Monday, February 7, 2011


In the March, 1945 issue of Amazing Stories Editor Ray Palmer introduced the Shaver Mystery, a purported "racial memory" of a young welder named Richard Shaver, who first claimed to have remembered a life in the caves, then, later, maintained that he had recently been in the vast underground civilization of cave-dwellers. Life magazine (May 21, 1951) called the Shaver Mystery ". . . the most celebrated rumpus that ever racked the science fiction world." Richard Shaver, however, has never called his accounts anything other than factual reportage.

It is Richard Shaver's contention that in prehistoric times, when our solar system was young, Earth was inhabited by a race of cosmic super-beings who had come here from another solar system. Although the Elder Race were not truly immortals, they had discovered secrets of incredible longevity. This, together with their highly developed scientific technology, caused them to be regarded as gods by the primitive and unsophisticated humans. The Elder Race possessed fantastic mechanical devices, which Shaver calls "mech," capable of projecting three-dimensional images, scanning over great distances, curing diseases, producing food and clothing, and killing and destroying life when necessary.

After a time the Elder Race, the Titans, began to notice that the once beneficent sun now contained detrimental rays which were shortening their life-span by causing premature aging. To escape the harmful rays of the sun, the Elder Race entered deep underground caverns and began carving a fantastic subterranean kingdom, using their ray guns to disintegrate rock. Soon they had constructed powerful machines which could duplicate the health-giving rays of the sun while excluding the detrimental radioactivity.

Homo sapiens continued to evolve in the sun, ignorant of the rays which shortened his life-span, and puzzled by the withdrawal of his gods. However, Shaver tells his readers, the Elder Race was not without its sensualists, and certain of its members, particularly the lesser ones, varied greatly in morality and intelligence.

Perhaps the majority of the Elder Race regarded their lesser evolved human cousins with the superiority and ill-concealed contempt that a pompous research scientist might feel walking amongst Stone Age aborigines. Others may have exploited the females of Homo sapiens and may even have set the barbaric tribes against each other for the perverse pleasure of the Elder Race, who may have openly rooted for, and secretly assisted, their favorite tribes and warriors. The more humane among the Elder Race did their best to assist the primitive humans to develop a more functional culture and technology. According to Shaver, the ancient myths and legends are the unsophisticated surface dwellers' version of the myriad activities of the Elder Race.

After a time, the Shaver Mystery has it, the Elder Race became dissatisfied with life on Earth. Spaceships were sent to find another more suitable world where they could live on the surface without fearing negative rays from the sun. When the scouts returned with word of a planet with a beneficial sun, a mass exodus was at once set in motion.

Because of the great distance involved and the limited number of spacecraft large enough to serve as transports, the vast majority of their marvelous machines of super science were sealed in underground caverns. Desperate experimentation with the "mech" brought about certain radiations that destroyed a portion of the brain of many of the underpeople and produced a dangerous form of hereditary insanity.

Vast numbers of the cave people began to degenerate into physically stunned near-idiots, incapable of constructive reasoning. Shaver tells his readers that these are the "dero," detrimental-or degenerate- robots. "Robot" as Shaver used the word does not mean a mechanical representation of man, but is rather a designation for those who are controlled, or obsessed, by degenerative forces.

The deros, due to their hereditary brain damage, are completely devoid of any moral sense or humane instinct. They do harm at every opportunity and they gain immense satisfaction from the sufferings of others. They have mastered the use of certain of the "mech," and they direct negative rays at the surface dwellers whenever possible.

Their greatest delight comes in luring, or kidnapping, humans into the caverns and debasing them in sadistic orgies, which usually result in death or enslavement for the unfortunate captive. According to Shaver, the details of some of these grotesque debaucheries reached the surface world and established the foundations for the accounts of devils, demons, and the underworld hells of religion.

Editor Ray Palmer claimed that the issue of Amazing Stories (March, 1945) that carried the first Shaver fact-fiction piece brought in an unprecedented mail response of 50,000 letters, all of which Palmer said ". . . stated that Shaver spoke the truth, there actually were caves, and dero, and rays, and stim, and contrived train wrecks, and mental control, and thought records, and Titans, and ancient spaceships, and radioactive death raining down on us from the sun."

Ray Palmer kept the mystery and the controversy going for four years, in more than fifty consecutive issues of Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, Mammoth Adventures, and even South Sea Stories. The furor the Shaver Mystery set off among the science fiction and Fortean buffs continues to break out in periodic brush fires. Richard Shaver continues to contribute his "memories" to mimeographed fanzines, and occasionally, to the late Ray Palmer's Search magazine, published in Amherst, Wisconsin.

Timothy Green Beckley, editor of Innerlight newsletter, has probably published more material on Richard Shaver and his cave dwellers than any other writer-editor outside of Ray Palmer. Beckley tells of finding a record of ostensible dero activity Black Range Tales, a book published by James A. McKenna in 1936.McKenna, who purports to be writing a factual account, tells of observing two Indian maids walk into the wall of a canyon, then reappear with buckets of water for their burros.

After the girls had left, McKenna and a friend, Cousin Jack, investigated and found the entrance to a carefully hidden cave, which sheltered an underground spring.

Later that night, Cousin Jack awoke screaming in pain, complaining of someone sticking him with needles. The two men were puzzled to discover that some form of electricity seemed to be present in the canyon and that the current had run through the grass and caused the sensation of needles being pricked into flesh.

At dawn, according to McKenna, the two men resolved to explore the strange cave. They had not penetrated very far, however, before they retreated, sickened by a sulphuric odor, shocked by the sound of a moaning voice crying for "mercy," and startled by a find of several human skeletons.Fortean researcher Ronald Calais found an account dating from 1770 which relates the experience of a laborer in Staffordshire, England, who while engaged in digging a tunnel, claimed to have heard the rumble of heavy machinery coming from behind a large, flat stone.

Prying the rock aside with his pick, the laborer was amazed to discover a stone stairway that led deep into the ground. Certain that he had come upon some ancient tomb, the man started down the steps with visions of buried treasure filling his brain.

Instead, the man swore, he found himself in a large stone chamber with the sounds of machinery becoming louder and a hooded figure fast approaching him with a baton-like object in a raised hand. The terrified laborer fled back up the stone stairway to the safety of the surface world.

By way of comparison, Calais couples this account with the comments of David Fellin and Henry Throne, who survived a 1963 Pennsylvania mine cave-in. The two miners claimed that they saw a huge door open to reveal beautiful marble steps with men clothed in "weird outfits" staring at them. The men were certain they had experienced reality, rather than hallucinations.

Brad Steiger's book "Overlords of Atlantis"  Inner Light Publications.

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