core pornography disguised as science, which enjoyed great success in a somewhat conservative era.) It was his practice to sell – or even give away – a magazine when its circulation began to slip. Although AMAZING STORIES was one of the first of its kind, its readership was down to a mere 25,000 when Gernsback unloaded it on Ziff-Davis. William B. Ziff decided to hand the editorial reins to the young science fiction buff from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the age of 28, Palmer found his life’s work.

Expanding the pulp magazine to 200 pages (and as many as 250 pages in some issues), Palmer deliberately tailored it to the tastes of teenaged boys. He filled it with nonfiction features and filler items on science and pseudo-science in addition to the usual formula short stories of BEMs (Bug-Eyed Monsters) and beauteous maidens in distress. Many of the stories were written by Palmer himself under a variety of pseudonyms such as Festus Pragnell and Thorton Ayre, enabling him to supplement his meager salary by paying himself the usual penny-a-word. His old cronies from fandom also contributed stories to the magazine with a zeal that far surpassed their talents. In fact, of the dozen or so science magazines then being sold on the newsstands, AMAZING STORIES easily ranks as the very worst of the lot. Its competitors, such as Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Planet Stories and the venerable Astounding (now renamed Analog) employed skilled, experienced professional writers like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard (who later created Dianetics and founded Scientology). AMAZING STORIES was garbage in comparison and hardcore sci-fi fans tended to sneer at it. (2)

The magazine might have limped through the 1940s, largely ignored by everyone, if not for a single incident. Howard Browne, a television writer who served as Palmer’s associate editor in those days, recalls: “early in the 1940s, a letter came to us from Dick Shaver purporting to reveal the “truth” about a race of freaks, called “Deros,” living under the surface of the earth. Ray Palmer read it, handed it to me for comment. I read a third of it, tossed it in the waste basket. Ray, who loved to show his editors a trick or two about the business, fished it out of the basket, ran it in AMAZING, and a flood of mail poured in from readers who insisted every word of it was true because they’d been plagued by Deros for years.” (3)

Actually, Palmer had accidentally tapped a huge, previously unrecognized audience. Nearly every community has at least one person who complains constantly to the local police that someone – usually a neighbor – is aiming a terrible ray gun at their house or apartment. This ray, they claim, is ruining their health, causing their plants to die, turning their bread moldy, making their hair and teeth fall out, and broadcasting voices into their heads. Psychiatrists are very familiar with these “ray” victims and relate the problem with paranoid-schizophrenia. For the most part, these paranoiacs are harmless and usually elderly. Occasionally, however, the voices they hear urge them to perform destructive acts, particularly arson. They are a distrustful lot, loners by nature, and very suspicious of everyone, including the government and all figures of authority. In earlier times, they thought they were hearing the voice of god and/or the Devil. Today they often blame the CIA or space beings for their woes. They naturally gravitate to eccentric causes and organizations which reflect their own fears and insecurities, advocating bizarre political philosophies and reinforcing their peculiar belief systems. Ray Palmer unintentionally gave thousands of these people focus to their lives.

Shaver’s long, rambling letter claimed that while he was welding (4) he heard voices which explained to him how the underground Deros were controlling life on the surface of the earth through the use of fiendish rays. Palmer rewrote the letter, making a novelette out of it, and it was published in the March 1945 issue under the title: “I Remember Lemuria” by Richard Shaver.

The Shaver Mystery was born:

Click and read about:


Somehow the news of Shaver’s discovery quickly spread beyond science fiction circles and people who had never before bought a pulp magazine were rushing to their local newsstands. The demand for AMAZING STORIES far exceeded the supply and Ziff-Davis had to divert paper supplies (remember there were still wartime shortages) from other magazines so they could increase the press run of AS.

“Palmer traveled to Pennsylvania to talk to Shaver,” Howard Brown later recalled, “found him sitting on reams of stuff he’d written about the Deros, bought every bit of it and contracted for more. I thought it was the sickest crap I’d run into. Palmer ran it and doubled the circulation of Amazing within four months.”

By the end of 1945, AMAZING STORIES was selling 250,000 copies per month, an amazing circulation for a science fiction pulp magazine. Palmer sat up late at night, rewriting Shaver’s material and writing other short stories about the Deros under pseudonyms. Thousands of letters poured into the office. Many of them offered supporting “evidence” for the Shaver stories, describing strange objects they had seen in the sky and strange encounters they had had with alien beings. It seemed that many thousands of people were aware of the existence of some distinctly nonterrestrial group in our midst. Paranoid fantasies were mixed with tales that had the uncomfortable ring of truth. The “Letters-to-the-Editor” section was the most interesting part of the publication. Here is a typical contribution from the issue for June 1946:


I flew my last combat mission on May 26 [1945] when I was shot up over Bassein and ditched my ship in Ramaree roads off Chedubs Island. I was missing five days. I requested leave at Kashmere (sic). I and Capt. (deleted by request) left Srinagar and went to Rudok then through the Khese pass to the northern foothills of the Karakoram. We found what we were looking for. We knew what we were searching for.

For heaven’s sake, drop the whole thing! You are playing with dynamite. My companion and I fought our way out of a cave with submachine guns. I have two 9″ scars on my left arm that came from wounds given me in the cave when I was 50 feet from a moving object of any kind and in perfect silence. The muscles were nearly ripped out. How? I don’t know. My friend has a hole the size of a dime in his right bicep. It was seared inside. How we don’t know. But we both believe we know more abou the Shaver Mystery than any other pair.

You can imagine my fright when I picked up my first copy of Amazing Stories and see you splashing words about the subject.

The identity of the author of this letter was withheld by request. Later Palmer revealed his name: Fred Lee Crisman. He had inadvertently described the effects of a laser beam – even though the laser wasn’t invented until years later. Apparently Crisman was obsessed with Deros and death rays long before Kenneth Arnold sighted the “first” UFO in June 1947.

In September 1946, AMAZING STORIES published a short article by W.C. Hefferlin, “Circular Winged Plane,” describing experiments with a circular craft in 1927 in San Francisco. Shaver’s (Palmer’s) contribution to that issue was a 30,000 word novelette, “Earth Slaves to Space,” dealing with spaceships that regularly visited the Earth to kidnap humans and haul them away to some other planet. Other stories described amnesia, an important element in the UFO reports that still lay far in the future, and mysterious men who supposedly served as agents for those unfriendly Deros.

And later:






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