Richard Sharpe Shaver

It’s time for the obscure sci/fi author of the day:

Richard Sharpe Shaver (b. October 8, 1907 Berwick, Pennsylvania, d. 1975 Summit, Arkansas) was an American writer and artist.

He achieved notoriety in the years following World War II as the author of controversial stories which were printed in science fiction magazines, (primarily Amazing Stories), wherein Shaver claimed that he had personal experience with a sinister, ancient civilization that lived in caverns under the earth. The controversy stemmed from the fact that Shaver and his editor/publisher Ray Palmer claimed Shaver’s writings, while presented in the guise of fiction, were fundamentally true. Shaver’s stories were promoted by Palmer as “The Shaver Mystery”.

Very little is reliably known about Shaver’s early life. He claimed to have worked at an automobile factory, where, in 1932, odd things began to occur. As Bruce Lanier Wright notes, Shaver “began to notice that one of the welding guns on his job site, ‘by some freak of its coil’s field atunements,’ was allowing him to read the thoughts of the men working around him. More frighteningly, he then picked up the telepathic record of a torture session conducted by malign entities in caverns deep within the earth.” (According to Barkun, Shaver offered inconsistent accounts of how he first learned of the hidden cavern world, but that the assembly line story was the “most common version.”[1] Shaver said he then quit his job, and became a hobo for a period.

Barkun writes that “Shaver was hospitalized briefly for psychiatric problems in 1934, but there does not appear to have been a clear diagnosis.”[2] Barkun notes that afterwards, Shaver’s whereabouts and actions cannot be reliably traced until the early 1940s.

In 1943, Shaver wrote a letter to Amazing. He claimed to have uncovered an ancient language he called “Mantong,” a sort of Proto-World language which was the source of all Earthly language. In Mantong, each sound had a hidden meaning, and by applying this formula to any word in any language, one could decode a secret meaning to any word, name or phrase. Palmer applied the Mantong formula to several words, and said he realized Shaver was on to something.