Who Was Ray Palmer?
Science-fiction fans have a long, dreary history of falling for outrageous quasi-religious, pseudoscientific cults that arise within the community of science-fiction writers and editors. L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology, first introduced as "dianetics" by John Campbell when he was editor of Astounding Science Fiction, is of course the prime example. This article will tell the story of an almost forgotten science-fiction editor, Ray Palmer, and the curious roles he played in the notorious "Shaver hoax" and, later, in promoting the cult of UFOlogy.
Although reports of mysterious unidentified flying objects go back to ancient times, and numerous UFO reports are scattered through the writings of Charles Fort, the UFOmania of the present century had an abrupt beginning. It was almost exactly 40 years ago, on June 24, 1947.
Kenneth Arnold, a manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment in Boise, Idaho, was flying his three-seat cabin plane from Chehalis to Yakima, in Washington. Arnold remembers it as a cloudless day with the air "as smooth as silk." At about 3 P.M. he spotted nine crescent-shaped disks bobbing up and down "like a tail of a Chinese kite" over the peaks of Washington's Cascade Mountains. They seemed headed for Mt. Rainier at a speed Arnold estimated to be more than 1,700 miles an hour. Later that afternoon in Pendleton, Oregon, Ken decided to report what he saw to the FBI. Finding its offices closed, he took his story to the editor of the Eastern Oregonian.
Whatever Arnold saw--some skeptics think it was a group of weather balloons--they seemed not to be circular. "They flew erratic," Arnold told a United Press reporter, "like a saucer if you skip it across water." In the story he sent over the wire, the reporter called the objects "flying saucers." Before a week had passed, newspapers throughout the nation were having a field day with reports of new sightings and wild speculations about what the mysterious "saucers" could be. Secret United States government aircraft? Soviet planes? Spaceships from Mars or Venus?____________________