“I Shall Teach Thee Terrible Things”: The Ads and Articles of ‘Fate’ Magazine, 1963

Exhibit / March 5, 2019

Object NameFate Magazine
Maker and Year: Clark Publishing, 1963
Object Type: Periodical
Image Source: The author
Description (Michael Grasso):

Fate magazine, born in 1948 at the outset of both the Cold War and the flying saucer era, was a digest-sized periodical dedicated to the exploration of the paranormal. Fate leapt from the fecund imagination of Ray Palmer, the editor of Amazing Stories magazine for most of the 1940s. Palmer and magazine editor Curtis Fuller joined forces to develop a magazine that would report the ostensible facts about real-world paranormal and supernatural phenomena, featuring first-hand accounts from authors and readers whenever possible. Fate‘s famous inaugural issue brought the story of Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 flying saucer encounter to a nationwide audience. Palmer, always a mercurial and wide-ranging intellect, left the magazine in 1955 to found a new magazine, Mystic (later Search), which cast a wider net for material and allowed Palmer to promote his own obsessions, among which were the creeping threat of the hydrogen bomb and his longtime promotion of the “Shaver Mystery,” a lost civilization/hollow earth mythology, which had first appeared in Amazing Stories under Palmer’s tenure.

Fate, however, continued to thrive under the editorial direction of Curtis Fuller and his wife Mary Margaret Fuller. The issues represented here span January through December 1963, a period smack-dab in the middle of the magazine’s glory years. Through a series of features that invited regular reader feedback and participation—various themed letter columns such as “True Mystic Experiences,” “My Proof of Survival,” and “Reports From the Readers”—Fate Magazine allowed for the creation of a virtual community of American believers and aficionados in the paranormal.

Browsing through these issues unveils a number of familiar paranormal phenomena and tropes that were bubbling under the surface in America in the years prior to the Aquarian revolution of the late 1960s. What we today would consider the “New Age” movement lies within the pages of Fate; in fact, one sees the term “New Age” appear several times. A writer tells of Western ethnographers’ explorations with “yagé,” or ayahuasca, soon to made prominent in the writings of both William S. Burroughs (that same year of 1963 with his “Yagé Letters“) and Terence McKenna. The early work of researchers into cetacean intelligence is represented. There’s even an early mention of the “lost cosmonaut” mythology. However, along with the stories of great cosmic import, there’s a fair share of picayune prodigies: lots of tales of psychic animals, odd yet everyday coincidences, and explanations of Biblical miracles in terms of 20th century parapsychology. Given that each issue contains eight feature articles and dozens upon dozens of pieces of correspondence and brief “Believe It Or Not”-style sidebars, there is a wealth of materials covering every corner of the hidden world.

Even after Ray Palmer left the magazine, his stamp remained all over it in the form of advertisements for his own (competitor!) publications. The Fuller-owned-and-operated Venture Bookshop in Evanston, Illinois provided readers of Fate with mini-reviews of many of their books on offer, as well as dubious paranormal “equipment” such as planchets for use in divination, “aura goggles,” and “hypnospecs.”

While the stories and accounts in Fate from this period range from around the world, there is something quintessentially American about the advertisements: they illuminate the roiling underworld of spiritual seekers and snake oil salesmen who have forever inhabited the liminal zones of American capitalism. Advertisements for New Age spiritual seekers blend and meld with more traditional Christian ones. The California-based Rosicrucians of AMORC appear on the back cover of every single one of these 1963 issues; their advertisements appeared in all kinds of mainstream publications in the 1960s as well.

5 thoughts on ““I Shall Teach Thee Terrible Things”: The Ads and Articles of ‘Fate’ Magazine, 1963

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