The Ray Palmer Style: From your kitchen table to the farthest realms

Debut issue of MYSTIC magazine in November 1953.

Debut issue of Ray Palmer’s MYSTIC magazine in November 1953.

Ray Palmer was a master of pulp. As a writer and editor, he understood that the greatest appeal to readers lay in inviting them to step from the comfort of their homes—to experiences they could only dream about under normal circumstances. That formula later served Rod Serling in the 1959 debut of The Twilight Zone, Chris Carter in the 1993 debut of The X-Files and J.J. Abrams in the 2004 debut of LOST. Throughout his long career at the helm of various magazines, Ray Palmer’s typewriter batted out thousands of columns and he took his editing pencil to thousands more by a Who’s Who of writers.

The 1953 debut of his pocket-sized magazine, MYSTIC, opened with this signed “Editorial,” a classic Ray Palmer appeal to readers …

The other night we got up out of bed around midnight and went out into the kitchen to raid the refrigerator. Sometimes we like a glass of cold milk and perhaps a few cookies to carry us over until morning. As we sat there munching cookies, our eyes kept playing tricks on us; there seemed to be something black flitting around always just beyond the range of our vision. We couldn’t quite catch it, with just the small light on the kitchen range; so we turned on the overhead light. Then we saw it—a large bat was zipping through the house, from room to room, with soundless, seemingly effortless grace!

Each time around he’d swing past our head, almost touching us, and make us duck rather frantically. We tried hitting at him as he passed—but we might as well have tried to hit the wind. Bats have a marvelous system of radar, and every motion we made was noted instantly, and avoided.

We didn’t like the idea of a bat in the house—we were reminded of old legends, even thought of vampires—but what to do? There seemed no way of catching him. Well, we solved it very neatly—we simply opened the outside kitchen door wide and sat quietly waiting. Inevitably the bat flew through the open door and vanished into the night.

When we finished our milk, we sat there for a time, thinking. Today, in what we are pleased to call an “enlightened” age, we can regard a bat in a calm light. Just a winged animal. That is, until we begin to study him scientifically—then suddenly it strikes us that he is an animal and not a bird! An animal that flies like a bird; and as we noted, even more gracefully and easily and with the added advantage that he has a safeguard against slamming into something in flight, even though unable to see. A bird, under the same conditions, would be helpless.

‘Perhaps … there is a sensational story …’

Where did that bat come from? What happened to evolution when just this one animal took to the air in this way? Perhaps, far back in time, there is a sensational story—an alien story, to account for what we must regard as a tremendous mystery, a weird paradox, a very strange departure from the norm. Perhaps there is good reason for the superstitious horror with which most of us regard the bat. Perhaps there is a reason for the bat being an outcast among animals and birds alike. Perhaps there is a reason for its complicated, but effective, substitute for normal sight.

Did the bat come from another world; a world where there was no light to develop sight; where sight had to be replaced by the strange radar-like sense based on sound? Is this other world another world, or is it some dark, unknown place on—or in—this world? Perhaps the bat has a most tremendous story to tell—if we could only learn it!

‘Devotion to the unseen things, to the mysterious …’

This is a new magazine. Perhaps it is like the bat, flying around in a world in which ordinary sight is like blindness. It is devoted to the unseen things, to the mysterious, to the mystic, to the occult, to the unknown, to the unfound, to the unsuspected. It is at one and the same time, a search for light—and a delving into the dark. It is an effort to bring scientific common sense to bear on the mysterious—and an admission that our unreasonable superstitions may be reasonable after all.

The unknown is—unknown. Therefore it cannot be treated in a factual way. The scientific method does not apply; the only result of such application being a negative one. Our inclination, when we cannot be positive, is to be negative; so that we may not be ridiculed. A bat, says science, is harmless. Yet, somehow we fear him! And if we put our reasons into words, such as “vampire,” we are regarded with suspicion, labeled “superstitious.”

A superstition is a belief, regardless of knowledge or reason. It is a feeling we get, an acceptance due to a sense we may be unaware exists. When we see a bat, something besides reason and knowledge tells us to be afraid. What is that something?

This is a magazine of fiction. The stories you read herein are not based on reason or knowledge. They are based on stranger things. They are tales of the things of which superstition is the only historian. They are stories of the supernatural, of the weird, of the mysterious, of the unknown, of life after death, or reincarnation, of dreams; of vampires and witches and goblins and werewolves; of the soul, the subconscious mind, the unconscious mind, the superconscious mind; of spirits, ghosts, phantoms, afreets, djinns; of magic, both white and black, legerdemain, illusion; of cults and secret societies; of the good brotherhood and the brotherhood of evil; of the battle between the dark and the light, the good and the bad, the living and the dead!

‘Woven into the thread of thrills and chills’

This magazine is fiction, all of it—and yet—woven into the thread of thrills and chills, laughter and tears, excitement and adventure, mystery and yet more mystery.  You may find something significant, something profound, something that is recognized by that strange sense that asks you to accept what is beyond reason, beyond knowledge. If you do, you will be greatly rewarded. If you do not, you will certainly have the reading adventure of your life.

MYSTIC Magazine is your magazine, and it aims to please you. Let us know how we succeed!

Ray Palmer, November 1953

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