Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Shaver Mystery-Part Seven

"I Remember Ionia"

In May 1943, Richard Shaver was released from a mental hospital in Michigan and returned to his parents in Pennsylvania. I'm not sure that anyone really knows how long he was in nor whether the period of his hospitalization was continuous. There is a story that he escaped from captivity and tramped in the north woods before making his way to Canada. If he was originally at the more progressive Ypsilanti State Hospital, Shaver was afterwards committed to the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Once returned to the world, Shaver went back to work as a crane operator at Bethlehem Steel. He also continued to work on Mantong and the system of belief that backed it. In September 1943, Shaver wrote to the editors of Amazing Stories regarding his beliefs. Raymond A. Palmer, one of the canniest of science fiction editors, then or now, published Shaver's letter and alphabet in the January 1944 issue of the magazine. (1) More letters started coming in, seemingly in confirmation of Shaver's insights. In the meantime, Palmer and Shaver began a correspondence that would culminate in a near lifelong friendship and partnership. In the meantime, too, Richard Shaver remarried.

Shaver's first wife, Sophie Gurvitch Shaver, had died in a bizarre and tragic accident in 1936. He found his second wife, Virginia Fenwick of Brownsville, Texas, by correspondence. A graduate of Mary Hardin-Baylor College in Belton, Texas, and a former officer in the WAAC, Virginia was a pianist, writer, and singer. It was their mutual interest in writing that seems to have drawn her and her new husband together. They were married on January 29, 1944, at the Berks County, Pennsylvania, courthouse. An announcement of their wedding observed that Shaver wrote "fiction of a scientific nature" and that his latest story, "Warning to Future Man," had "just been accepted for publication by a popular magazine." (2)

Shaver's second marriage didn't last, for Virginia Fenwick divorced him in pretty short order. (3) I'm not sure whether "A Warning to Future Man" lasted, either, at least in its original form. But it's interesting that the story was accepted for publication as early as January 1944, for in its final form, as "I Remember Lemuria," Shaver's accounting of his beliefs did not appear in Amazing Stories until March 1945. Raymond Palmer had to rework the story to make it publishable, of course, but did it really take that long? Or was there opposition among the editorial staff or from the publishers themselves to putting into print the delusions of a madman? Whatever happened, "I Remember Lemuria" became the first published story in the Shaver Mystery, a cycle that would occupy Ray Palmer and his twin magazines, Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, for the next five years.

To be continued . . . 

(1) I think Richard Shaver's original name for his new-old language was Mantong. To make it more palatable to readers, Raymond Palmer must have re-dubbed it "Mr. Shaver's Lemurian Alphabet."
(2) "Fiction Writers Are Married in Court House," The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.), Jan. 30, 1944, p. 13 (image below). The marriage was solemnized at an Episcopal church in Philadelphia on January 30, 1944.
(3) The reason for the divorce is supposed to have been Shaver's false claim, made on his marriage license, that he had not been institutionalized during the previous five years. I suspect that Virginia Shaver found out pretty quickly that her new husband was mentally ill, even if he was out in the world again and gainfully employed. She wouldn't have needed a falsified document to want out, but it must have given her a way out.

From The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.), Jan. 30, 1944, p. 13.

Amazing Stories, March 1945, the first published Shaver Mystery story and the first of many cover stories in that cycle. I don't know that Richard Shaver considered his to be a "racial memory story" or that he set it in the fictional (and Theosophical) land of Lemuria. Those may have been Ray Palmer's innovations. In any case, the Shaver Mystery was off and running. The cover artist by the way was Robert Gibson Jones.

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley


  1. My copies of Other Worlds are long gone; so, I cannot verify this, but I seem to recall Palmer admitting that he added the racial memory angle to "I Remember Lemuria". He seems to have done a major rewrite to that story and possibly to many other Shaver stories.

    1. Anonymous,

      I have read the same thing in more than one source. It may be common knowledge. I don't doubt that Palmer and others rewrote what Shaver wrote. It might not have been publishable otherwise.

      As for the "racial memory" angle, that may have been something in which Palmer was interested and of which Shaver may have been unaware.

      Figuring all of this out would take some research. Meanwhile, my series is going in a different direction, as you'll see.

      Thanks for writing.


  2. Richard Toronto mentioned in WAR OVER LEMURIA that the 'racial memory' angle (which was indeed an interest of Palmer's) upset Shaver because he felt it distorted his whole message. To him, these weren't racial memories, except in the sense that they'd been recorded ages ago in the past by the Teros. The information Shaver was relating was the result of RAYS, which were being broadcast from the caverns, and which Shaver was receiving. It caused some bad feeling in Shaver, and Palmer later retracted his 'racial memory' theory of explanation in an editorial, probably in hopes of smoothing things over with Shaver.

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  4. Lemuria was another interest of Palmer's, and as an editor he cannily shaped the content of his stable of writers during his reign over AMAZING STORIES. Stanton A. Coblenz' "Enchantress of Lemuria" had appeared as the lead novel in the September 1941 issue of AMAZING, long before Palmer had received his first communication from Shaver. I doubt that's coincidental.

    Interestingly, a previous novel of Coblenz', "In Caverns Below", dealing with an underground civilization had also been published previously in the March-May 1935 issue of WONDER STORIES.