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Maybe it's not all that uncommon, but I had the dubious distinction of knowing three people who claimed contact with a race of beings living inside the planet.
It isn't something one chats about at the dinner table or at Tupperware parties, because it isn't an item of casual conversation.
"Pass the mashed potatoes, please; oh, and did I mention that I've been to the Underworld and there are people living down there?"
My association with these individuals didn't happen at some New Age shaman's retreat on the California coast. It sprang from my acquaintance and correspondence with Richard Shaver, the man who put the "Shaver" into the famous Shaver Mystery.
My association with Shaver began in 1972, growing out of pure curiosity, blossoming into pure amazement, and dying three years later with the sci-fi writer's fatal heart attack. The connection was enough, however, to lead me to a seven-year term as the editor of Shavertron, a fanzine dedicated to Shaver's life and times.
As editor of the only Shaver Mystery publication extant at the time, I was contacted by many oldtimers of the post-war pulp fiction era. That's how I met these inner-Earth explorers and heard their stories.
The Shaver Mystery was a far-out cosmology of underworld civilizations, mind control, government conspiracy, and evil intent. It is difficult, in 1998, to feel the magnetism the Shaver Mystery exerted on so many people in 1946. Thanks to the agile mind of Ray Palmer, who prodded, tormented, and teased readers with each issue of Amazing Stories, a legend emerged.
Not unlike flying saucer believers, the goal of Shaver Mystery buffs was contact - not with space aliens, but with beings from the Inner Earth. Like the flying saucer mystery, it had its soothsayers, the grandest of those being Ray Palmer, co-founder of FATE, Flying Saucers from Other Worlds, Search, The Hidden World, and many others.
During Palmer's reign as editor of Amazing Stories and other 1940s Ziff-Davis pulps, an itinerant science-fiction writer named Richard Sharpe Shaver appeared seemingly out of nowhere to team up with Palmer and create what became known as the Shaver Mystery.
The Palmer-Shaver match was a double-barreled, lethal, and absolutely controversial combination. Palmer made Shaver's claims of an underworld civilization seem real, important, and timely.
"On December 27, 1949, Albert Einstein came out with a new theory of gravitation and electromagnetic fields," taunted Palmer. "Months before that, Mr. Shaver (minus the mathematical formula) told me the same thing! For the record, I want to say that if any credit for a new and revolutionary theory of gravity goes to anybody it should go to Richard S. Shaver, on the basis of prior publication."
Shaver claimed he owed all this astounding information to technologically advanced subworld beings that, like it or not, communicated with him. Palmer often pointed out that Shaver's stories alluded to UFOs long before Kenneth Arnold made his 1947 Mt. Rainier sighting.
Oddly enough, it wasn't the UFO controversy that angered a contingent of Palmer's readers as much as Shaver's claim that he had been a visitor to the fabled Inner Earth, and lived for a time in a hidden world populated in part by evil mutations associated with the demons and devils of old.
He called these evil creatures Dero, short for "detrimental robot." He dubbed the good inner-earthers "Tero" for "integrated robot." These "revelations" made Shaver's world view, to say the least, radically different from that of the average person. His writings predated the conspiracy literature of the 1960s to the present, and in teaming up with Palmer, he helped create a framework for ufology and its basic premises that exist to this day.
Characters that figured into the early days of the Shaver Mystery were evident as well on the grassy knoll in 1963 Dallas, weaving a sinister web of confirmation for Shaver Mystery buffs. The Feds kept tabs on Shaver and Palmer early on. FBI documents released to this writer through the Freedom of Information Act prove that the FBI was convinced the two men concocted "flying saucer hysteria" in 1947.
Agents pointed to Shaver and Palmer's claims of flying saucers, abductions, and hints of government cover-ups as the source of this hysteria. No student of the flying saucer/occult scene in post-war America was ignorant of the Shaver Mystery.