Phyllis Galde has no gills. She can’t dissolve into mist before your eyes. Her eyes don’t have the cat-like slits that TV aliens have.
It’s disappointing, because as the new owner of a magazine specializing in UFOs, sea monsters, ghosts, Bigfoot, fish-people and Gef the Talking Mongoose, you expect her to be a little more … unusual.
“I just try to be a level-headed Norwegian and have some common sense,” said Galde, a friendly 58-year-old Lakeville grandmother who looks apple-pie normal.
But normal is only skin deep. Her life revolves around the bizarre, as reflected in the pages of her magazine, Fate, the 56-year-old journal of the paranormal.
After managing it for years, she bought the 20,000-circulation monthly magazine in March. Now, from a house on a leafy cul-de-sac, Galde runs a modest empire of weirdness from around the world that lists actor Dan Aykroyd and artist R. Crumb as fans.
And she is taking weirdness in a whole new direction.
No more of that New Age hokum, she said. The previous publisher, Llewellyn Ltd. of St. Paul, printed stories about crop circles, channeling and crystals with supernatural powers.
“We just can’t prove that stuff,” Galde said. “We don’t print anything we can’t prove. There is no scientific evidence for that.”
Evidence? Is there evidence of UFOs flying over Transylvania? Or frog-men? Or giants?
These stories are based on what people sincerely believe they have experienced, explained Galde.
“A lot of these things we don’t say are true,” Galde said. “We say, ‘Here are the reports. You decide.’ ”
How can she tell someone who actually heard Gef the Talking Mongoose from someone who is merely insane?
“It’s a gut-level feeling. It’s like Hemingway’s crap detector,” Galde said. “You can tell if something is crazy.”
That earnestness is what separates Galde from her competitors. She believes this stuff, or at least believes it could be true. She scorns other purveyors of paranormal, including tabloids like the National Enquirer, Globe and Weekly World News.
“They have Hillary Clinton having an alien’s baby,” she said. “Maybe some gullible people believe it.”
Fate magazine is more discriminating. Galde is changing the mission to revert to the vision of the magazine’s founders, with a retro tone to the stories.
Timeless stories include appearances by ghosts, UFOs or angels.
“Maybe one appeared in a bedroom and changed someone’s life,” she said. “Or a car breaks down in a snowstorm, someone appears to help, and then leaves without making any tracks.”
But they don’t print just anything.
“We debunk things, like crop circles,” she said. She said the editor of Skeptic magazine, a debunker of all things paranormal, recognizes Fate as a fellow challenger of specious claims.
Skeptic Editor Michael Shermer did say that Fate more carefully researched stories than, say, the Globe. But he stopped short of endorsement.
The problem with Fate, he said, is it tends to believe what people tell it, without considering other explanations.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” Shermer said.
Magazines like Fate thrive, he said, out of a curious need to believe.
“It’s the same impulse that drives religion,” Shermer said. “It could be an animistic spirit, a nature god, a ‘May the Force be with you’ spirit, or a Christian God.”
Galde agreed that the line between her magazine and religion was blurry. Fate makes certain quasi-religious assumptions: spirits live on after death, and some kind of spirit world produces miracles that science can’t explain.
“Organized religion is not giving people what they need,” Galde said. “Fate is kind of a liberal spirituality.”
A PERSONAL CONNECTION
Galde is a believer in ghosts because she lives with them, she says.
In 1993, she had been working for Llewellyn as the Fate editor when her mother had a massive stroke and died. It happened in Galde’s basement.
Her mother’s ghost appeared to her a short time later, she says, in another room of the basement.
“I was still so grief-stricken, I wasn’t able to talk to her,” Galde said.
Shortly afterward, she heard The Voice. She was driving in her Geo Prizm by the Target store on Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley one afternoon and a voice distinctly said, “Spend more time with your dad.”
She quit her job the next day.
She cared for her father for several months before he died.
“It was the best thing I ever did,” she said.
But that’s not the last she heard from him, she says.
One time, Galde, who has four older brothers, was driving back from her father’s brother-in-law’s funeral in Boone, Iowa. She heard her father’s voice in the back seat. It said, “It wouldn’t have hurt some of your brothers to have been here.”
It didn’t spook her. It comforted her.
“When I was losing my mom and dad, it was so nice to have their visitations,” Galde said. “The spirit survives after death. People like to know that.”
That renewed belief in the supernatural was one reason why she went back to Llewellyn in 1999, as magazine editor, before buying it outright.
AN EDITOR’S LIFE
Today her home bustles with an supernatural amount of energy.
The double garage is packed with books and supplies. In the kitchen, part-timer Thomas Begich addresses envelopes. Galde walks into the basement, past eight computer workstations for her, her managing editor and housemate David Godwin, and six part-timers.
Thousands of research books line the walls. Dragons leer from paintings, and alien dolls peer from walls.
Some hazards you can’t even see.
“You are standing in a vortex right now,” said Galde to a visitor, as if warning about quicksand. A vortex is a swirling patch of psychic energy, and she wasn’t sure if it was dangerous to be standing in one or not.
In a corner room, 19-year-old part-timer Sarah Brand said she loves the work.
“It’s very laid-back here, and the creative juices in the air is fun,” she said.
It’s nothing like her former job at Papa John’s Pizza.
“It was hectic and boring. We had to wear ugly pants,” she said.
Above all, she said, the stories are cool.
“My age group is really into it,” Brand said.
Her personal favorite? Gef the Talking Mongoose, who reportedly cursed and berated a family in England in the 1930s. But does Brand believe a mongoose could talk?
“It’s possible,” Brand shrugged. Sometimes stories are so bizarre, she said, they have to be true.
That applies as well to the story about Jesus’ world travels. The December issue of Fate had a photo of Jesus’ grave in the small village of Herai, Japan. Jesus reportedly died there at the age of 106, and it was Jesus’ brother, Isukiri, who died on the cross.
How could that be? Instead of Christianity, should it be called Isukirism? How could a man travel halfway around the world to a place no one in the West even knew existed?
“He could have gone on horseback,” Galde said. “I don’t know. But it makes people think.”
For information on Fate magazine, including subscriptions, see its Web site at www.fatemag.com.
RIPPED FROM THE PAGES …
Sample headlines from recent editions of Fate magazine:
• “Has Atlantis been Found?”
• “Spirits of Flight 93” (the jet that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001)
• “The Reality of Bigfoot: Was He Captured in 1839?
• “Kempenfelt Kelly” (a Loch Ness monster in a lake in Ontario)
• “The Most Haunted Capitol in America”
• “Basics of Detecting and ‘Busting’ Ghosts”
• “Readers Psychically Penetrate Infamous Area 51”
• “The Voodoo Queen of San Francisco”
• “A Night with Lizzie Borden”
• “The McKweon Poltergeist”
• “The Mermaids of Japan”
Bob Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-228-5433. Bob Shaw, Pioneer Press