Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Barker and Bender on the Case-Part Six

On the evening of July 30, 1952, Albert K. Bender received a strange phone call during which his head "began to ache and spin." "No voice answered when I spoke," he wrote, "but nevertheless I seemed to receive a message, as if telepathically. The message decreed that I should not delve into the saucer mystery any further." (1) Bender noticed in July and August that year--the same summer in which flying saucers descended upon Washington, D.C.--that "numerous sightings suddenly made the news in Bridgeport and surrounding towns." Bender wondered in private, later in the first issue of Space Review, whether
the saucer occupants sensed that we [in the IFSB] were going to look into the mystery of their appearance here on our planet and might be looking us over to see what we were up to--or putting on a show for us, possibly to encourage us. (2)
In any case, this seems to have been the beginning of the fear, terror, and paranoia that would soon consume Bender and bring the IFSB to an end.

If Bender was being contacted telepathically, he might have thought that a connection could be made in the opposite direction, so he announced that March 15, 1953, would be C-Day--Contact Day--for officers, representatives, and members of the IFSB. On that day, the whole group would attempt to send, all at the same time via mental telepathy, a message that began as follows:
Calling occupants of interplanetary craft! Calling occupants of interplanetary craft that have been observing our planet EARTH. We of IFSB wish to make contact with you. We are your friends, and would like you to make an appearance here on EARTH. (3)
Bender did his part in the effort. At the appointed time, he lay down in his bed and mentally repeated the message again and again. "It was after the third attempt that I felt a terrible cold chill hit my whole body," he recounted. "Then my head began to ache as if several headaches had saved up their anguish and heaped it upon me at one time." (4) What followed was a kind of out-of-body experience complete with the smell of rotten eggs, the appearance of swimming and flashing blue lights, a sense of weightlessness and floating, a throbbing pain in the temples, then, in culmination, Bender's vision that he was floating above his bed and looking down upon his own body. A voice spoke:
"We have been watching you and your activities. Please be advised to discontinue delving into the mysteries of the universe. We will make an appearance if you disobey." (5)
The vision then ended.

Despite the warning, Bender carried on, releasing issues of Space Review in April and July 1953. The April issue included a column by Gray Barker called "Gray Barker Reports," as well as mention of climate change (the world was getting colder, not hotter), the Earth's poles, a government conspiracy of silence about flying saucers, and a secret base on the far side of the moon. The July issue had a little more by Gray Barker. It also included an announcement on the creation of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), in June 1952, headed by Coral Lorenzen. (I had thought APRO might have been the first flying saucer organization. It's clear here that it wasn't the first, but it may have been the oldest surviving organization of its type after the demise of the IFSB and for as long as it was in existence.) Not long afterwards, in the summer of 1953, Albert Bender had his first visitation from the Three Men in Black.

They came on a hot July night into Bender's bedroom, announcing by telepathic communication that they were in disguise, implying that they were occupying the bodies of human beings abducted for that purpose. The aliens told Bender that they had an important mission on Earth, that they would be here for some time, and that they must not be disturbed in their work. They added that they had a base and craft hidden in an undisclosed location on EarthThey gave Bender a small metal disk, explaining that in order to contact them he should hold it in the palm of his hand and repeat a code word, "Kazik." Oh, and he had to turn on his radio while doing this.

The Three Men in Black left. Two nights later, Bender called for them in the manner in which he had been instructed. Instead of coming to him, they delivered him to themselves, again through a kind of out-of-body experience in which Bender seemingly traveled on board a flying saucer. There he was treated to a lesson in history and astronomy, including mention of a planet once located near Earth that had been "destroyed by marauders from another system of planets beyond our own" (i.e., the aliens' own). (6)

The creature who spoke to him told Bender that he and his associates were "taking a valuable chemical" from Earth's oceans. (So they can fly from one star system to another but they can't synthesize chemicals? Strange technology.) If they were to be interrupted or interfered with in this work, they would destroy the Earth. Not to worry: there isn't anything we could have done to them, protected as they were by their superior technology (except for that part where they can't synthesize chemicals). Bender wrote:
Then he switched to a horrifying picture that made me shudder. It depicted a hideous monster, more horrifying than any I have seen depicted in the work of science fiction or fantasy artists. . . . (7) He then seemed to be speaking from the screen itself, and from the mind of the monster itself. It was if he had instantly changed himself from the form of a man to a creature which appeared to be similar to that pictured by the West Virginia witnesses who described the Flatwoods monster!
"You view me here on the screen in my normal appearance," the creature said. (8)

To be continued . . .

(1) Flying Saucers and the Three Men by Albert K. Bender (1962), p. 27.
(2) Bender, p. 26.
(3) Bender, pp. 83-84. I'm not sure how you can hit CAPS LOCK when you're communicating telepathically, but then as now, crackpots, cranks, and crazies use ALL CAPS TO EMPHASIZE THEIR VERY IMPORTANT POINTS.
(4) Bender, pp. 84-85.
(5) Bender, p. 85.
(6) Bender, p. 97. I have quoted Bender's aliens here because of the similarity of their story to a theme from the writings of Charles Fort, that many of the things that now fall from the sky are debris from a long-ago interstellar conflict.
(7) Mention of artists of science fiction and fantasy is an unmistakable Lovecraftian touch applied to Bender's tale.
(8) Bender, p. 99.

Albert K. Bender's sketch of one of the Three Men in Black who visited him in his home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1953. The Men in Black aren't men after all: they're the Flatwoods Monster disguised as men, and they're here to get a VERY VALUABLE CHEMICAL from our oceans. From Flying Saucers and the Three Men (1962), p. 107.

Bender was a regular moviegoer and a fan of science fiction. It seems pretty likely that he saw It Came from Outer Space soon after it was released on May 27, 1953. (The Hartford Courant has listings for it for June 1953. Bender, then living in Bridgeport, probably found the film playing in his hometown that month.) That summer, Bender had a vision in which men dressed in black came into his bedroom. "The eyes glowed like two flashlight bulbs," as the caption of Bender's drawing puts it. Like the aliens in It Came from Outer Space, the Three Men in Black were aliens, disguised as humans and engaged in an important matter here on Earth. Although they did not wish to harm us, they also would not be interfered with in their work. Again and again during the flying saucer era, real people claimed to have seen or experienced things in real life that had already been depicted in popular culture, especially movies. The aliens with glowing eyes shown here are a perfect example. Another is the abduction and examination of General Hanley (no relation) and the police officer in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), a scene replayed by Betty and Barney Hill in their memories of the events of September 19-20, 1961, and by Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker at Pascagoula, Mississippi, on October 11, 1973, near or at the end of the flying saucer era.

Original text copyright 2018, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Barker and Bender on the Case-Part Five

On January 15, 1952, midway between one silly season and another, Albert K. Bender, Jr., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and two of his friends decided to "establish a formal organization which would delve more deeply into the UFO problem." (1) Bender had been interested in flying saucers and other Fortean phenomena for most of his adult life. In 1952, he got himself in gear. In April he founded and announced in a press release the creation of the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB). His new group met for the first time on May 15, discussing, among other things, the membership applications that had poured in during the previous month. The main topic of discussion at the June meeting was the editorial policy of a forthcoming newsletter to be entitled Space Review.

Event tumbled after event in 1952. On August 29, the editor of Fate magazine, Robert N. Webster, wrote to Bender accepting a position as the first member of the International Council of the IFSB. On September 9, Denis P. Plunkett of Bristol, England, replied to the IFSB, becoming the first to volunteer as a foreign representative of the organization. Around the middle of September, Bender delivered the first issue of Space Review to the printer. Dated October 1952, it went out to members in the United States and Canada on schedule. In November 1952, Bender heard from his most famous and prestigious correspondent, who declined to give an opinion on flying saucers. This was another Albert, last name Einstein.

A second letter that November, from Gray Barker of Clarksburg, West Virginia, would prove far more fruitful. Barker wrote that he had seen Bender's missive in Other Worlds Science Stories (December 1952, p. 156) announcing the creation of the IFSB. "Bender replied enthusiastically to my letter of November 20, 1952," wrote Barker, "[and] was particularly interested in hearing more about the West Virginia 'monster' I told him of investigating." (2) The "monster" of course was the Flatwoods Monster. Although Bender had included a brief item on the sighting of the Flatwoods Monster in the first issue of Space Review, his facts were scarce and his date for the sighting was wrong. Bender wanted to know more and was eager to get Barker on board.

Nineteen fifty-two gave way to 1953. The first month of the new year was full of activity for Barker and Bender. Fate published Barker's story "The Monster and the Saucer." The second issue of  Bender's Space Review had more on the Flatwoods Monster, too, in the form of an article by a Reverend S.L. Daw of Washington, D.C. In his article, Daw relayed speculation from the Washington Daily News that what the witnesses had described in seeing the Flatwoods Monster was a misperception of some kind related to a rocketship depicted on the cover of Collier's magazine for October 18, 1952. (3) Neither Barker nor Bender was done with the Flatwoods Monster.

In that second whole issue of Space Review, Gray Barker was listed in the IFSB directory as the representative for the state of West Virginia. That same month, January, Bender called Barker and offered him the position as chief of the new Department of Investigation within the IFSB. It was the first time the two had talked by phone. Barker was already working on his own flying saucer newsletter, The Saucerian, which would not appear until later in the year. Nevertheless, he accepted Bender's offer and received from Bender a packet of business cards which he might hand out in the course of his investigations. One fell into the hands of an FBI agent who questioned Barker towards the end of the summer of 1953 as things started to get really weird with Bender and the IFSB.

So I have here an event for every month from April 1952, when Bender founded the International Flying Saucer Bureau, to January 1953, when Barker was appointed as chief investigator of the organization--every month, that is, except July 1952. And what happened that month in the Barker-Bender saga? Well, on July 30, Bender received in his home a telephone call from an unknown person warning him--telepathically no less--against delving any further into the flying saucer mystery.

To be continued . . .

(1) Flying Saucers and the Three Men by Albert K. Bender (Clarksburg, WV: Saucerian Books, 1962), p. 21.
(2) They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers by Gray Barker (Clarksburg, WV: Saucerian Press, 1956, 1975), p. 67.
(3) In They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (pp. 30-31)Gray Barker discussed the similarity, however slight it might be, between the spacecraft depicted on the cover of Collier's for October 18, 1952 (shown below), and the first eyewitness descriptions of the Flatwoods Monster. That issue of Collier's would not have come out until after the encounter with the monster, but Kathleen May evidently began insisting that what she had seen was not as she had originally described it. According to Barker, she claimed to have received a letter from "the government" explaining "that the 'monster' was a government rocket ship, propelled by an ammonia-like hydrazine and nitric acid" (p. 30), just like the spacecraft on the cover of Collier's. Thus she seems to have changed her story. A. Lee Stewart, Jr., a local newspaperman and a friend of Barker, was more likely the first person to have shown Mrs. May a publicity release of the cover, thereby--presumably--planting the suggestion in her mind that what she had seen was not a monster at all but a machine.

Outer space art was extremely popular after World War II, all in anticipation that we would soon reach the moon and have permanent stations in orbit around Earth. Some of this was fanciful, influenced by science fiction and science fiction art. Other outer space art was more grounded (no pun intended) in the realities of engineering and technology. I would consider this image, published on the cover of Collier's in the issue of October 18, 1952, an example of the latter. The sighting of the Flatwoods Monster had taken place only five weeks before the cover date shown here. With the publication of this image, the original eyewitness accounts were seemingly corrupted, as Kathleen May, the only adult to have seen the monster, began interpreting it as something machine-like rather than as an alien being. Either way, what she claimed to have seen had first been imagined by someone else. This would be a recurring theme throughout the flying saucer era.

The artist on the Collier's cover understood that a mooncraft need not be streamlined, contrary to the vision of science fiction artists who envisioned sleek, fusiform rocketships setting down on the lunar surface. In the end, his or her vision proved relatively accurate, especially in the jointed, insect-like legs of the Apollo-era Lunar Excursion Module (LEM). However, the resemblance of the LEM (not BEM, LEM) to a living creature was even more pronounced than in the illustration from seventeen years before. I can see a person unfamiliar with the LEM or with advanced technology in general interpreting it as a strange creature with triangular eyes and a square mouth rather than as something built by human beings (or some other intelligence). We tend to see things--or make ourselves see things--in terms of that which we can understand . . .

A proponent of the ancient astronaut theory might offer as an example the following, from the Book of Ezekiel in the King James Version:
The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
Ezekiel's description is certainly strange and his experience extraordinary. Today we might call it ecstatic or even hallucinatory. There can be no doubt that what Ezekiel saw went beyond words. The words he used could only have approximated what he saw. The point is that he described something previously unknown to him as like a machine (a simple machine, the wheel) but also as like a living being: "for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels," just as the spirit of the Apollo astronauts lived behind the machine-face of their lunar landing craft. In any case, because we live in a time ruled over by Scientism and materialism, we interpret these things in strictly scientific or materialistic terms. We say this: Ezekiel did not see or experience anything spiritual because there is nothing spiritual. Instead what he saw was merely material. Yes, he witnessed the coming of beings from another world or realm, but that realm was only physical: Ezekiel witnessed the arrival on Earth not of God or his heavenly messengers but of beings from another planet. And they came here in their machines, possibly even in the form of machines.

The NBC-TV show Project U.F.O. (1978-1979) picked up on the idea that what Ezekiel saw was not a spiritual vision but a spacecraft from another planet. Each episode begins with the image shown here and the voice of a narrator (Jack Webb), who says, "Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw." Other drawings follow, each of a modern-day UFO. Then, the incident of the week begins, drawn from real (or supposedly real) cases.

I don't know who came up with the idea that Ezekiel's wheel was a UFO (it may have been Morris K. Jessup), but it's one that has had staying power. For example:

The resemblance of the interstellar transport machine in Contact (1997) to Ezekiel's wheel may or may not have been intentional. But in returning to Contact, I'm also returning to the beginnings of this series. Ellie Arroway has a lot more in common with Albert K. Bender and Richard S. Shaver than anyone would care to admit. She will show her face again before this series comes to an end.

Original text copyright 2018, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Barker and Bender on the Case-Part Four

The first monster of the flying saucer era came to Flatwoods, West Virginia, on the evening of Friday, September 12, 1952. Witnesses to the event were a beautician named Kathleen May, a seventeen-year-old national guardsman, Eugene Lemon, and five boys aged ten to fourteen. Oddly enough, one of the boys was named Shaver. What they saw above Flatwoods gave them the fright of their lives. Upon encountering the monster, they turned and ran, down the hill and into town, scared, shaken, and hysterical. One or two of the boys were so badly disturbed that they vomited as night went on and as word of what they had seen spread into Flatwoods, across Braxton County, and onto a darkened continent.

On Monday morning, twenty-seven-year-old Gray Barker was having breakfast in a restaurant practically just up the road from Flatwoods when he read of the encounter with the "Braxton Monster." The newspaper spread out in front of him variously described it as a "smelly boogie-man," a "half-man, half-dragon," and a "fire-breathing monster." Kathleen May was quoted as saying, "It looked worse than Frankenstein." She added, "It couldn't have been human." Although Barker was working in Clarksburg, West Virginia, as a booking agent for movie theaters, he originally hailed from Braxton County. His birthplace is supposed to have been Riffle, located about eight miles northwest of Flatwoods as the saucer flies. (He was counted in the censuses of 1930 and 1940 in the Otter District, just outside of Gassaway to the south.) Riffle wasn't much more than a riffle, though, and so, when Barker later wrote about the Flatwoods Monster, he called the place where it had come to earth "my home town."

At a time when people still sent telegrams, Barker contacted Fate magazine by wire, asking if it was interested in the story. Raymond Palmer was still publisher or co-publisher at the time. Whether it was he or someone else who wired back, Gray Barker had his reply:
That Friday after work, Barker drove the fifty-five or sixty miles from Clarksburg to Flatwoods to begin his investigation. While in town, he met another investigator, the zoologist and explorer Ivan T. Sanderson, who, as he himself admitted later, also thought the story was a hoax. Both men came away from Braxton County that weekend convinced that the witnesses had really seen and experienced something extraordinary and that their sighting of the Flatwoods Monster was no hoax.

Sanderson got his story in print first. The Pittsburgh Press, for example, ran it on Wednesday, September 24, under the title "Saucer Reports Valid, Expert Says" (page 14). Gray Barker, on the other hand, had to wait until the January 1953 issue of Fate before his account, entitled "The Monster and the Saucer," saw the light of day. In the meantime, he had introduced himself by mail to Albert K. Bender of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the two had begun corresponding and even talking by telephone. After that, things moved pretty quickly towards a strange and mysterious climax and denouement.

To be continued . . .

(1) According to Albert K. Bender, Jr., in his book Flying Saucers and the Three Men, Robert N. Webster was editor of Fate when Webster wrote to Bender on August 29, 1952. (p. 40)

The drawings are undated, but these may have been the first depictions of what became known as the Flatwoods Monster. The sources are authoritative: they were three of the boys who saw the monster in its one and only visit to Earth. From The Encyclopedia of UFOs, Ronald D. Story, ed., (1980), page 128.

Here is the first or one of the first attempts to depict the actual scene that took place on the hill above Flatwoods. The monster and the witnesses are here, as is the fence, the flashlight, and the rural setting. Mrs. May is missing, though. So are the oak tree and the dog. (Maybe he has already hightailed it home.) Also missing is the glowing light or grounded saucer some of the witnesses saw in the distance. The artist was Dick Bothwell, a columnist and cartoonist with the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times. The source is the Times for October 11, 1952, page 11.

The sighting of the Flatwoods Monster opened a door for Grayson Roscoe Barker (1925-1984) of Braxton County and Clarksburg, West Virginia. Later describing himself as "a frustrated writer," he jumped on the chance to get his name in print again. (I don't know where or when he was first published.) His article "The Monster and the Saucer" appeared in Fate in January 1953, topped with a drawing of the monster, done by an unknown artist. By the end of the 1950s, Barker was one of the most well-known writers on and investigators of flying saucers in America. He also began publishing his own newsletter, The Saucerian, and he created his own publishing company, Saucerian Press or Saucerian Books, based in Clarksburg. In 1956, he published his own book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (from which much of the information here is drawn). His title only hints at the mystery and rampant paranoia of the flying saucer era.

On Friday, September 19, 1952, the day on which Gray Barker arrived in Flatwoods to begin investigating the incident, Kathleen May, Gene Lemon, and newspaper publisher A. Lee Stewart, Jr., were in New York City to appear on the NBC-TV program We the People. As this undated newspaper item says, an artist in New York drew the monster from eyewitness descriptions. That unidentified artist was probably the first to have a published depiction of the Flatwoods Monster, and this is the image we now have of it, despite all attempts at revision or reinterpretation. Source: the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette.

Gray Barker, who admitted that he was no artist, seems to have taken the New York artist's drawing and superimposed it on a photographic background. The result is pretty creepy, I think. I don't know whether the background photo was taken at the actual location or not, but there was a large white oak tree along the edge of the field in which the witnesses walked, and the monster floated under one of its branches, as shown here. The tree has since died, but there may still be a rotten stub or stump in its place. I think it deserves a historical marker.

Original text copyright 2018, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 20, 2018

From Palmer and Shaver to Barker and Bender

If it weren't for Ray Palmer, we wouldn't have had a Shaver Mystery, and if it weren't for him, we probably wouldn't have flying saucers. You can curse him or praise him, but you sure can't ignore him.

Palmer didn't invent either of these belief systems, but he knew a good thing when he saw it, and he was likely unmatched among science fiction editors in bringing fringe ideas into the real world. Perhaps thwarted in his visions and ambitions while at Ziff-Davis of Chicago, Palmer founded, with Curtis Fuller (1912-1991), Clark Publishing Company sometime in 1947. Venture Press, also founded or co-founded by Palmer, may have been a forerunner to Clark Publishing Company. On the other hand, the two may have run side by side, with Fuller and Palmer at the helm of one and Palmer alone on the other. In any case, in 1948, Venture Press published in hardback I Remember Lemuria! by Richard S. Shaver, while Fuller and Palmer put out the first issue of Fate under their jointly held Clark Publishing Company. The cover story in that inaugural issue of Fate was of course Kenneth Arnold's account of his sighting of flying saucers over Mount Rainier on June 24, 1947. That was the same month--June 1947--in which Ziff-Davis put out an all-Shaver Mystery issue of Amazing Stories under the editorship of Ray Palmer. It's funny how all of these things fit together.

Palmer was out the door at Ziff-Davis at the end of 1949. The last issues of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures in which he was credited as editor were those of December 1949. By then he was already working as editor of a new digest-sized magazine, Other Worlds Science Stories, first issued in November 1949. Put out by Clark Publishing Company, then by Palmer Publications, Other Worlds printed both fiction and non-fiction (plus pseudo-fiction and pseudo-non-fiction) in its eight years in print. Just before giving up the ghost in 1957, Other Worlds Science Stories became Flying Saucers from Other Worlds.

It was through the letters column of Other Worlds that Gray Barker and Albert K. Bender met in 1952-1953, and it was through their meeting that a new and bizarre chapter in the history of science (non-)fiction (or science-pseudo-non-fiction) began. It occurs to me now that in writing about the Flatwoods Monster, Men in Black (MIB), the Shaver Mystery, secret bases in Antarctica, and people who knew too much about flying saucers, Barker played the Palmer role to Bender's mad Shaver.

To be continued . . . 

Other Worlds Science Stories, November 1949, the first issue, with a cover story by Richard S. Shaver called "The Fall of Lemuria." In hindsight, the title can be seen as ironic, for the Shaver Mystery was, as we now know, in decline by the end of the 1940s. Very nearly banished from the Ziff-Davis titles, it would survive another few years under the wing of Raymond A. Palmer. The cover art is by Malcolm H. Smith.

Shaver's name next appeared on the cover of the March 1950 issue of Other Worlds. I don't know what's going on in this picture, but it looks like it involves a giant red rubber band. (The slingshot effect maybe?) The cover artist was once again Malcolm H. Smith. 

The September 1950 issue, with cover art by Smith, included a story by Shaver under his pseudonym Peter Dexter.

Shaver's name reappeared on the cover for October 1951, but only his surname and only at the bottom of the page. Far more prominent were the title and author's byline of the presumed cover story, "I Flew in a Flying Saucer." The confessional title of Captain A.V.G.'s two-part serial evokes the equally confessional "I Remember Lemuria!" from Amazing Stories from six years before. The cover artist by the way was H.W. McCauley.

This issue of Other Worlds was probably on the newsstand in September 1951, the same month in which The Day the Earth Stood Still was released. (The exact date of release was September 18.) I can't say for sure, but that film may have been the first to show an alien abduction. A more sensationalistic title could easily have been I Was Abducted by an Alien from Outer Space or I Went Aboard a Flying Saucer. Keep in mind, all of this took place several months before George Adamski first claimed to have gone aboard a flying saucer. In other words, it happened in science fiction (or science-pseudo-non-fiction) before anyone made any claims that it had happened to him or her in real life. This trend continued throughout the prime years of the flying saucer era, from 1947 to 1968 (or 1973): ordinary people imagined little if anything before it was imagined by authors and artists of science fiction. 

Other Worlds Science Stories, January 1952, with more flying saucer content, this time concerning Kenneth Arnold, the original witness. The cover art, again by McCauley, was reused, I think, for a cover of Fate magazine. Or maybe it was on the front of Fate first.

Other Worlds Science Stories, March 1952, with cover art by Malcolm H. Smith. This was the first issue of the magazine to show flying saucer-like craft on the cover, this despite Palmer's obvious enthusiasm for the subject.

Other Worlds got along for many issues with good cover art, not only by Malcolm H. Smith--the artist here--and H.W. McCauley but also by Hannes Bok and others. Smith's cover, from April 1952, is one of my favorites. This is the kind of image that made people love science fiction during the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. The interior of the ship in the foreground reminds me of the the tomb-lid at Palenque, which some people believe shows a Mayan king at the controls of a rocketship.

Shaver's byline was back on the cover of Other Worlds in July 1952. The artist was Malcolm H. Smith.

Other Worlds Science Stories, August 1952, with cover art by Smith. This was the last issue of the magazine to appear before the sighting of the Flatwoods Monster, which took place on September 12, 1952. (There was no September 1952 issue of Other Worlds.) I doubt that any of the witnesses saw this image, but the men shown here encased in their machines bear a vague resemblance to the monster, especially a later interpretation that says that what Kathleen May and the boys of Flatwoods saw was not an alien itself but an alien riding inside a kind of machine. I would refer you to the theories and artwork of Frank Feschino, Jr.

Albert K. Bender's letter to the world, informing it of the creation of the International Flying Saucer Bureau, appeared in the December issue of Other Worlds. Gray Barker down (or up) in West Virginia read that letter and sent one of his own to Bender in his Connecticut home, thereby introducing himself. For a year or more prior to writing, the two men must have read a lot of flying saucer content in Other Worlds: fiction, non-fiction, and even advertisements. Both had been interested in science fiction, flying saucers, and--significantly--the Shaver Mystery for years prior to that. Their enthusiasm must have been high at the end of 1952, and each must have felt he had found in the other a kindred spirit. This remarkable cover, by Malcolm H. Smith, shows what might be called an influencing machine at work. See the last image below for another machine of this type.

This cover of Other Worlds, from January 1953, has nothing to do with anything, but I couldn't pass it by. The artist was H.W. McCauley. You might notice an influence on Frank Frazetta. I thought of a different image by Dave Stevens . . .

. . . proof that there is nothing new under the sun (or moon).

Something happened to Other Worlds Science Stories in 1953. Although Bea Mahaffey, a science fiction fan out of Cincinnati, came on to assist Raymond Palmer, the magazine disappeared after its July issue that year and didn't reappear until May 1955. Palmer and Mahaffey were still editors then, but the magazine was now published by Palmer Publications, Inc. I suspect this was all tied up with Palmer's selling his interest in Fate (presumably also in Clark Publishing Company) to Curtis and Mary Fuller. That may have left him with Other Worlds Science Stories, but the magazine seems to have taken a step down after the deal. That's Virgil Finlay art on the cover and you can't go wrong there, but it was old art even then and reproduced here in black and white instead of the original color. The design and maybe the paper and printing were cheaper, too. After seventeen years as an editor of science fiction magazines, Palmer seems to have gone into decline. 

Other Worlds Science Stories, May 1957, with cover art by an unknown artist, colored and recycled from a previous appearance on the cover of a Shaver Mystery-related title. I have wondered about this image before. It may have been done originally by Steele Savage, but I can't say for sure, and I don't think that anyone can at this point. In any case, its use demonstrates, I think, that Other Worlds and Palmer himself were falling on hard times. 

Then, in June 1957, Palmer issued Flying Saucers from Other Worlds, an unnumbered issue that may or may not have been a continuation of Other Worlds Science Stories. The occasion was no doubt the tenth anniversary of the first sighting of flying saucers. The cover art, if you can call it that, is pretty horrendous, a collage of photographic images and blobs of ink. I suspect that the moirĂ© effects are in the scanning rather than in the original, but you never know.

Palmer returned to the Other Worlds format in July 1957 but retitled his magazine Flying Saucers from Other Worlds. The cover art, by Malcolm Smith, was recycled from the December 1951 issue. Inside was the story "Quest of Brail" by Richard S. Shaver, also recycled, from Amazing Stories, December 1945, that golden year of the Shaver Mystery. This was the penultimate issue of Other Worlds. The magazine came to an end in October 1957.

Finally, in July 1958, Shaver and his mystery had their last gasp in an American science fiction magazine when Fantastic published a special Shaver Mystery issue. Thereafter, he and it were relegated to the pages of magazines on the fringes, magazines published by Palmer and by Shaver himself. To be fair to both men, science fiction pulps were coming to an end, too, in the late '50s. I have read that the last pulp magazine of this genre was published in 1958 and the last pulp magazine of any genre in the early 1970s. By then, the flying saucer era had reached its end, too, while Shaver and Palmer were in the last decade of their lives. In the meantime, Gray Barker and Albert K. Bender kept the memory of the Shaver Mystery alive, at least for a while.

Text copyright 2018, 2023 Terence E. Hanley