Richard Sharpe Shaver was your grandpa's David Icke
Intrigued? Let's start at the beginning.
Richard Sharpe Shaver was an American factory worker who, in the 1940s
, began contributing short stories and art to pulp science-fiction
magazines, notably Amazing Stories.
He became renowned for a short story called I Remember Lemuria!
about a man held captive by monstrous subhuman creatures that lived beneath the Earth. The story became so popular that Amazing Stories
ran almost nothing but sequels and other related material for some time afterwards, to the dismay of some of their readership, including a young Harlan Ellison
. After the craze had run its course, Shaver abandoned writing to pursue an interest in geology and died in 1975.
Pretty standard stuff so far, right? That's because we haven't gotten to the good
part.Richard Shaver maintained that he wasn't writing fiction.
Following a workplace accident, he became convinced that he'd gained the power of telepathy
and could hear not only the thoughts of the people around him, but secret conversations between the monsters described in his stories (which he named "Deros" — short for "detrimental robots") and the anguished screams of their human victims. He sent his work to Amazing Stories
as a warning to mankind, but his publisher, Ray Palmer, saw gold and edited his manuscript to make it fit the magazine's style.
Sure enough, the story was a hit — and not only with readers who enjoyed Shaver's work as fiction. Scores of letters began pouring in from people claiming to have had similar experiences as Shaver, hearing or having been captured and tortured by the Deros. So-called "Shaver Mystery Clubs" started popping up around the globe where believers in Shaver's mythos could share their experiences, some of which are still extant. Over time, the Shaver Mystery grew to include other elements, each more fantastical than the last, including Teros ("good" counterparts to the evil Deros; humanoid cavern dwellers who liberate the Deros' human captives) and the notion that the Deros were in contact with alien invaders
(a response to the flying saucer craze of the fifties
) and plotting to exterminate the human species.
Oh, and Shaver's interest in geology? He thought he could read Tero and Dero hieroglyphs in the rocks.
The Shaver Mystery
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Shaver himself, to the nth degree.
- Con Lang: The language "Mantong," a precursor to all human languages. In Mantong, every sound has a specific meaning, and by applying its grammatical rules to any word, phrase, name, or sentence in any modern language, one could discover a hidden meaning. Notable because Shaver claimed to have discovered the language, not invented it.
- Misaimed Fandom: Shaver's mythos is used by some believers to justify certain racist attitudes. The less said about that, the better.
- Scooby-Doo Hoax: Averted... on a technicality. Shaver himself believed every word he wrote. When confronted by Harlan Ellison, who claimed that the so-called mystery was nothing more than a marketing ploy, Ray Palmer admitted that he was certainly tying to ramp up sales, which isn't the same thing as to say that the whole thing was fake.
- Ultraterrestrials: The ancestors of the Teros and Deros. They left the Earth because the sun's radiation is harmful to them; those that stayed behind gradually evolved into their respective two forms, similarly to the Eloi and Morlocks in H.G. Wells's The Time Machine.
- The Japanese horror film Marebito features the Deros and references some of Shaver's other written work.
- Harlan Ellison incorporated themes and elements from the Shaver Mystery (including accounts from believers) into his short story The Elevator People. Ironic, since he found the whole thing distasteful.
- The novel Tamper by Bill Ectric features a young boy obsessed with the Shaver Mystery who hears strange noises coming from his parents' basement.
- Philip K. Dick, himself no stranger to hearing nonhuman voices in his head, mentions Shaver's work in his novel Confessions of a Crap Artist.
- Sharyn McCrumb's Zombies of the Gene Pool has a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Shaver as a member of a group of wannabe sci-fi authors from the '50s. Said author gained fame for writing fantastic horror stories, but insisted it was non-fiction and spent the latter portion of his life in an asylum.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, there's a race of subterranean dwarves called "Derros," a possible allusion to the Deros.
- Pathfinder ramps up the references, as the derro abduct innocents from the surface and perform horrible experiments on them in a mad and futile effort to discover ways to allow them to survive the light of the sun. The supplemental book "Classic Horrors Revisited" discusses the creative origins of Pathfinder's morlocks, blending Shaver's original text with H. G. Wells' morlocks and Alien Abduction folklore.