A number of years ago I was staying with friends in Brooklyn — I was looking for something to read and I found a book called “The Mole People” on the shelf. It was a real page burner — I think I read the whole thing in one night. The author, Jennifer Toth, claimed that there were thousands of people living beneath the city of NYC in old subway tunnels, access tunnels, sewers, etc., and human habitation went up to seven levels below ground. These people were mostly hermits and the homeless, but Toth also claimed that there were some who never (or rarely) came out and had descended into a state of madness that included acts of cannibalism.
(The image above left is from the 1956 film, “The Mole People,” which has nothing to do with Toth’s book. “The Mole People” movie featured Hugh Beaumont, who I think was also the dad on “Leave it To Beaver.” The image below right is, of course, a drawing of “The Mole Man” by Jack Kirby.)
Although the book was criticized for being short on evidence and long on sensationalism, there was a brief period of time during which the book was flying off the shelves — I think people were enjoying it the same way they enjoyed a good horror film… and perhaps it was fun to imagine cannibals and genetic throwbacks living a brutish existence beneath your feet for many New Yorkers at the time.
The concept of life underground has always fascinated me. Back when I was in Gradeschool, I and my friend Eric Piccione used to draw our own comic books for our mutual amusement. One of my favorite characters was Jack Kirby’s “Mole Man” villain. He had been human but was so ugly that human society rejected him, so he set off to explore the farthest reaches of the earth since human kindness was denied to him. He eventually found his way underground, where a race of bald yellow dwarfs with bad eyesight followed him. His eyesight degenerated but his hearing and other senses became extremely sharp; the Mole Man and his minions were always using fiendish traps like pits that opened beneath your feet or boulders that fell from above to kill those who would intrude or interfere with the plots for revenge against the surface dwellers. He and his followers were blind in daylight and had to wear special glasses, like an eskimo’s snow goggles, in even the dimmest light, but to gain advantage they would simply shut off the lights. I liked Kirby’s mole people so much, I ripped them off for my own comic books — calling them “Grobes” and giving them some sparse hair. Like Kirby’s mole men, my Grobes would work with ant-like fervor beneath the ground, undermining the structures of the surface dwellers until they collapsed. Or something like that. I can’t remember. I think there are still some copies of my old comics in the attic back in my parent’s house in St. Louis.
There was also a 1951 Movie called “Superman and The Mole Men” (which I have never seen), and, one of my favorite beer-and-popcorn films, Marebito (based on the works of one of my heroes, Richard S. Shaver) with ‘Dero’ instead of mole people.
Apparently, some time around 1944 or 1945, Raymond Arnold Palmer, an editor at Ziff Davis Publications magazine “Amazing Stories” (a man who went on to do much to create the popular UFO culture in the US) fished a letter out of the trash written by someone named Richard Shaver. Shaver claimed that all of human language was based on a series of sounds, each of which could be represented by a letter, and that by using this alphabet (which he called ‘Mantong’), one could decode the secret meanings of words as handed down to current civilizations by the Atlanteans.
An introduction to Mantong by Richard Sharpe Shaver
This was the letter originally sent by R.S. Shaver to “Amazing Stories.” It was published by Ray Palmer in the ‘Discussions’ section of Amazing Stories in January of 1944. Apparently, the letter was read by Howard Browne, Palmer’s Managing editor at thee time, who tossed it into the trash saying, “The world is full of crackpots.” Palmer fished it out, saw a possibility and decided to run the letter and the alphabet in the magazine. The response from readers was enthusiastic. People wrote in to say that they had applied the ‘Mantong’ alphabet to all sorts of words in many different languages and claimed to have gleaned hidden meanings from the translation.
“Sirs, Am sending this in hope you will insert it in an issue to keep from dying with me. It would arouse a lot of discussion. Am sending you the language so that some time you can have it looked at by some one in the college or a friend who is a student of antique times. The language seems to me to be definite proof of the Atlantean legend. A great number of our English words have come down intact as romantic –ro man tic-“science of man patterning by control,” Trocadero – t ro see a dero- “good one see a bad one”- applied now together. It is an immensely important find, suggesting the god legends have a base in some wiser race than modern man; but to understand it takes a good head as it contains multi-thoughts like many puns on the same subject. It is too deep for ordinary man – who thinks it is a mistake. A little study reveals ancient words in English occurring many times. It should be saved and placed in wise hands. I can’t, will you? It really has an immense significance, and will perhaps put me right in your thoughts again if you will really understand this.
I need a little encouragement.”
The Mantong Alphabet –
A – is for Animal
B – is to Be
C – means See
D – is the harmful energy generated by the Sun
E – is Energy
F – means Fecund
G – means to Generate
H – means Human
I – means I
J – is the same as G – generate
K – means Kinetic, as in motion or energy
L – is Life
M – means Man
N – means child, as in ‘ninny’
O – means Orifice, a source
P – is Power
Q – means Quest
R – horror; signifies a large amount of D present
S – means the Sun, which emits D
T – is the beneficial force, the opposite of D
U – means You
V – Vital; in Shaver’s words, ‘the stuff Mesmer calls animal magnetism.’
W – Will
X – Conflict, sometimes meaning D and T in opposition
Y – means Why
Z – means Zero, or when T and D cancel one another out.
“We present this interesting letter concerning an ancient language with no comment, except to say that we applied the letter-meaning to the individual letter of many old root words and proper names and got an amazing “sense” out of them. Perhaps if readers interested were to apply his formula to more of these root words, we will be able to discover if the formula applies … is this formula the basis of one of the most ancient languages on Earth? The mystery intrigues us very much. – ED.”
Shaver later claimed to have discovered that these ancient civilizations had hidden images, films and records inside of rocks, and stuff really started to get weird. Like many conspiracy theorists, Shaver claimed to know a great secret that threatened all of mankind. According to Shaver, there was a subterranean race of evil humnoids, whom he termed the ‘dero,’ who enjoyed capturing surface dwellers and enslaving, torturing and sexually abusing them. The editors at Amazing Fantasy said they had to “tone down” a lot of the sex and violence (and sexual violence or violent sex) in Shaver’s stories before publication. Shaver stated he had lived underground with the ‘Tero’ (good Dero) for a number of years and that all of his “Shaver Mystery” stories were true. Others said he was in a mental asylum during that time.
Eventually, the “Shaver Mystery” was dropped from Amazing Stories and Ray Palmer went on to other things. The sci-fi fans who cried ‘hoax’ and used to heckle Palmer and Shaver publically (including a young Harlan Ellison) declared victory. Bizzarely, one of the major complaints of the anti-Shaver Mystery crowd was that “if the Shaver Mystery was suppossed to be the truth, it did not belong in a magazine devoted to fiction.” Shaver felt that the decision by the publisher to no longer carry his stories was a part of the plot to silence him and conceal the Dero plot against mankind. He and his wife retired to a small town in Arkansas where he ran a shop selling geological specimens as well as publishing his newsletters, making his remarkable paintings and continuing his research until his death.
Most people consider him a crank and a crazy. They call his conspiracy theories a ‘hoax.’ As far as I can tell, however, Shaver was dead serious about his beliefs. Was he really lying if he believed what he was saying?