Notes From the Underground

2006 Richard Toronto
Permission to use any part of this website is reserved by the editor

NorCal, Summer 2006

"Ray Palmer's Proof"

While researching a couple articles for this year's update, we dug into the lettercols of some 1946-47 AMAZING STORIES magazines. As we read them, the more we wondered: are ANY of these letters for REAL? Sheesh! Have you ever read the lettercols? Try it sometime, and you'll see what we mean.

No, no, we're not accusing editor Ray Palmer of writing them (as he is rumored to have written the Shaver stories), but we think he was responsible for them, and we'll tell you why.

When Palmer brought the Shaver Mystery to center stage in 1945, he challenged his readers to a duel. "Here is the greatest TRUE story EVER TOLD," he huffed n puffed, "and we're going to PROVE it." So, like a mini Rocky Balboa, RAP defended the SM against all challengers.

But the crazy thing was ... his proof was the letters he published in AMAZING's "Discussions" section..."where the readers have their say." The letters, oozing with mind-numbing, horrific personal experiences corroborating Shaver's worldview, flooded Palmer's office, according to him. He loved to remind us that he got sackfuls of these letters, these "proofs," every month.

Some readers blasted this drama as dangerous meddling with the Dark Side; others fumed it was a boatload of crap; yet some went to great lengths to confirm it. Of the latter group, many were putting him on. They created hoaxes to get his goat...challenging the feisty editor to see through their prank ... was it the real deal or was it pure baloney? RAP was usually smart enough to hedge his bets. "OK, mister, let's see your proof," he'd snort. Then again, he might take a letter and run with it, no matter how crazy it sounded.

Don't forget that a big part of AMAZING's target audience in those days was teenage boys ... sci-fi fen who were not unlike teen video gamers of today. Theirs is a nortorious demographic of pranksters, and we personally know of one of them.

Vaughn Greene was a spunky kid of 15 in 1945 San Francisco when he and some school pals discovered the Shaver Mystery. For them, the Shaver-Palmer hoopla was just too hard to resist, and soon VG and his pals were fomenting plans to not only "investigate" the Mystery, but also test Ray Palmer's editorial skills as the "defender."

San Francisco, even then, was a hotbed of flying saucer investigators, spiritualists and science fiction readers. Avidly devouring the Mystery as fast as RAP and Shaver could crank it out, VG determined to make it his mission to pull the wool over RAP's eyes.

"I was a teenager then, in 1945," VG said in a Feb. 27, 2006 telephone interview. "I had a good friend who was artistic, and he'd buy AMAZING STORIES magazines, only because he wanted the covers. That's how I got into Shaver."

As he now admits, his role in the letters section of AMAZING is not something he is proud of, but back in post-war San Francisco, he and his buddies were highly critical of the Shaver Mystery and Ray Palmer.

"Anyway, we tried to put over hoaxes on Palmer," VG continued. "And I am still embarrassed about it. I later became convinced [Shaver] was onto something."

The first letter, signed by "VG," appeared in the Discussions section of the May 1946 issue. In it, VG told RAP (among other things) that he was a deep sea diver by trade (he was still in high school), and that he and his cousin located a submerged rocket ship at sea and took photos to prove it (during the War, VG had heard rumors of a submerged Nazi sub off the California coast, but not a spaceship).

Now, these claims would have faded into nothingness had it not been for a second letter some months later. In it, "VG" came out as Vaughn Greene of 17th Street, San Francisco. This time, he spit in RAP's eye, admitting the entire letter was a hoax ... that he had pulled a fast one on AMAZING readers and staff. For this, he got a scathing reply from the "defender" himself.

"After all, YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS A HOAXER, NOT US!" RAP screeched.

The impact these lettercols had on people is one of the little discussed aspects of the Shaver Mystery. History's focus narrows in time to bullet points. In our age of sound bites, who bothers to read 60 year-old pulp zine lettercols?

Why would you? If you did, you might find out that Norm Kossuth was receiving messages from a dero named Steve...

"Some of the 'answers' I get are so full of foul language and lies that they must be from dero," Kossuth explained in the January 1947 AMAZING. " These sources have given me 'cave' entrance locations with 'warnings' plus the plans for a 'radiophone' and a 'degravitator.' The enclosed sketch came from a dero named Steve in Detroit, or rather, from under Detroit.

"'Steve' dero says there are a few tero in this section, but I've seen no evidence of them. I have been stung by a few rays though (from the dero). Not a pleasant experience!"

Like VG, Kossuth went on to write other letters to RAP, with just as many fantastic claims. In time, this dero named Steve took on a life of his own. He began sending threatening letters to AMAZING's readers, signing them "Steve Volto Dero." He (it?) became a sinister figure. We won't go into detail on these lettercol "spin-offs" (like "deroPan of Dero") who became minor celebs within the Shaver Mystery controversy. That's for future Shavertron articles.

Suffice to say that plenty of odd characters with new, fantastic controversies emerged from those lettercols, bouying the Mystery on its journey down the river of public opinion. Another such character was Ed John, and VG decided to check him out in person (read House at 475 Fell Street). We have VG to thank for his recollections of Ed John, which helped bring this story to life.

House at 475 Fell Street (a homage to John Hatfield Hart's HOUSE AT 309 RIDGE ROAD) is a minor inquiry into Ed John -- inventor, Shaver Mystery buff, occultist and possibly ... haoxer? We call this a minor inquiry because so little is known about EJ. Yet, he caused an uproar among Shaver Mystery buffs when he sent a letter to RAP that was subsequently published in the May 1946 ish.

Response from readers was immediate and intense. Was Ed John for real? Don't forget that a Fred L. Crisman, of Maury Island UFO/JFK assasination fame, was sending hoax letters to RAP at the same time EJ's letter appeared. It was a wild and wooly free-for-all in RAP's lettercols, and we hope to bring back just a taste of it in 2006.

As for other articles in this year's update ... we suspect there are still plenty of things Shaver Mystery fen don't know about Shaver -- like kissing. Do you know why kissing was invented? Shaver knew, and it's revealed in the Shaver-illustrated "Faces of the Real Gods" in this ish. Did you know that the man in the moon looks like Cyrano DeBergerac kissing a woman? Hmmm.

Also check out DO NOT BUILD THIS! which attempts to dig up the dirt on the Dero's Telaug. But be forewarned. It could force you to move from your present living space. Be sure to study the further RESEARCH at the end of this piece, truth seekers!

We have also added loads of links throughout the articles in this update. If you click on them, you will find scans of interesting documents relating to each article.

If you need Shaver material to flesh out your Mystery archive, go to The Shaver Archive to purchase some of Shaver's lesser-known manuscripts. Don't forget there are a few original back issues of Shavertron still available. There's even a book review section this year, with some new Shaver pubs!

We wish to thank Jim Pobst and The Shaver Archive of Canada for help with this ish. Our spotlighted "Shaver Mystery Icon," W. G. Bliss, with his unswerving support, has kept this publication alive; he is greatly appreciated for that.

Special Note: If you would like to join the Shavertron Forum discussion group, go to Yahoo!groups

Sign up as a Yahoo!groups member, then subscribe to the group by looking us up.

Shavertron history for new readers:

The original Shavertron was a fanzine devoted to the Shaver Mystery and the life and times of Richard Sharpe Shaver and his editor, Ray Palmer. This leaves the playing field wide open since the Shaver Mystery is rife with ufos, a race of evil weirdos living inside the earth, mind control, a high-tech Elder Race pre-dating our history, abductions, conspiracies and, of course, the sci-fi pulp zine scene of the late 1940s.

The "mystery" began in a 1945 issue of AMAZING STORIES magazine with an article titled "A Warning to Future Man." Editor Ray Palmer and writer Richard Shaver collaborated from there to bring Shaver's unusual cosmology into the world of sci-fi pulp zine literature.

The Shaver Mystery gasped its last breath when Shaver and Palmer died within two years of each other in the mid-1970s. We stopped publishing Shavertron in 1992 since most Shaver Mystery readers were gone (mostly dead) with few leftovers to take their place.

Writers like Jim Pobst, Brian Tucker, Doug Skinner, Tal, Timothy Greene (Mr. UFO) Beckley , Mary Martin (The Hollow Hassle), Branton, Bill Bliss and Gene Steinberg did what they could to keep the Mystery going.

The scene eventually merged with watercooler chit-chat about UFOs, abductions and government conspiracies, all of which were a big part of the Shaver Mystery. Back in 1947, the Shaver Mystery was a bizarre topic of household conversation (probably at cocktail time). Today it's obscure sci-fi history...though it is now being rediscovered by a new circle of oddity seekers and outsider art buffs.

If you're feeling adventuresome, write an article on your S'Mystery research. Post something to the discussion group. The Shaver Mystery is dead ... long live the Shaver Mystery.

Issue #21