For Richard Sharpe Shaver, the long odyssey reportedly began in 1932 when he first overheard the secret plotting of the underground race of evil robots he would later call "deros." At the time, Shaver was a 25-year-old welder working in a Pennsylvania factory and it was while he was operating his welding equipment that he became aware that he was receiving telepathic messages. As Shaver would later explain, "some freak of its coil's field atunements" of the welding gun that he was using was making him unusually sensitive to these thought messages, first from the workers around him and then emanating from "caverns deep beneath the Earth." The thought messages he was receiving from underground seemed deeply malign and included torture sessions being conducted on human prisoners.
For whatever reason, whether it was his insistence that he was hearing these voices that got him fired or whether Shaver simply quit, he was soon out of a job and wandering the country as a vagrant for a while. Many of the details that he would later provide about his early life were hard to piece together considering how they were often contradictory. Though there is some evidence that he was briefly hospitalized for psychiatric problems, this didn't seem to keep him down for long.
In a letter that he would write to the science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories, Shaver claimed that he had learned of an ancient proto-language which he called "Mantong". This was the original language from which all human languages arose and Shaver insisted that the Mantong language, and the alphabet that it used, could decode secret messages in any word or phrase. The Amazing Stories editor at the time, Raymond A. Palmer, was intrigued enough to contact Shaver so that he could learn more.
In telling Palmer about himself, Shaver said that he had formerly been in the merchant navy but had been invalided out after smashing his ankle on board ship. This injury also left him unfit for the draft, which was why he was working in a war plant at the time of his first encounter with the underground civilization = sending him messages. At Palmer's request, Shaver wrote a novella which he titled "A Warning to Future Man." While Amazing Stories associate editor Howard Browne dismissed Shaver as a crackpot, Palmer decided to rewrite parts of it (he and Shaver would later dispute who had done most of the writing) and thus the "Shaver Mystery" was born.
In May 1944, Amazing Stories gave advance notice to readers stating that "For the first time in its history, Amazing Stories is preparing to present a true story. We aren't going to ask you to believe it. We are going to challenge you to disbelieve it." As Palmer built up the story in later issues, he insisted that the author, Richard Shaver, seemed completely sincere in the details he provided about the underground civilization and the ancient origins of Earth's civilizations.
Finally came the story itself in the March 1945 issue (published on December 8, 1944). Titled "I Remember Lemuria" (Palmer had changed the title), the story was set in Atlan, the first great civilization on Earth. According to Shaver, the Earth was once in a Golden Age during which the Sun radiated "integrant energy" which kept the early race of Titans who lived in Atlan eternally youthful and to grow to gigantic size. Unfortunately, the Sun eventually degenerated to its current state after losing its "carbon shell" 20,000 years go. This "disintegrant energy" being radiated by the Sun caused the Titans to "wither and die" and, as a result, they began to make preparations to save themselves. The early Titans also split into warring factions, the good Titans being led by their goddess/queen Vanue and the evil faction was led by a Titan named Zeit.
With the surface of the Earth being uninhabitable, the Titans built vast underground cities only to learn that they weren't even safe there. Eventually, they decided to evacuate the Earth completely 12,000 year ago, along with the simple humans they kept as slaves. The few Titans who stayed behind became known as "abandonderos" and they further split into "teros" (integrative robots) and "deros" (detrimental robots). The teros remained on the surface where they became the ancestors of modern humans while the deros found their way into the underground cities and the advanced machinery the Titans had left behind.
Are you with me so far? Good.
While the deros had all of this advanced machinery, they were unable to understand it except in rudimentary fashion. Among these devices were the "telaug" (telepathic augmenter) and a disintegrating ray, both of which the deros have been using ever since to cause havoc for the descendants of their ancient enemies living on the surface. Not only have the deros used this technology to cause disasters throughout our history, but they are also the basis for all the legends of ghosts, devils and gremlins. As for their physical appearance, Shaver described them as looking like "fearfully anemic jitterbugs, small with pipestem arms and legs, pot bellies, huge protruding eyes and wide, idiotically grinning mouths." Many of the rich and powerful families around the world have been replaced by dero puppets to ensure their control over society. All UFO sightings and stories of mysterious disappearances are due to the periodic visits deros make to the Earth's surface during which they kidnap humans to take underground to be tortured and eaten.
And what torture it was! As Shaver (ably assisted by Palmer) related, dero brains were coated with disintegrant energy which made them especially prone to sadism. With thousands of humans being abducted each year to serve as playthings, slaves, and eventually as food, the deros reportedly turned torture into an art form. One dero pastime involves disassembling victims and then leaving them alive as living decorations. Women are either given "sex stim" and transformed into living furniture so that deros can watch them undulate or else given growth hormones to enlarge their breasts so that they can be milked like cows to provide the deros with beverages. Considering that this was back in the 1940s, you can imagine the impact this had on sex-starved "nerds" in post-WWII society. If anything, the stories that got written were much tamer than what Shaver originally envisioned (Palmer had to leave out many of the racier details for fear of 1940s censorship).
According to Shaver, he had been in prison for vagrancy when he had attempted to communicate telepathically in an attempt at escaping with the help of the mysterious underground aliens he had communicated with in the past. As he would later describe in an interview:
What happened is a girl comes leading the turnkey who acts like he is walking in his sleep. He turns the key and lets me go. She leads us both down the hall to the outer door, which he again opens and we both walked out. I followed her with somewhat mixed and numb sensations for about a mile in the night outside of the town. Then we walked into a hill–a section of the hill closed down behind us very like ‘Sesame, close!’, and we were in. A lot of stairways and slopes and dim light, and all the time I knew ‘she’ was just a sort of transparent projection, but you had to get close to see the difference from real. And so I was in. I spent a day or so talking with them, and they filled me in on the whole complex situation inherited from our misguided forebears who kept the secret so well that today nobody knows anything about their past. Between us we decided something should be done about the situation of ignorance. I was there for only twenty-four hours or so, when I walked out and went on my way. Later I began to write fiction about it.
The woman was part of an underground tero movement fighting against the evil dero overlords who had tried to enslave them. They also fought against "freebooters" who were associated with criminal gangs on the surface and who aided the deros in kidnapping people and keeping dero activities concealed. What impressed people most about what Shaver was saying about his stories was his absolution conviction that what he wrote was real. If his story seemed inconsistent at times he insisted that this was due to the effects of dero "cutting rays" which were used to lobotomize people who had learned too much about them. How Shaver was able to escape these all-powerful deros to write about them was left up to the imagination.
For Palmer and Shaver, it was a marriage made in Heaven. Palmer supplied the editorial savvy (and much of the writing ability) while Shaver supplied the fantastic stories that made The Shaver Mystery possible. And, for it while, it worked spectacularly well. Amazing Stories was more popular than it had ever been before with issues flying off the newsstands.