Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Shaver Mystery-Part Six

Taylor Victor Shaver (1903-1934) and the Dero of Detroit-Part Two

Taylor V. Shaver was only thirty years old when he died at East Side Hospital in Detroit. The date was February 24, 1934. The cause was lobar pneumonia and enlargement of the heart. Shaver had been sick only briefly. His younger brother Richard was devastated by his death. "I drank a pint of whiskey right down after my brother died," Richard remembered, "and I guess it helped--but it was agony anyway for we were very close." (1) In his grief, Shaver
became convinced that a demon named Max was responsible for Taylor's heart failure. "The thing that killed him has followed me ever since--I talk to him--many times every day . . . . He has killed many people. . . . Others are holding him [Max] in check." [Ellipses and brackets in the source given below.] (2)
In addition to believing in the demon Max, Richard Shaver became convinced that people were following him. He also began hearing voices. The first time this happened, he was operating his welding gun at the auto body plant. The voices he heard were actually the thoughts of his co-workers, influenced by still other voices, mocking and derisive voices, harmful and destructive voices that only Shaver could detect. Then came the sounds of torture, and the voices were there, too. Where were they coming from? Who was saying these things? If Shaver didn't know then, he would later develop a system to explain the voices. His system--what we might as well call the Shaver Mystery--involves Earth's secret history, a history influenced by beings who came from the stars in the immemorial past. Long ago, when men were savages, these beings developed an advanced civilization, but they became increasingly damaged by what Shaver called the dis energy of the sun. In seeking shelter, these damaged individuals retreated into subterranean lairs. Shaver's name for them, derived from his secret alphabet, is dero, for detrimental robots. (Corpulent and repulsive, they are not mechanical robots at all but living beings.) The beings opposing the dero are called tero, for te, Shaver's concept of a growth force or integrative force, and robot. They, too, are confined to the underground, but they are benevolent rather than disintegrative. The dero and the tero waged a war inside Shaver's mind, a war he believed extended into the real world. Shaver himself fell in with the more human and noble tero and opposed the dero, who acted so detrimentally against him, his family, and the rest of humanity.

David Hatcher Childress refers to Taylor Shaver by the nickname "Tate." (3) By Shaver's "Lemurian Alphabet," Tate might mean, by my own translation, T (Taylor) a te (integrative force), or Taylor [is] a te. Could there be any higher name in Mantong? And what of the place name Detroit? Was Taylor or integrative energy itself--t--destroyed by or caught between de and ro? And what of -it? I can't say, but the interpretations, translations, and permutations of these words, syllables, and letters are endless. They must have whirled away inside Shaver's mind for years as he lay in the grip of insanity. In his letter to Amazing Stories from September 1943, he wrote that he had been working on this new-old language "over a long period of years." I don't doubt that. It must have given him some solace to believe that a world that seemed so random and incomprehensible in its events was actually orderly and could be understood if only a person could find the key. Mantong and the story of the people of the caverns were for Richard Shaver that key.

According to Mr. Childress, Richard Shaver was committed to a mental institution on August 17, 1934. Some sources say that it was his wife who had him committed. We might understand why she would do such a thing, considering what we know by later evidence of Shaver's mental state. No one seems to know how long he was there, nor very much about what happened to him or what was done to him while he was in the hospital. No one knows, either, what his diagnosis might have been, but it seems almost certain to me (a non-psychiatrist) that Shaver was schizophrenic. One of the most powerful of indicators in this diagnosis-from-a-distance is the concept of the "influencing machine" in schizophrenia, one developed by the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Tausk and published in German in 1919 and in English--coincidentally in Shaver's case--in 1933. (4) If you read about the influencing machine (I encourage you to do so) and know anything at all about Shaver, you will immediately recognize its occurrence in his case. In fact there may be no better example of the influencing machine in the annals of psychiatry than in the case of Richard Sharpe Shaver. (5)

Like I said, no one knows how long Shaver was institutionalized. He was still in the hospital when his wife Sophie Gurvitch Shaver was accidentally electrocuted in December 1936, and he was still there--at the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Ionia, Michigan--in 1940 when the enumerator of the U.S. census came around. By the time men were filling out their World War II draft cards in 1942-1943, Shaver was back home with his parents in Barto, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately I don't have a date for his filling out of that card. If it was 1942, then that would fit with the bit of information I have that Shaver was institutionalized for eight years, with a release date perhaps in early or mid 1942. Fred Nadis, biographer of Raymond Palmer, sets the date of his release as May 1943. (6) In any case, when Ziba R. Shaver died on June 10, 1943, Shaver was at home, and he helped bear his father's casket to the grave. If Shaver was released in May, then only four months passed before he wrote his initial letter to the editors of Amazing Stories. In it Shaver claimed discovery of an ancient and secret language encoded in and underlying our own. Raymond Palmer ran the letter and the alphabet in the January 1944 issue of Amazing Stories. And with that, the Shaver Mystery began as one of the strangest episodes in the history of science fiction.

To be continued . . .

(1) Quoted in The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Pulp Journey by Fred Nadis (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher-Penguin, 2013), p. 65.
(2) Quoted in Nadis, p. 65.
(3) "The Shaver Mystery" by David Hatcher Childress in Lost Continents and the Hollow Earth (Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999), p. 219.
(4) Shaver began having paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations before he could have heard of the influencing machine, but was he exposed to this concept while in the hospital? If so, could his hypothetical knowledge of the influencing machine have influenced his ideas about the dero? In other words, could a concept in psychiatry have provided Richard Shaver with some of the material he needed to construct his system of belief? It seems unlikely, but again, we don't know what happened to him while he was hospitalized. Incidentally, "the supposed faculty of perceiving, as if by hearing, what is inaudible" is called clairaudience. Shaver, then, might have been called a clairaudient. Well, his older sister, named Catherine, went by her middle name, Claire.
(5) The case of James Tilly Matthews (1770-1815) is also illustrative of the influencing machine in schizophrenia. Matthews, a Welshman living in London, believed he was being tormented and schemed against by a gang of criminals and spies operating an "Air Loom," a machine of his own paranoid imagination that emitted influencing rays. (Influencing rays were also prominent in the Shaver Mystery. One of the most influential of these rays had the last name of Palmer.) Matthews lived during the Industrial Revolution. In his madness he created an industrial machine. That makes me think: before the Industrial Revolution--before there could be an influencing machine--what did paranoid schizophrenics create as their tormenters? More primitive machines? Was there an influencing wheel or lever of the Middle Ages? Or were the tormenters of madmen the demons, beasts, and creatures of that age of folklore and faith? And what of ancient times? Were the tormenters then the gods, monsters, and hybrids of classical mythology? As a similar case to Matthews', Richard Shaver lived during an age of science fiction, which followed a nineteenth-century age of pseudoscience, pseudo-history, etc. Wasn't it only natural, then, that he would imagine an influencing machine straight from science fiction, pseudoscience, pseudo-history, etc.? A test of that possibility might be in finding out what is the influencing machine of the twenty-first century. Wouldn't it be a digital device of some kind? A cell phone, computer, or even an android or robot? Or maybe it's not a machine at all but a program or digital service. Some people for example believe that Facebook and fake news influenced voters in our most recent presidential election. They actually believe that we wouldn't have our current president if it were not for this influence. Or maybe the influencing machine of our time is actually an old type of machine, the internal combustion engine, which is GOING TO KILL US ALL! When we were kids, a mentally ill man across the road from us went out one day shouting at people, "Turn off your microwaves!" Maybe microwave ovens were the influencing machine of the 1970s and '80s. In any case, that man also sometimes wore aluminum foil on his head. We have all heard of the stereotype of the crazy conspiracy theorist who wears a tinfoil hat. Well, now I find out that some such people believe they are "targeted individuals" or "TIs." I take it that TI is pronounced the same as te, as in tero. Crazy minds think alike, I guess. Here's another pair of terms to consider: air loom is a homophone of heirloom. Is there any significance in that? I suppose there is. To cultists, cranks, crazies, and crackpots, everything is significant.
(6) Nadis, p. 68.

The Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Ionia, Michigan, where Richard S. Shaver was confined for some time. According to Richard Toronto, Shaver was originally in the Ypsilanti State Hospital in Saline, Michigan. On release to see his daughter, he is supposed to have escaped. When recaptured, supposedly in Canada, Shaver was placed in the hospital in Ionia. (His supposed release to see his daughter doesn't exactly fit with the story that Evelyn Ann Gurvitch (née Shaver) grew up believing her father had died.) In all, Shaver spent as many as eight or nine years in an institution, from August 1934 to about 1942 or May 1943.

Happy Easter to Readers of Weird Tales.

Revised April 3, 2018
Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

No comments:

Post a Comment