Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 26th, 2006
June 24th has seen the passing of publisher Lyle Stuart, above.
When I wrote on June 22nd of the "Wonders of St. John’s Day," I observed that some prominent writers and researchers had died on June 24th. The date that is generally remembered today as the "birthday of flying saucers" (June 24, 1947) has historically been the focus of many strange events, from Bigfoot sightings to Chupacabras encounters too.
Acknowledging the deaths of various phenomena writers and fans, I mentioned Frank Scully in 1964; Frank Edwards in 1967; Arthur Bryant in 1967; Richard Church in 1967; Willy Ley in 1969; and Jackie Gleason in 1987.
Frank Edwards is usually the one everyone wants to talk about first, regarding June 24th. Before there was Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell and George Noory, there was Frank Edwards of the Mutual Network, with one of the earliest late night national radio talk shows exploring mysterious topics. He called his program, "Stranger than Science," and covered everything from Bigfoot to UFOs. It became so successful that his first book from renegade publisher Lyle Stuart was Stranger than Science in 1959, chuck full of information on cryptozoology as well as ufology.
In quick succession, other books followed from Lyle Stuart by Edwards: Strange People. Lyle Stuart, 1961. Strangest of All . Lyle Stuart, 1962. Strange World . Lyle Stuart, 1964. Flying Saucers – Serious Business . Lyle Stuart, 1966.
As it would come to pass, the day that Frank Edwards is remembered as having died is hidden in layers of lore, a mere year after his last book was published.
On June 24, 1967, in New York City at the Commodore Hotel, James Moseley was hosting the first World UFO Convention, officially called the Congress of Scientific Ufologists, when he made a startling announcement.
"Your attention please," he said to a quickly quieting crowd of 2000 attendees. "We just heard some shocking news. Frank Edwards, the noted broadcaster and champion of flying saucers, died of a heart attack today. He was 59 years old."
Moseley paused as those assembled gasped.
"I need not remind you of the extremely odd coincidence of this news," Moseley continued, "that Frank Edwards’ death occurred 20 years after – to the day – the UFOs first made big headlines in America. It was on June 24, 1947, that Kenneth Arnold made his famous sighting of nine flying saucers."
Actually, Edwards had died a few hours before midnight, when it was still the 23rd of June 1967. But the coincidence remains strong, as if his passing was timed for that significant date and to be announced by Moseley there, at the Commodore.
The success of Edwards’ books was so great that Lyle Stuart published The Strange World of Frank Edwards: A Selection of His Best Writings on Inexplicable and Mysterious True Events complied by the publisher’s son, Rory, in 1977, ten years after Edwards’ death.
Now comes word that Frank Edwards’ publisher, the maverick Lyle Stuart, has died of a heart attack at his home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, on this significant date, June 24, 2006. (Fort Lee is the former home of James Moseley, btw. Obviously, merely another coincidence.)
Few in the mainstream press will make much of the date upon which Lyle Stuart died, or the fact that some of his first works published were not the books discussed in the obituaries, but tomes on Fortean wonders, Bigfoot, and flying saucers. Nevertheless, we will remember here.
Here’s parts of The New York Times’ more standard Lyle Stuart obituary, by Anthony Ramirez, for June 26, 2006:
Lyle Stuart, a renegade journalist and publisher whose picaresque life included clashes with Walter Winchell, the publication of "Naked Came the Stranger" and the decision to print "The Anarchist Cookbook," died on Saturday at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J. He was 83 and lived in Fort Lee, N.J.
The cause of death was a heart attack, said his wife, Carole.
In his first career as a journalist in the 1940’s and 50’s, Mr. Stuart clashed with the powerful columnist Walter Winchell and supported Fidel Castro. In his second, as a publisher, he was notorious for "The Anarchist Cookbook." Written by William Powell, the book, which included instructions on making bombs and homemade silencers for pistols, was first released in 1970 at the height of antiwar and anti-establishment protests. Web sites inspired by the book are still proliferating.
Mr. Stuart published the book against his own staff’s wishes. "I liked it, but nobody else did – and of course no other publisher would touch it," he told an interviewer in 1978. In 2000, the author, Mr. Powell, told The Observer of London that he disavowed the book, written when he was 19; later, in an open letter on Amazon.com, he called it "a misguided product of my adolescent anger at the prospect of being drafted." But Mr. Stuart, who held the copyright, continued to publish it.
He courted controversy again in 1996 when he reissued "The Turner Diaries," an anti-government novel self-published by a neo-Nazi in 1978. It is said to have been a favorite of Timothy J. McVeigh, executed for killing 169 people with a truck bomb in Oklahoma City in 1995.
* * *
Mr. Stuart was named Lionel Simon when he was born in Manhattan, the son of a salesman and a secretary. His father committed suicide when the boy was 6.
As a teenager, he dropped out of James Madison High School near Gravesend, Brooklyn, and joined the merchant marine. He later changed his name to Lyle Stuart, in part because he liked the ring of it but also because of the anti-Semitism he encountered in the Merchant Marine.
At 22 he married Mary Louise Strawn, started a family and began founding small muckraking publications like Exposé and a monthly tabloid called The Independent. But it was his fight with Winchell, one of the most powerful newspaper columnists in the 1940’s and 1950’s, that first won him notoriety.
A contributor to Winchell’s column, Mr. Stuart would recall later that he was incensed when Winchell ridiculed the entertainer Josephine Baker in his column, using a racial joke in dialect. "I wrote eight tabloid pages about Winchell, the entire issue," he said in 2003. "I knew him very well. I knew who the No. 1 girlfriend of the moment was – oh, yeah, he was married; where he was renting a love nest for $30 a month; that – next to Rudy Vallee – he was the cheapest tipper in New York."
Winchell struck back, and the exchanges grew more furious until Mr. Stuart sued for libel and won an $8,000 judgment. He used the money to start Lyle Stuart Inc., whose first book, on allergies, was "The Pulse Test" (1956). At the height of the cold war, Mr. Stuart supported Fidel Castro and published his "History Will Absolve Me" (1961). When the State Department barred him that year from visiting Cuba, it declared with unusual bluntness, "You are not a bona fide newsman." (He was later allowed to visit.)
* * *
Peter Osnos, the founder of PublicAffairs, a publishing house, said Mr. Stuart was "in a business of gentlemen and gentle men," like Alfred A. Knopf, the publisher of W. Somerset Maugham and Jorge Amado. "Lyle Stuart saw himse
lf as a figure on the outside who could break the rules," he said, adding, "In today’s world, he’d be fussing at people from a blog."
Mr. Stuart was financially generous to friends, relatives and employees. He once flew his publishing staff, from executives to shipping clerks, to Europe for parties and the Frankfurt book fair. Celebrating a book sale, he once led a conga line of employees around Trafalgar Square in London.
At 5-foot-9 and more than 240 pounds, he was a man of Rabelaisian appetites who gloried in ice cream sundaes of great size and complexity. In recent years, however, he struggled on crutches, having broken his legs several times in falls.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Stuart is survived by a son, Rory John, of Pomona, N.Y.; a daughter, Sandra Lee Stuart of Denver; a stepdaughter, Jennifer Kern of Manhattan; and three grandchildren.
Lyle Stuart and his wife.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.