Of all matters Fortean, The Shaver Mystery is one of my absolute favorites. Inspired by yesterday's post on underground dwellers, I thought I would take a post and tell you about the strange narrative of Richard Shaver.
Richard Shaver was originally a factory worker from Pennsylvania. In 1943, he wrote to Ray Palmer (not The Atom), editor of Amazing Stories magazine, telling Palmer about a “proto-language” from which all other languages in the world are derived. Shaver called this language he discovered, “Mantog.” When Palmer replied to Shaver’s letter, asking how he found this, Shaver wrote back…with a 10,000-word manuscript.
In it, he told the story of an entire civilization that lives beneath the surface of the Earth, not at all dissimilar from the numerous legends of a “Hollow Earth.” Among these subterranean denizens were Teros, generally good people. Yet the majority of the population was what Shaver termed “Deros,” short for DEranged RobotS.” Not robots in the mechanical sense but in that behaved savagely…whatever that means in regard to robots. The sketches I've seen of these beings depict them as having elephant-like trunks, bald heads, and bloated bellies. They lived in caves hollowed out by “ray” beams left to them by an ancient and advanced race.
The Deros were capable of influencing humans mentally. In fact, they were to blame for just about everything bad thing that went on in our civilization. The Deros would kidnap surface humans for food and torture. According to Shaver’s writings, they also had a penchant for abducting women and utilizing their bodies to all sorts of Sado-masochistic ends. The Deros even traveled in flying saucers and other forms of spaceships, communicating regularly with a race of aliens that were just as evil as they were. And how did Shaver know all of this? He insisted that he had been a prisoner of the Deros, deep within their caves for eight years until the kindly Teros rescued him.
I quote Flounder: "Oh boy, is this great!"
Palmer collected all of this into a coherent narrative...and evidently edited out quite a bit of sex...and printed it as a novella in Amazing Stories. Later, he would release it as a collected edition called, I Remember Lemuria. I own the latter text as part of an edition called Lost Continents & the Hollow Earth by David Hatcher Childress. Anyway, upon the March 1945 publication of the Shaver Mystery, Amazing Stories received a tremendous surge of mail. Most of it was critical, lambasting the magazine's attempt at passing off pulp science fiction as truth and a polemic against established sciences, yet not all of it was derogatory.
Several letters came in from people who claimed that they too had seen the Deros. Or at least heard them in the cases of writers who reported the odd sounds and voices of the underground dwellers deep inside mine shafts and wells. One woman claimed that she had been abducted by the Deros and used as a sexual slave for years before escaping. Of particular interest was a letter from Fred Crisman, a man who would become something of a "convergence figure" in Forteana. He claimed to have wandered into an advanced city of Deros while serving in Burma during World War II. He likewise asserts that he suffered injuries from blasts by their "futuristic laser guns" and that he and his fellow soldiers blasted their way out with sub-machine guns.
"Oh boy, is this great!"
The idea of a Hollow Earth is far from a new one, even at the time of Shaver's publication. Stories go back for centuries of people conjecturing or even outright proclaiming that there is an entire civilization beneath our feet, populated by beings bizarre and only rarely encountered. The Nazis searched for an entrance to this world, Admiral Byrd supposedly led Operation Highjump to Antarctica in order to flush out escaped Nazis who had entered the Hollow Earth and now had super weapons at their disposal from the Deros. A book that describes this somewhat is Arktos: The Polar Myth by Joscelyn Godwin.
Obviously there are many people who with great comfort pronounce The Shaver Mystery as fiction. I'm one of them. But you know what? I don't care.
Seriously, this story is great. It has absolutely everything that made Golden Age pulp science fiction fun. In fact, I like this Hollow Earth stuff so much that I once wanted to write a trilogy of film scripts based upon it with a heavy dose of Star Wars thrown in. I have only written one so far but maybe one day who knows. So thanks, Mr. Shaver, Mr. Palmer. Whether you were trying to put one over on us or not (and I'm betting that you were), you gave us one hell of a good story.
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