The truth is in there. ¶ In a charming split-level on an old Lakeville cul-de-sac, editor Phyllis Galde and her staff gather tales of UFOs, yetis and the spirits of dead celebrities and psychic pets, then publish them in Fate magazine, a digest of "True Stories of the Strange and Unknown" that turned 60 this year. ¶ Aside from a few streaks of pink, green and blue in her silver hair, Galde looks like a typical Midwestern grandmother with her bright smile and guileless demeanor. And aside from the pet snake, the back-yard fairy garden and the giant alien decal on her minivan, her home could be anyone's combo office/dwelling. Spend an hour or so in Galde's presence and environment, and you come away realizing that not all people who believe in ghosts, monsters and mystical miracles are crackpot hermits. Maybe not even most of them.
At first glance, Fate looks like a pulp-era throwback, which, in many ways, it is. Even when the cover doesn't feature an image recycled from a Cold War-heyday issue, Fate leaves a decidedly retro impression. While most magazines have become increasingly visual, Fate sticks with its small, type-heavy basic layout and reader-submitted mug shots.
Fate was born in 1948 Chicago, the creation of former "Amazing Stories" editor Ray Palmer, who is said to have spun the first UFO hoax. The magazine was sold in 1988 to Llewellyn, a St. Paul-based publisher specializing in New Age and occult titles. Galde, a former Lllewellyn editor, bought it in 2001.
Subscribers react with strong disfavor to any perceived changes in format or subject matter and are intensely loyal, Galde said: "It's the last thing people give up before they go to the nursing home."
Karma for Obama
Many subscribers are conservative Christians "with an open mind about this kind of stuff, life after death, angels and ghosts," she said.
In the September/October issue, a "political astrologer" predicts that "the cosmic timetable and karmic events all seem to point in favor of Barack Obama occupying the Presidential seat in January 2009." Other provocative topics include a Roman monsignor acknowledging the probable existence of extraterrestrials, ominous caped wizards lurking in Minnesota woods, the ghost of a decapitated Civil War officer still roaming the battlefield and "Things That Fall From UFOs" (a reprint from 1958).
The magazine has 10,000 subscribers (including well-known paranormal enthusiast and "Ghostbuster" Dan Aykroyd), about half the number of a decade ago, when it was still owned by Llewellyn. Advertising is anemic, and issue frequency was recently reduced from 12 to six a year. But Galde said that 600 new subscriptions (some from lapsed former subscribers) have come in over the past three months and that the website (www.fatemag.com) gets 750,000 hits a month.
At the dozen or so paranormal conferences where Galde exhibits each year, she continually meets people who have nostalgic reactions to Fate. "I hear over and over, 'I didn't know it was still around; my dad used to read this when I was a kid.' "
Galde said she thinks that "X-Files" creator Chris Carter got a lot of plot ideas from Fate. Cable-television series continue to reference Fate and interview Galde, she said, about a dozen in the past few years.
'We're all born with it'
Sitting at her kitchen table, matter-of-factly discussing the fairy garden that she's convinced is regularly visited by ethereal little beings, Galde, 60, puts the normal in "paranormal." She grew up in rural North Dakota, where as a teen she played piano and organ during church services -- while seeing the spirits of recently deceased congregation members sitting in their usual pews.
"I think everyone is born with that ability, but as kids most of us get it taught or shamed out of us," she said.
Then she pointed out the "little vortex" in her house, also common if you're sensitive to such things, she said. "It starts there, in the kitchen, and goes down to the basement. That's where my mother collapsed and had a stroke. My old dog wouldn't come down here after dark. When Linda Godfrey, the paranormal writer from Wisconsin, stood on that spot, she said it felt like she was chewing tinfoil."
Some of Galde's handful of employees, such as Webmaster and house UFO expert John Zupansic, share her beliefs. Others are more skeptical. Associate editor Andy Honigmann calls Galde the "heart and soul" of Fate. He describes his own attitude as "agnostic, but I've been into all of this since I was a kid. Fate is something of a relic, but one with intense fans. Our readers take it seriously. They're not dogmatic, and we don't try to tell them what it all means."
Despite the aging of her reader base, and the information-seeking shift of paranormal buffs to the Internet, Galde remains upbeat about the possibility of attracting new fans to Fate.
"I think people are more open to it now than ever," she said. "Look at all the TV shows with psychics, mediums, haunted hotels -- everyone wants to stay in one. People are taking it much more in stride now."
More fun to believe in ghosts
Bestselling pop-science author Mary Roach spent a lot of time with paranormal buffs, debunking their claims in her 2005 book "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife." She said their beliefs "all came down to how they defined 'belief.' For me, it's based on facts. Other people base it on more of an intuitive sense that they're right, rather than applying critical thought to phenomena."
Galde said Fate articles are based on factual evidence, which is why she doesn't consider it to be a New Age publication. Still, "for a lot of people, this is their spirituality," she said.
Roach said she envies Fate subscribers: "I'm a party pooper. It's no fun to go to a graveyard with me and hear my boring sensible and rational explanations. It's much more fun to believe in ghosts, and in terms of afterlife, it's also comforting. If you want to believe in the afterlife, why not? If there isn't one, when you do die you'll be none the wiser."
Galde said she has a contract with a Hollywood producer for a potential TV series on Fate -- not a "fad thing with mediums and ghost hunters, but more like a 'Twilight Zone,' with reenactments of articles about real-life experiences," she said.
The show might get made. Or, like many such deals, it might not. Either way, one thing's sure: Galde won't stop believing.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046