Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Barker and Bender on the Case-Part Four

The first monster of the flying saucer era came to Flatwoods, West Virginia, on the evening of Friday, September 12, 1952. Witnesses to the event were a beautician named Kathleen May, a seventeen-year-old national guardsman, Eugene Lemon, and five boys aged ten to fourteen. Oddly enough, one of the boys was named Shaver. What they saw above Flatwoods gave them the fright of their lives. Upon encountering the monster, they turned and ran, down the hill and into town, scared, shaken, and hysterical. One or two of the boys were so badly disturbed that they vomited as night went on and as word of what they had seen spread into Flatwoods, across Braxton County, and onto a darkened continent.

On Monday morning, twenty-seven-year-old Gray Barker was having breakfast in a restaurant practically just up the road from Flatwoods when he read of the encounter with the "Braxton Monster." The newspaper spread out in front of him variously described it as a "smelly boogie-man," a "half-man, half-dragon," and a "fire-breathing monster." Kathleen May was quoted as saying, "It looked worse than Frankenstein." She added, "It couldn't have been human." Although Barker was working in Clarksburg, West Virginia, as a booking agent for movie theaters, he originally hailed from Braxton County. His birthplace is supposed to have been Riffle, located about eight miles northwest of Flatwoods as the saucer flies. (He was counted in the censuses of 1930 and 1940 in the Otter District, just outside of Gassaway to the south.) Riffle wasn't much more than a riffle, though, and so, when Barker later wrote about the Flatwoods Monster, he called the place where it had come to earth "my home town."

At a time when people still sent telegrams, Barker contacted Fate magazine by wire, asking if it was interested in the story. Raymond Palmer was still editor at the time. Whether it was he or someone else who wired back, Gray Barker had his reply:
STORY PROBABLY HOAX BUT INVESTIGATE RIGOROUSLY. DON'T SPECULATE SIMPLY STATE FACTS. 3 OR 4 PICS UP TO 3000 WORDS MONDAY DEADLINE.
That Friday after work, Barker drove the fifty-five or sixty miles from Clarksburg to Flatwoods to begin his investigation. While in town, he met another investigator, the zoologist and explorer Ivan T. Sanderson, who, as he himself admitted later, also thought the story was a hoax. Both men came away from Braxton County that weekend convinced that the witnesses had really seen and experienced something extraordinary and that their sighting of the Flatwoods Monster was no hoax.

Sanderson got his story in print first. The Pittsburgh Press, for example, ran it on Wednesday, September 24, under the title "Saucer Reports Valid, Expert Says" (page 14). Gray Barker, on the other hand, had to wait until the January 1953 issue of Fate before his account, entitled "The Monster and the Saucer," saw the light of day. In the meantime, he had introduced himself by mail to Albert K. Bender of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the two had begun corresponding and even talking by telephone. After that, things moved pretty quickly towards a strange and mysterious climax and denouement.

To be continued . . .

The drawings are undated, but these may have been the first depictions of what became known as the Flatwoods Monster. The sources are authoritative: they were three of the boys who saw the monster in its one and only visit to Earth. (From The Encyclopedia of UFOs, Ronald D. Story, ed., (1980), page 128.

Here is the first or one of the first attempts to depict the actual scene that took place on the hill above Flatwoods. The monster and the witnesses are here, as is the fence, the flashlight, and the rural setting. Mrs. May is missing, though. So are the oak tree and the dog. (Maybe he has already hightailed it home.) Also missing is the glowing light or grounded saucer some of the witnesses saw in the distance. The artist was Dick Bothwell, a columnist and cartoonist with the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times. The source is the Times for October 11, 1952, page 11.

The sighting of the Flatwoods Monster opened a door for Grayson Roscoe Barker (1925-1984) of Braxton County and Clarksburg, West Virginia. Later describing himself as "a frustrated writer," he jumped on the chance to get his name in print again. (I don't know where or when he was first published.) His article "The Monster and the Saucer" appeared in Fate in January 1953, topped with a drawing of the monster, done by an unknown artist. By the end of the 1950s, Barker was one of the most well-known writers on and investigators of flying saucers in America. He also began publishing his own newsletter, The Saucerian, and he created his own publishing company, Saucerian Press or Saucerian Books, based in Clarksburg. In 1956, he published his own book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (from which much of the information here is drawn). His title only hints at the mystery and rampant paranoia of the flying saucer era.

On Friday, September 19, 1952, the day on which Gray Barker arrived in Flatwoods to begin investigating the incident, Kathleen May, Gene Lemon, and newspaper publisher A. Lee Stewart, Jr., were in New York City to appear on the NBC-TV program We the People. As this undated newspaper item says, an artist in New York drew the monster from eyewitness descriptions. That unidentified artist was probably the first to have a published depiction of the Flatwoods Monster, and this is the image we now have of it, despite all attempts at revision or reinterpretation. Source: the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette.

Gray Barker, who admitted that he was no artist, seems to have taken the New York artist's drawing and superimposed it on a photographic background. The result is pretty creepy, I think. I don't know whether the background photo was taken at the actual location or not, but there was a large white oak tree along the edge of the field in which the witnesses walked, and the monster floated under one of its branches, as shown here. The tree has since died, but there may still be a rotten stub or stump in its place. I think it deserves a historical marker.

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, May 20, 2018

From Palmer and Shaver to Barker and Bender

If it weren't for Ray Palmer, we wouldn't have had a Shaver Mystery, and if it weren't for him, we probably wouldn't have flying saucers. You can curse him or praise him, but you sure can't ignore him.

Palmer didn't invent either of these belief systems, but he knew a good thing when he saw it, and he was likely unmatched among science fiction editors in bringing fringe ideas into the real world. Perhaps thwarted in his visions and ambitions while at Ziff-Davis of Chicago, Palmer founded, with Curtis Fuller (1912-1991), Clark Publishing Company sometime in 1947. Venture Press, also founded or co-founded by Palmer, may have been a forerunner to Clark Publishing Company. On the other hand, the two may have run side by side, with Fuller and Palmer at the helm of one and Palmer alone on the other. In any case, in 1948, Venture Press published in hardback I Remember Lemuria! by Richard S. Shaver, while Fuller and Palmer put out the first issue of Fate under their jointly held Clark Publishing Company. The cover story in that inaugural issue of Fate was of course Kenneth Arnold's account of his sighting of flying saucers over Mount Rainier on June 24, 1947. That was the same month--June 1947--in which Ziff-Davis put out an all-Shaver Mystery issue of Amazing Stories under the editorship of Ray Palmer. It's funny how all of these things fit together.

Palmer was out the door at Ziff-Davis at the end of 1949. The last issues of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures in which he was credited as editor were those of December 1949. By then he was already working as editor of a new digest-sized magazine, Other Worlds Science Stories, first issued in November 1949. Put out by Clark Publishing Company, then by Palmer Publications, Other Worlds printed both fiction and non-fiction (plus pseudo-fiction and pseudo-non-fiction) in its eight years in print. Just before giving up the ghost in 1957, Other Worlds Science Stories became Flying Saucers from Other Worlds.

It was through the letters column of Other Worlds that Gray Barker and Albert K. Bender met in 1952-1953, and it was through their meeting that a new and bizarre chapter in the history of science (non-)fiction (or science-pseudo-non-fiction) began. It occurs to me now that in writing about the Flatwoods Monster, Men in Black (MIB), the Shaver Mystery, secret bases in Antarctica, and people who knew too much about flying saucers, Barker played the Palmer role to Bender's mad Shaver.

To be continued . . . 

Other Worlds Science Stories, November 1949, the first issue, with a cover story by Richard S. Shaver called "The Fall of Lemuria." In hindsight, the title can be seen as ironic, for the Shaver Mystery was, as we now know, in decline by the end of the 1940s. Very nearly banished from the Ziff-Davis titles, it would survive another few years under the wing of Raymond A. Palmer. The cover art is by Malcolm H. Smith.

Shaver's name next appeared on the cover of the March 1950 issue of Other Worlds. I don't know what's going on in this picture, but it looks like it involves a giant red rubber band. (The slingshot effect maybe?) The cover artist was once again Malcolm H. Smith. 

The September 1950 issue, with cover art by Smith, included a story by Shaver under his pseudonym Peter Dexter.

Shaver's name reappeared on the cover for October 1951, but only his surname and only at the bottom of the page. Far more prominent were the title and author's byline of the presumed cover story, "I Flew in a Flying Saucer." The confessional title of Captain A.V.G.'s two-part serial evokes the equally confessional "I Remember Lemuria!" from Amazing Stories from six years before. The cover artist by the way was H.W. McCauley.

This issue of Other Worlds was probably on the newsstand in September 1951, the same month in which The Day the Earth Stood Still was released. (The exact date of release was September 18.) I can't say for sure, but that film may have been the first to show an alien abduction. A more sensationalistic title could easily have been I Was Abducted by an Alien from Outer Space or I Went Aboard a Flying Saucer. Keep in mind, all of this took place several months before George Adamski first claimed to have gone aboard a flying saucer. In other words, it happened in science fiction (or science-pseudo-non-fiction) before anyone made any claims that it had happened to him or her in real life. This trend continued throughout the prime years of the flying saucer era, from 1947 to 1968 (or 1973): ordinary people imagined little if anything before it was imagined by authors and artists of science fiction. 

Other Worlds Science Stories, January 1952, with more flying saucer content, this time concerning Kenneth Arnold, the original witness. The cover art, again by McCauley, was reused, I think, for a cover of Fate magazine. Or maybe it was on the front of Fate first.

Other Worlds Science Stories, March 1952, with cover art by Malcolm H. Smith. This was the first issue of the magazine to show flying saucer-like craft on the cover, this despite Palmer's obvious enthusiasm for the subject.

Other Worlds got along for many issues with good cover art, not only by Malcolm H. Smith--the artist here--and H.W. McCauley but also by Hannes Bok and others. Smith's cover, from April 1952, is one of my favorites. This is the kind of image that made people love science fiction during the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. The interior of the ship in the foreground reminds me of the the tomb-lid at Palenque, which some people believe shows a Mayan king at the controls of a rocketship.

Shaver's byline was back on the cover of Other Worlds in July 1952. The artist was Malcolm H. Smith.

Other Worlds Science Stories, August 1952, with cover art by Smith. This was the last issue of the magazine to appear before the sighting of the Flatwoods Monster, which took place on September 12, 1952. (There was no September 1952 issue of Other Worlds.) I doubt that any of the witnesses saw this image, but the men shown here encased in their machines bear a vague resemblance to the monster, especially a later interpretation that says that what Kathleen May and the boys of Flatwoods saw was not an alien itself but an alien riding inside a kind of machine. I would refer you to the theories and artwork of Frank Feschino, Jr.

Albert K. Bender's letter to the world, informing it of the creation of the International Flying Saucer Bureau, appeared in the December issue of Other Worlds. Gray Barker down in West Virginia read that letter and sent one of his own to Bender in his Connecticut home, thereby introducing himself. For a year or more prior to writing, the two men must have read a lot of flying saucer content in Other Worlds: fiction, non-fiction, and even advertisements. Both had been interested in science fiction, flying saucers, and--significantly--the Shaver Mystery for years prior to that. Their enthusiasm must have been high at the end of 1952, and each must have felt he had found in the other a kindred spirit. This remarkable cover, by Malcolm H. Smith, shows what might be called an influencing machine at work. See the last image below for another machine of this type.

This cover of Other Worlds, from January 1953, has nothing to do with anything, but I couldn't pass it by. The artist was H.W. McCauley. You might notice an influence on Frank Frazetta. I thought of a different image by Dave Stevens . . .

. . . proof that there is nothing new under the sun (or moon).

Something happened to Other Worlds Science Stories in 1953. Although Bea Mahaffey, a science fiction fan out of Cincinnati, came on to assist Raymond Palmer, the magazine disappeared after its July issue that year and didn't reappear until May 1955. Palmer and Mahaffey were still editors then, but the magazine was now published by Palmer Publications, Inc. I suspect this was all tied up with Palmer's selling his interest in Fate (presumably also in Clark Publishing Company) to Curtis and Mary Fuller. That may have left him with Other Worlds Science Stories, but the magazine seems to have taken a step down after the deal. That's Virgil Finlay art on the cover and you can't go wrong there, but it was old art even then and reproduced here in black and white instead of the original color. The design and maybe the paper and printing were cheaper, too. After seventeen years as an editor of science fiction magazines, Palmer seems to have gone into decline. 

Other Worlds Science Stories, May 1957, with cover art by an unknown artist, colored and recycled from a previous appearance on the cover of a Shaver Mystery-related title. I have wondered about this image before. It may have been done originally by Steele Savage, but I can't say for sure, and I don't think that anyone can at this point. In any case, its use demonstrates, I think, that Other Worlds and Palmer himself were falling on hard times. 

Then, in June 1957, Palmer issued Flying Saucers from Other Worlds, an unnumbered issue that may or may not have been a continuation of Other Worlds Science Stories. The occasion was no doubt the tenth anniversary of the first sighting of flying saucers. The cover art, if you can call it that, is pretty horrendous, a collage of photographic images and blobs of ink. I suspect that the moiré effects are in the scanning rather than in the original, but you never know.

Palmer returned to the Other Worlds format in July 1957 but retitled his magazine Flying Saucers from Other Worlds. The cover art, by Malcolm Smith, was recycled from the December 1951 issue. Inside was the story "Quest of Brail" by Richard S. Shaver, also recycled, from Amazing Stories, December 1945, that golden year of the Shaver Mystery. This was the penultimate issue of Other Worlds. The magazine came to an end in October 1957.

Finally, in July 1958, Shaver and his mystery had their last gasp in an American science fiction magazine when Fantastic published a special Shaver Mystery issue. Thereafter, he and it were relegated to the pages of magazines on the fringes, magazines published by Palmer and by Shaver himself. To be fair to both men, science fiction pulps were coming to an end, too, in the late '50s. I have read that the last pulp magazine of this genre was published in 1958 and the last pulp magazine of any genre in the early 1970s. By then, the flying saucer era had reached its end, too, while Shaver and Palmer were in the last decade of their lives. In the meantime, Gray Barker and Albert K. Bender kept the memory of the Shaver Mystery alive, at least for a while.

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shaver and Lovecraft

Richard S. Shaver (1907-1975) and H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) had little in common. They were separated by a generation as well as by a vast chasm of culture. Lovecraft came from an old and at one time well-off New England family. He was both a WASP and a Tory. Shaver was of mixed descent, from what Lovecraft might have called a "mongrel race" of German, French, and other European stock. His family were working class and lived in rural or small-town Pennsylvania. Shaver himself became involved in leftwing politics during the early 1930s.

Shaver was of course mentally ill, probably a paranoid schizophrenic. Despite psychological issues of his own--he suffered, I think, from anxiety and depression at some point--Lovecraft was more well balanced and sane. Nonetheless, he didn't work outside the home and was not a highly functioning person. In contrast, Richard Shaver worked for a living, taking various jobs over the years, including in an auto body shop and at a steel mill. Shaver was also an artist and a publisher of his own works. When Lovecraft died in the spring of 1937 (essentially by starving himself), Shaver was most likely confined to a mental hospital in Michigan.

Coincidentally, both Lovecraft and Shaver married Russian-born Jewish women. Both were older than their husbands. Lovecraft's wife, Sonia Haft Greene (1883-1972), was seven years his senior. They lived as husband and wife for two years, from their wedding on March 3, 1924, until Lovecraft abandoned their marriage by returning to Providence on April 17, 1926 (ninety-two years ago today). Oddly, Lovecraft died the day before his wife's fifty-fourth birthday. (This is assuming that Sonia was indeed born on March 16 by the New Style calendar.) She was by then in a faraway place.

Shaver's first wife was Sophie Gurvitch (1903-1936), who was four years older than he. They were wed on June 29, 1932, in Detroit and also lived together as husband and wife for two years until she had Shaver committed to a mental hospital on August 17, 1934. Their marriage ended with Sophie's death from accidental electrocution on December 29, 1936. Unlike the Lovecrafts, the Shavers had a child, a daughter who I like to think is still with us.

Richard Shaver is supposed to have read pulp fiction and to have been an early reader of Amazing Stories, which first came out in April 1926. (It was probably on the newsstands at the time Lovecraft took the train back home to stay.) Shaver is also supposed to have been influenced in his creation of the people of the caverns by A. Merritt, especially by Merritt's story "The Moon Pool," published in All-Story in its issue of June 22, 1918. 

Lovecraft could never have read Shaver (unless it was Shaver's brother Taylor V. Shaver, who had stories in Boys' Life and The Open Road for Boys in the 1920s), as Shaver was not yet a published author when Lovecraft died. Shaver read Lovecraft, though. Of that we can be sure, for in June 1946, the fanzine Vampire published Shaver's essay "Lovecraft and the Deros" (pp. 14-15). I don't know how this essay reads, but luckily Steve Walker, a librarian at the University of Central Missouri, has extracted a couple of points and quotes from it on the website The Limbonaut: A Correlation of Lovecraftian Contents (here). Mr. Walker writes:
The article ["Lovecraft and the Deros"] concerns Shaver's beliefs. He maintained that an actual artificial underworld existed. There's only one significant paragraph (p. 15) [regarding H.P. Lovecraft]. It concerned "The Mound," [and in it, Shaver wrote:] "as good a picture of the underworld as I ever read. Take off about twenty per cent for Lovecraft's weird ideation and ornamentation--and you have an exact picture of the underworld--except for the radioactive light." He also states[:] "Our race was not the only race on earth; there were greater races and greater times."
"The Mound" was published in abridged form in Weird Tales in November 1940 under the byline of Zealia B. Bishop. Only the original concept was hers, however: Lovecraft ghost-wrote his longer novella based on her proposal. Like the Shaver Mystery and "The Moon Pool," "The Mound" is a story of a subterranean civilization. Both Shaver and Lovecraft based a good deal of their work on the concept that beings from outer space came to Earth eons ago and that at least some of these beings are hostile towards humanity.

So in writing "Lovecraft and the Deros" was Richard Shaver claiming that "The Mound" is somehow a piece of non-fiction? Was he really that incapable of discerning fact from fiction, reality from delusion? Did he believe that Lovecraft shared his knowledge of or experience with the people of the caverns? And was he claiming that Lovecraft's work was continuous with his own or was even subsumed in his own? Beyond that, was Shaver claiming that he, as the expert on the tero and dero, was uniquely qualified to state what in fiction (or non-fiction or pseudo-fiction) is accurate and what is not, or what is part of the canon of his belief and what is not? That's what it seems to me, and I find that extraordinary. But then a man's madness--any man's madness--might extend without limits, and in his search for connections, meaning, and significance, he might very well run himself ragged, never stopping in his relentless pursuit of inner peace.  

Next: A Return to Barker and Bender on the Case

Fantastic Novels Magazine, September 1948, with cover art by Lawrence. "The Conquest of the Moon Pool," originally from 1919, was a sequel to "The Moon Pool." This issue of the magazine came out while the Shaver Mystery was still big. It seems likely to me that those reading it would have noticed its similarities to the Shaver Mystery. But did Shaver ever comment on A. Merritt the way he did on Lovecraft?

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Shaver Mystery-Part Ten

Shaver vs. Lovecraft

Consider:

During the pulp fiction era of the twentieth century, an American author of science fiction and fantasy stories created a world in which beings from the distant stars long ago came to Earth and now live in its hidden places. These beings look upon us as savages, or as like insects, or even as food. The author in question wrote numerous stories based on this premise and created what might be called a literary cycle. Other authors contributed stories to this cycle as well, and it generated great interest and enthusiasm among readers and fans. The author's editor helped formalize his creation and even gave it a name. We still use that name today, long after the author's death. The author's name was of course--no, not H.P. Lovecraft--it was Richard S. Shaver. And this is where a problem begins.

Ask a fan of science fiction and fantasy today about Richard Shaver and you will likely get back either puzzlement because that fan doesn't know who Shaver was or disgust that you have even brought up his name. That disgust goes back to the 1940s, the heyday of the Shaver Mystery. I suspect that in addition to disgust, there was a fair amount of shame and embarrassment among science fiction and fantasy fans of the 1940s. Finally, after the war, science fictional ideas could be taken seriously by the larger world as they were now becoming a reality in the form of jets, rockets, radar, missiles, and, greatest of all, atomic power. With all of the scientific progress being made, spaceflight could be just a few years off. Bob McKenna, one of Richard Shaver's collaborators, even said so. According to an article from 1946, "Bob says that within the next ten years somebody--maybe you--will reach the moon." (1) Then here came Richard Shaver--Raymond Palmer, too--with their stories of dero and tero. These men were wrecking science fiction, threatening the sanity of readers, holding up the entire genre to ridicule by the general public. When Life featured science fiction in its issue of May 21, 1951, it gave a good deal of space to the Shaver Mystery (Dianetics, too), calling it "the Shaver hoax." (2) The article, by music critic and writer Winthrop Sargeant, is balanced, but it could only have enforced in the minds of everyday readers that science fiction, which had previously existed on the comic-strip level of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, had risen--or fallen--to that of hoaxes and pseudoscientific nonsense. No wonder science fiction fans were so angry.

I say were, but are--the present--might be the more accurate tense. Consider again my first paragraph above: H.P. Lovecraft created a world in which beings from outer space came to Earth in the immemorial past and still have it out for us. Lovecraft wrote numerous stories based on this premise. He even had a jocular name for it all, calling it "Yog Sothothery." Lovecraft's interpretation was loose. After he died, August Derleth tightened it up and gave it a name, the Cthulhu Mythos. (He might have Catholicized it, too.) We still use that name and everybody who's anybody knows what you're talking about when you say "Cthulhu Mythos." If you look up Lovecraft on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb), you will find a label under "Fiction Series" for the Cthulhu Mythos, and under that a list of stories. If you go to the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, you will find a stand-alone entry on the Cthulhu Mythos as well. Yet neither of these things is true about the Shaver Mystery. If you do a search in the Encyclopedia for the Shaver Mystery, you will simply be referred to other entries. And as far as I can tell, the Shaver Mystery as a fiction series is nowhere to be found in the ISFDb. In other words, if you want to know the titles of the stories in that series, or who wrote them, or how many stories there were in all, you will come up empty, this from two of the best online sources of information on fantasy and science fiction.

None of this is to say that the Shaver Mystery is on the same level as the Cthulhu Mythos. I haven't read any Shaver Mystery stories, but if they were in any way compelling, they would still be read today instead of being ignored and forgotten. In addition, neither Lovecraft nor anyone else ever claimed that his stories were based in fact. There are no psychotic delusions when it comes to the Cthulhu Mythos. Unlike the Shaver Mystery, it's something fun, engaging, and entertaining. But in the interest of a more scholarly study of science fiction, we ought to be able to look at the Shaver Mystery with some objectivity instead of with the seventy-year-old shame, disgust, embarrassment, and anger of the offended fanboy. I can understand that it happened then, but no one now has any great stake in being either for or against the Shaver Mystery because there is nothing at stake. Can't we just talk about it?

Part of the problem, too, is that so many observers dismiss the Shaver Mystery as a mere hoax and without any consideration of its possible deeper meaning. (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls it "hoax-like.") I don't think the Shaver Mystery was a hoax and the reason is simple: when it comes to their delusions, mentally ill people don't know what a hoax is, let alone how to pull one off. Well, you might say, maybe Raymond Palmer was the hoaxer. Maybe so, but that doesn't take into consideration that Palmer seems to have believed that Shaver was telling the truth, or at least some part of the truth. Palmer, a Fortean and something of an occultist, described his own experiences that seem to have borne out Shaver's claims about voices and forces beyond ordinary human ken. To say that the Shaver Mystery was a hoax is beside the point, and to dismiss the Shaver Mystery as a hoax is to avoid getting at a deeper issue, just as the Condon Committee dismissed flying saucers in 1968 as being unworthy of further study. That may have been true in Edward Condon's view. Like Sheldon Cooper, Condon was a physicist. He wasn't interested in any field that is "all about yucky, squishy things." ("Yucky and squishy"--sounds like a description of Cthulhu.) I think there is something to be gained by studying flying saucers, not in a hard-science sense, but in the sense of a reaching a greater understanding of human psychology, perception, spirituality, belief, etc. Likewise, I think we should be able to study the Shaver Mystery not only as a part of the history of science fiction (it's there--get used to it) but also as an example of how both gnosis and psychosis come to be a part of culture.

To dismiss the Shaver Mystery because of its wackiness also doesn't take into account the general wackiness of so many ideas that are so commonly and unthinkingly accepted in the mainstream. Flying saucers are a perfect example. It's a fact that flying saucers come from science fiction, not from outer space. Raymond Palmer pretty much invented them. He promoted and exploited them as he did the Shaver Mystery. But do people consider flying saucers to be a hoax? Doesn't a very large part of the population actually believe that flying saucers are alien spacecraft arrived here from other planets? Why should one idea be so readily accepted and the other so quickly dismissed? The same questions can be asked about all kinds of Fortean, occult, pseudoscientific, and fringe phenomena: Bigfoot, ghosts and haunted houses, the Bermuda Triangle, the Kennedy Assassination, secret Nazi bases in Antarctica, ancient astronauts--the list could go on and on. So a viable population of very large wild hominids roams over Ohio but dero and tero are nonsense? Yes, you say, aliens came to Earth in ancient times, but if you think it happened in the way Richard Shaver described it, you're just plain crazy. It actually happened the way L. Ron Hubbard described it, see? Or maybe it was Erich von Däniken or the television guy with the crazy hair who got it right. Anyway, the arguments in favor of one thing and against another are endless, and the devotees of each will go on arguing about them forever and never budge an inch in their positions. You could ask the same kinds of questions about seemingly more realistic ideas, ideas that are embraced by millions of people the world over, including socialism, Marxism, political correctness, global warming, transgenderism, and so on. Aren't all of these things also lies, hoaxes, delusions, or examples of pseudoscience, gnosticism, or simply minds out of touch with reality? Why should one be accepted and any other rejected? Shouldn't we reject all untruths? Probably, but then I guess the world would be less fun and interesting as a result.

I think that people sense something distasteful about the Shaver Mystery. It's small and shrunken, like Shaver's eyes--a sick and shabby belief. It was dreamed up by a madman, and though it rose to publication in the oldest science fiction magazine in America, it soon shrank away to the cheap, ratty pages of crackpot publications issuing from the boondocks of Wisconsin. (Raymond Palmer and Richard Shaver both moved to that state in the 1950s.) To believe in the Shaver Mystery is to invite sickness, paranoia, and psychopathy into your life. I think that when it comes to detecting this kind of sickness, our vision is keen. We instinctively recoil from it. I think that explains in part the ultimate failure of the Shaver Mystery.

Another difference between the Shaver Mystery and so many other crackpot ideas is that it was the singular vision of a singular man. Everyone can get in on flying saucers, Bigfoot, and Nazi bases in Antarctica. Those things seem to have come from real life. They appear to be somewhat plausible. In contrast, the Shaver Mystery came from the diseased mind of one man. Thousands of readers of the 1940s may have found it compelling at first, but there just wasn't enough there to turn it into a belief system for the masses of men. It ultimately worked for Shaver and no one else, and it died when he died. I think that lack of a compelling system of belief can be traced to the impossibility in Shaver's scheme for personal salvation. Shaver was a materialist and caught in a web of pain, suffering, and paranoia. There seems to have been no way out for him and no hope for salvation or redemption. Flying saucers are different. A belief in flying saucers offers hope and a way out. Scientology, socialism, and other crackpot schemes that appeal to and are spread among the masses of men also offer hope, even if that hope is ultimately false or delusional. (I read a quote once that hope is for the hopeless.) Finally, flying saucers are a lot more fun than the Shaver Mystery. As in the case of the Cthulhu Mythos, we shouldn't count out the fun factor in any bit of popular culture. 

Next: Shaver and Lovecraft

Notes
(1) Untitled item, Pittsburgh Press, May 21, 1946, p. 25.
(2) "Through the Interstellar Looking Glass" by Winthrop Sargeant, Life, May 21, 1951, pp. 127-130+.

Even as late as 1958, Richard Shaver and Raymond Palmer were still on the Shaver Mystery. Evidently there were still readers interested in it as well, judging from the "Special Shaver Mystery Issue" of Fantastic, the cover of which is show here. Palmer didn't exercise editorial control of Fantastic, so opposing opinions were allowed. A.J. Steichert contributed an essay to this issue calling the mystery "Dangerous Nonsense!" The cover artist was Leo Summers. Note the rays projected around the woman's head. Does the little green man have his finger on an influencing machine?

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Shaver Mystery-Part Nine

P. Robert McKenna (1917-1990)

Patrick Robert "Bob" McKenna was born on September 8, 1917, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to Patrick Joseph McKenna and Elizabeth Mark (Flynn) McKenna. By the time of the 1940 census, he was already working as a radio announcer. In his career in radio, McKenna worked at WWSW, Pittsburgh (early 1940s), KDKA, Pittsburgh (mid 1940s), and WEDO, McKeesport (late 1940s). On September 10, 1941, just two days after his twenty-fourth birthday, he married Lenore A. Gedeon (1921-1979), a professional model and future president of the Pittsburgh Professional Models Society.

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb) has just one credit for Bob McKenna, a story co-written with Richard S. Shaver and entitled "Cult of the Witch Queen." It was published as a cover story in the July 1946 issue of Amazing Stories. According to an item in the Pittsburgh Press (May 21, 1946, p. 25), "Bob 'met' Dick Shaver of near Philadelphia, through letters to the editor and thus developed a story-writing team." "Cult of the Witch Queen" was their first collaboration. Another item from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Oct. 3, 1946, p. 8) states that the lead story in the November 1946 issue, "The Return of Sathanas," was also co-written by McKenna and Shaver. Although the ISFDb has McKenna's name on that story in one place, it doesn't in another, where it counts in the entry for McKenna himself. Never mind about that. The second newspaper item above also states that McKenna and Shaver had, as of October 1946, "collaborated on several adventure tales."

In 1949, McKenna was involved in a minor scandal. That may have prompted his move to California. By 1953, the McKennas were ranchers in Mill Valley in Marin County, north of San Francisco. They started a family there and may never have gone back home. Lenore McKenna died in 1979 at age fifty-eight. Bob McKenna survived her by nearly eleven years and passed away on April 4, 1990, I believe in San Jose, California. Presumably, McKenna wrote just a few--possibly only two--science fiction stories, and he has received credit for only one of those. But because of them or it, he had earned his spot in the history of the Shaver Mystery.

Amazing Stories, July 1946, with a cover story, "Cult of the Witch Queen," by Richard S. Shaver and Bob McKenna. The cover artist was Walter Parke.

1942

1950

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Shaver Mystery-Part Eight

In the Caves of the Mind

From March 1945 to March 1950, Richard S. Shaver had by my count more than five dozen stories, articles, extracts, and other items published in the Ziff-Davis magazines edited by Raymond A. Palmer. There were forty-seven of these in Amazing Stories and fifteen in Fantastic Adventures. There were probably more stories in the Shaver Mystery cycle by Shaver writing under pseudonyms, as well as stories by Palmer, Chester S. Geier, and other Ziff-Davis regulars. I haven't read any of them, so I can't say which ones were drawn from Shaver's ideas or which of Shaver's stories were about Mantong and the people of the caverns. I'm not sure that it mattered. Readers were either for him or against him. They were either tero or dero.

Ray Palmer rose to the editorship of Amazing Stories in June 1938 and launched Fantastic Stories in May 1939. He was more than halfway through his tenure at Ziff-Davis when he began publishing stories of the Shaver Mystery. Once they began appearing, sales took off. There was something in the mystery that appealed to readers. What Shaver, Palmer, Geier, and others (including Bob McKenna, subject of the next entry) wrote about must have seemed real and compelling to them. I suppose that tells us something about the human condition. Palmer had been interested in the occult and in Forteana for some time. With the Shaver Mystery, he had a chance at something that may have been tried before but perhaps not across a whole genre or in issue after issue and year after year of magazine publication: he would blur the boundaries between science fiction and purported fact. Were the Shaver Mystery stories really fictional? Shaver would have said no. But were they factual? The anti-Shaver readers were equally convinced that they were not. Even if they were factual--even if they described something that might be called "real"--where was that reality? Was it in the outward, objective world, or did it exist only in the caves of the mind? And if it existed only in the mind, did that mean it was somehow less real? Or does the mind contain an equal or even greater reality than the real world? And if there is an equal reality in the mind, could the Shaver Mystery stories really be described as only fictional? Or are fictional and factual inadequate words in this case? In our current world, people seem to be claiming an equal or greater reality inside their own heads. Are you biologically a man but think of yourself as a woman? Then you're a woman, and anyone who knows otherwise must be made, by force if necessary, to affirm you in your delusion. That luxury of forced affirmation was not afforded Richard Shaver. He suffered from delusions. Apparently thousands of readers did, too. Maybe maintaining psychological delusion is a natural human response to an incomprehensible and often cruel world. Whatever the case may be, science fiction readers ultimately tired of or rejected the Shaver Mystery, and so it came to an end. Or did it?

Delusion of course didn't come to an end, for it was picked up again in successive writings on the occult and Fortean phenomena, in fictional, non-fictional, pseudo-fictional, and pseudo-non-fictional forms. Writings on the flying saucer phenomenon--stories of sightings, encounters, crashdowns, contactees, abductees, sexual relations with aliens, conspiracies, alien invasions--are a perfect example. There are people today, for example, who believe that reptilian aliens are in control or trying to take control of Earth. Most people would scoff at that idea, even as they believe (at rates of one-third or one-half or whatever) that flying saucers are spacecraft flown by aliens who have come here from distant star systems, seemingly so they can dig rocks out of the ground. (Maybe they're looking for Richard Shaver's rock books.) Likewise, there are people tramping around in the woods (like an escaped Richard Shaver) looking for Bigfoot. They are convinced that these creatures exist. And yet there are those among them--I personally know of one--who think it ridiculous that some other people believe in Mothman. Further still, there are those who believe that some Bigfoots (or Bigfeet) are good (the five-toed ones), while others are evil (the three-toed ones). In other words, some are tero, while others are dero. There is also, of course, the second science-fictional religion to arrive on the scene, Scientology, which, like Richard Shaver, is radically against psychiatry, and which, also like Shaver, believes that aliens came to Earth a gazillion years ago and that the effects of their actions are still with us. There are far fewer believers in Scientology now than in its heyday. Nonetheless the delusion persists.

The Shaver Mystery also perpetuated what I think is a form of gnosticism, what one source on the Internet calls "a spiritually pathological, magical reconstruction of reality" and what the German-American philosopher Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) described as a "type of thinking that claims absolute cognitive mastery of reality." He continued: "Relying as it does on a claim to gnosis, gnosticism considers its knowledge not subject to criticism." That might be less true of Richard Shaver than it is of current gnostic thought. He was, after all, sensitive to criticism and not entirely confident in his beliefs. Today, though, when it comes to certain ways of thinking, criticism will not be tolerated, and in some places it's even being outlawed. I will refer you again to the topic of "gender." Marxism, too, is a gnostic system, and the Marxists among us violently resist criticism of their system. In fact they are always on the attack, using such weapons as critical theory to wage war against reality, fact, and truth.

Here is more on Eric Voegelin's philosophy (from Wikipedia):
Voegelin perceived similarities between ancient Gnosticism and modernist political theories, particularly communism and nazism. He identified the root of the Gnostic impulse as alienation, that is, a sense of disconnection from society and a belief that this lack is the result of the inherent disorder, or even evil, of the world. This alienation has two effects:
  • The first is the belief that the disorder of the world can be transcended by extraordinary insight, learning, or knowledge, called a Gnostic Speculation by Voegelin (the Gnostics themselves referred to this as gnosis).
  • The second is the desire to implement and or create a policy to actualize the speculation, or Immanentize the Eschaton, i.e., to create a sort of heaven on earth within history.
It seems to me that Shaver exhibited the first of these effects in his development of an "extraordinary insight, learning, or knowledge," his gnosis, in Mantong and his tales of dero and tero. He seems less to have made some prescription for the creation of heaven on earth, unless his ancient and now subterranean civilizations were somehow utopian in nature. But maybe that failure explains the fading away of the Shaver Mystery, as there was no hope for a better world through Shaver's belief system. A belief in flying saucers, however, offers that hope, as does, to a lesser extent, Scientology, although the better world promised by Scientology seems to me one of the self, in other words, perhaps, a greater gnosis.

Finally, the Shaver Mystery injected into science fiction a further continuity, a continuity larger in scale than what had been tried before and that is perhaps both Fortean and gnostic in nature. (It occurs to me now that Fortean beliefs may just be another kind of gnosticism.) In the Shaver Mystery--and in the flying saucer phenomenon, too--a soup is made from a number of ingredients: 1) Fiction; 2) Non-fiction in the form of accounts of supposedly real-world occult or Fortean phenomena; 3) Psychological delusion, which may also be gnostic in character; and 4) Various pseudo-fields, including pseudo-fiction, pseudo-non-fiction, pseudo-history, pseudoscience, pseudo-religion, and pseudo-psychology. Once thrown into the pot, these ingredients can't be separated, drawn out again, or even distinguished from each other. Put another way, all exist on a continuum. Any dividing lines are arbitrary. John Keel wrote about the concept of a continuum in The Cosmic Question, but he got it from Charles Fort, just as so many authors got their ideas from him. (Both fans of Fort, Palmer and Keel were junior science fiction fans and published their own fanzines when they were still teenagers. Remember: continuity.) There was Forteana in science fiction and fantasy before 1945, but once it got into those genres through Ray Palmer, it never got out again, or at least it didn't get out for decades afterwards. Palmer's exploitation of the flying saucer phenomenon made sure of that.

Science fiction fans, if they know anything at all about it, seem to despise the Shaver Mystery and everything surrounding it. (I'll have more to say on that in a future part of this series.) They also think detrimental thoughts about Raymond Palmer. Yet the Fortean-Palmerian concept of continuity showed up in other places and not just in Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures. In May 1950, John W. Campbell, Jr., vaunted editor of the vaunted Astounding Science Fiction, published an extract from a new book called Dianetics. Written by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics is not science fiction. It's also not non-fiction. Like the Shaver Mystery and flying saucers, it isn't quite a hoax, either. Dianetics can more nearly be described as pseudoscience or pseudo-psychology. Like Mantong and "A Warning to Future Man," it is a work of purported "extraordinary insight, learning, or knowledge," in other words, Hubbard's gnosis. Alternatively, it's a delusion, and it became only more delusional as it morphed into the pseudo-religion Scientology. So it is neither fictional nor non-fictional, but at the same time it is both of these things and more. There is no telling where one thing ends and another begins. Again, continuity.

John W. Campbell loved Dianetics, but in order to love it, he would have had to disregard the hard line between fiction and non-fiction, between science and pseudoscience. In other words, he would have had to embrace a Fortean kind of continuity. (That's only one way of looking at it. Ray Palmer thought Campbell had done that very thing when he published Eric Frank Russell's Fortean novel "Sinister Barrier," complete in Unknown, March 1939.) Campbell even changed the title of his magazine, and I think that change is telling, for in 1960, Astounding Science Fiction became Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Not digital but analogous, a scale or continuum, not strictly one thing or the other, but both--and more, because Campbell became increasingly interested in pseudoscience. By then, both Raymond Palmer and Richard Shaver had moved far ahead of Campbell into the realm of blended fantasy-fact and hybridized fiction-non-fiction and even non-non-fiction.

For whatever reason, in the postwar era, Forteana and the Fortean concept of continuity came to stay in science fiction. The Shaver Mystery, being about demons and damnation, paranoia and pain, couldn't really offer a lasting and compelling system of belief for a desperate and longing humanity. It didn't and couldn't offer a chance at positive salvation. None of that should come as any surprise when you consider that Richard Shaver was a strict materialist. There was no God in his universe. The coming of the flying saucers was a different story. Here suddenly were messengers from the sky, gods and angels come to offer us salvation. Or they were our space brothers--as in the visions of George Adamski and men like him--and as our brothers they were offering us a chance at a better world, a chance to realize a better vision of ourselves and at self-fulfillment. That was and is the most compelling belief system to come from the science fiction of the 1940s and '50s. You might call the Shaver Mystery only a dry run for a greater task.

To be continued . . .

Amazing Stories, March 1945. About fifteen months after Ray Palmer had accepted and during which he had rewritten Richard Shaver's story "A Warning to Future Man," it was published as "'I Remember Lemuria!'" in this issue of Amazing Stories. As far as I can make out, this was the first Shaver Mystery story to appear in the magazine and Shaver's first published work of "fiction." Palmer must have sensed that it would turn into something big, as he made it a cover story. The cover art was by Robert Gibson Jones.

By the way, the Internet Speculative Fiction Database gives Shaver credit for "Return of a Demon" in Fantastic Adventures for May 1943, but did Shaver, writing under the Ziff-Davis house name Alexander Blade, really have a story published in the month he was released from a mental hospital? After eight long years of being out of touch with the world? Something about that just doesn't add up for me.

Amazing Stories, June 1945, with another Shaver cover story, "Thought Records of Lemuria," and another cover illustration by Jones. Amazing Stories was published just four times in 1945. (Paper shortages may have been the explanation.) Shaver had the cover story in all four issues.

Amazing Stories, September 1945. Shaver was back with another cover story, "Cave City of Hel." Robert Gibson Jones was once again the cover artist.

Amazing Stories, December 1945. The cover of this issue had the same combination of writer and artist. This time they worked on "Quest of Brail." The cover illustration is a classic Golden Age image. I feel like I have seen this woman with her winged helmet (or is it a tinfoil hat?) and yellow outfit (yellow, the color of madness) before. Could it have been in the long forgotten past?

Amazing Stories, June 1946. Cover art by Arnold Kohn. Although Shaver didn't have a cover story in this issue, his byline still appeared above the main title. The June 1946 issue is of special interest because within its pages a letter appeared seeming to confirm the existence of the things of which Shaver had been writing for months . . .

The writer of the letter wished to remain anonymous, but in one way or another it came out that he was Fred L. Crisman. Or at least that's the accepted story. (Another part of the accepted story is that Crisman had his experience in Burma, but I think by following the place names he mentioned, you'll find yourself deep within the Asian landmass.) Note the letter-writer's claims to special knowledge and experience and to near-precedence: "But we both believe we know more about the Shaver Mystery than any other pair. [¶] You can imagine my fright when I picked up my first copy of AMAZING STORIES and see you splashing words about on the subject." So was Crisman claiming that he and his partner knew more about the Shaver Mystery than its originators? And what of the date? If Crisman flew his "last combat mission on May 26," presumably he meant May 26, 1945, a full year before this letter went to print. The stories of the Shaver Mystery had already begun in Amazing Stories by then, but not by much, so Crisman wasn't exactly first. But he seems to have claimed precedence because he had his experience before ever seeing Amazing Stories or knowing about the Shaver Mystery. In other words, he was the discoverer of the dero, or at least co-discoverer, like Wallace to Shaver's Darwin.

This wouldn't be the last time Fred Crisman claimed to be first. In July 1947, Ray Palmer heard about what is now called the Maury Island Incident, in which Crisman and an accomplice claimed to have been pelted with slag from a damaged flying saucer. The incident was supposed to have taken place before Kenneth Arnold's sighting of flying saucers over Mount Rainier, on June 24, 1947, and before Mac Brazel's discovery of wreckage on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico, in June or July of that year . . . 

So around the middle of July 1947, Venture Press, operating out of the Chicago area, sent Kenneth Arnold a letter, asking him to look into the Maury Island Incident. Arnold agreed and flew to Tacoma to begin his investigation. There he encountered many strange situations and occurrences: someone unknown to him had reserved a hotel room in his name; an unknown informant seemed to know everything that was said inside his supposedly private room; a house he visited early in the investigation was empty later on and spiderwebs were spun across the doorway; Crisman and his accomplice, Harold A. Dahl, were evasive and gave confusing and contradictory information to Arnold; finally, two officers from the air force who were also investigating the incident were killed when their plane crashed on the flight back to base. There were also encounters that summer with a mysterious man in black.

We now know that the Maury Island Incident was a hoax. Crisman's and Dahl's motives remain obscure. Fred Crisman seems to have been the ringleader. He may have been of a type who simply wants to be first, best, and on the spot in everything, perhaps because he feels insecure or lacks some positive sense of himself. In any case, Crisman elbowed his way into the Shaver Mystery, the flying saucer mystery, and stories of crashdowns, government conspiracies, and men in black. And in the 1960s, he was implicated by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I guess that makes him a threefer, a man who easily slid along the Fortean continuum, which has come to include the Kennedy assassination and other strange and mysterious but nonetheless real-world events, including, as we have seen, Nazis in Antarctica.

When I wrote about Kenneth Arnold and the Maury Island Incident (on July 18, 2017, here), I assumed that Venture Press of somewhere in the Chicago area was Raymond Palmer's outfit. Then I discovered the advertisement above in David Hatcher Childress' book Lost Continents and the Hollow Earth (1999). It confirms that Venture Press, based in Evanston, Illinois, was indeed Palmer's brainchild. It also indicates that Venture Press published Richard S. Shaver's book I Remember Lemuria, and the Return of Sathanas. The book, a collection of writings from Amazing Stories, came out in 1948, the same year in which Palmer and Curtis Fuller launched Fate, a magazine of Forteana. (My translations from the Mantong: Fate--Fecund a te, or one generating much integrative energy. Fort--Fecund orifice of horror [and] t, or a speaker of both terrible and integrative things. Note that to integrate means to combine things with each other or to make them a whole, for example, a continuum.) Note the blurb: "Particularly recommended to Students of the Occult." In other words, there is continuity here among science fiction, Forteana, the occult, flying saucers, the Shaver Mystery, and, with Fred Crisman, the Kennedy assassination. What else can we throw into this soup? Nazis? A hollow Earth? A hole at the pole?

Amazing Stories, June 1947. By an extraordinary coincidence, the sighting of the first flying saucers took place in the same month that Ziff-Davis put out a special Shaver Mystery issue of Amazing Stories. So as one phenomenon was reaching its peak, another was just beginning. You can call that an overlap if you want, but it can also be thought of as a continuity. Consider this quote by Ray Palmer from the Shaver Mystery special issue:
Further, Mr. Shaver declared that Titans [one of his ancient races], living far away in space, or other people like them, still visit earth in space ships, kidnap people, raid the caves for valuable equipment, and, in general, supply the basis for all the weird stories that are so numerous (see Charles Fort's books) of space ships, beings in the sky, etc. [p. 8]
It sounds to me like Shaver's ideas were, by Palmer's interpretation, a kind of Unified Field Theory of all Fortean phenomena, old and new. And though there weren't any flying saucers when this issue went to print, Palmer anticipated not only sightings of extraterrestrial spacecraft but also the existence of superior alien beings, human abductions by these beings, and even the aliens' interest in geology. The coming of the saucers must have been the greatest thing that ever happened to Ray Palmer. He was primed and ready, and when the chance of a lifetime presented itself, he took his best shot. The question remains, though, did Palmer sense that the Shaver Mystery was running its course or wearing out its welcome? We may never know, but in flying saucers Palmer found--and made--the next big thing. And not just big but huge. He must have been on cloud nine after the first summer of flying saucers, and it showed, for he thereafter devoted himself to them and to all related Fortean phenomena, which is to say, by John Keel's concept of a superspectrum, all phenomena.

Finally, think what you will of Palmer and Shaver, that's a great science fiction cover by Robert Gibson Jones.

Other Worlds Science Stories, November 1949. In late 1949, Raymond Palmer had one foot in Ziff-Davis and one foot out the door. He was still the credited editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, but he was also involved with Clark Publishing Company and its new magazine of Forteana, Fate. Then, in November of that year, Clark Publishing put out the first issue of Other Worlds Science Stories. The cover story was "The Fall of Lemuria" by Richard S. Shaver, and there was still more Shaver Mystery content inside. But this was 1949, about to become 1950, and the Shaver Mystery was about through. The title "The Fall of Lemuria" is ironic considering how high the whole thing had gone and now how far it had fallen. Palmer and Shaver may have tried to keep the Shaver Mystery alive, but having come from the fringes, it could only go back again to the fringes. Flying saucers were literally taking off. So were other titles and ideas, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, first published in the fall of 1949. (The first issue, entitled The Magazine of Fantasy, came out in October 1949 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Edgar Allan Poe.) Note the breaking down of barriers in the title: this was a magazine of fantasy and science fiction. More breaking down of barriers or blurring of lines happened in May 1950 when John W. Campbell, Jr., published "Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science" in Astounding Science Fiction.

Amazing Stories, April 1957. By John Keel's estimation, Raymond A. Palmer was the man who invented flying saucers. I won't argue. Nevertheless, Amazing Stories did not print a flying saucer cover until this one in April 1957, almost ten years after the first sighting. The cover artist was Edward Valigursky, who was always so good with gadgets, machinery, and vehicles. The theme of beings from outer space abducting or harvesting human beings came more or less in a straight line from Charles Fort, who wrote, "The Earth is a farm, we are someone else's property," and, "I think we're property." Remember, too, Palmer's line from the Shaver Mystery special issue: "Titans, living far away in space, or other people like them, still visit earth in space ships, kidnap people . . . ."

Amazing Stories, October 1957. Raymond Palmer was out as editor at Ziff-Davis after December 1949, and Howard Browne, the man who had thrown Richard Shaver's original letter in the trash, was in. During Browne's tenure, Shaver had only a couple of credits in Amazing Stories. One was "Historical Aspects of the Saucers," an article from October 1957. The magazine's second flying saucer cover was done by Edward Valigursky. Note Gray Barker's byline on the cover, too, plus the exclamation points!!

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley