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The Shaver Hoax

I’ve written about some pretty ridiculous things in this column. Some pretty ridiculous, stupid, and downright bizarre things, to be exact, but I’ve done it because they make interesting stories. As long as one does not believe in them too much, that is. And that is why I hope that, at the end of this article, you will all agree with me that the world is not hollow, goddamn it.

The concept of the world being hollow goes back thousands of years, mostly because it’s an interesting idea. Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, and Edgar Rice Burroughs all used the idea of a hollow earth in their writings, though I assume that most of them knew the difference between garbage they made up to entertain people and scientific fact. Originally, astronomer Edmund Halley used the idea of the earth being hollow to account for problems dealing with the irregularity of the earth’s magnetic field, but it wouldn’t be long until crazy people tried to sucker the populace out of cash.

When did the modern age begin? It can mostly be pinned on a single man, Richard Shaver, and his publisher, Ray Palmer. Palmer owned, among other noted journals of opinion, FATE magazine, The Hidden World, and Flying Saucers from Other Worlds. Shaver wrote a bunch of articles about the culture living on the inside of the hollow earth, and Palmer published them. The FBI considered these insane stories to be the cause of the UFO mass hysteria (paranormal enthusiasts use the word ‘flap’) of 1947.

But what exactly did Shaver, a welder from Pennsylvania and long-time reader of occult books, write about? Well, according to him the earth isn’t a normal sphere. At the north and south poles of the earth are enormous holes that lead into a hollow center (the aurora borealis is created by gas escaping from these monster holes.) To be fair, this idea was first put out by a man named John Symmes after the War of 1812.

The articles that Shaver wrote for FATE, describing what chumps worldwide call “The Shaver Mystery” and what bitter cynics worldwide call “The Shaver Hoax” are one hell of a good read. There’s a civilization living down there, the Agartha, that has a fleet of flying saucers which they occasionally use for forays into the upper atmosphere. The Agartha came about in a relatively straightforward manner. You see, before the time of the dinosaurs, an advanced civilization inhabited the earth, on the islands of Atlantis and Lemuria. Because of dangerous solar radiation they had to abandon the earth, and left all their cities and machinery in the care of robots. After a number of earthquakes, the cities were all relocated into the center of our hollow world, where the robots went insane and became polarized. The Deros, a contraction of the words Detrimental Robot, became unspeakably evil and fought against the Telos, their good counterparts. As far as I can tell the Agartha are made up of unsuspecting humans who venture into the core of the earth and run afoul of Atlantean technology, which sprays out radiation.

So, a story about good versus evil. Who can resist such a timeless tale? Apparently nobody. Sales of FATE went through the roof, until a disagreement arose between Palmer and Shaver. Hold on to your funny bones, because if you look hard enough, there’s more than the prerequisite amount of hilarity in this next portion of the story to kill a man.

Shaver and Palmer got into a big fight, and Shaver went and started his own magazine. The nature of the fight? Well, apparently Shaver felt that Palmer was not treating his articles in the proper manner. To him, they belonged in a scholarly journal, and Palmer was making them look like pulp tabloid fiction to increase sales.

Now let’s recap for a second: a man who writes stories about how he was invited to live with people in the center of the earth that subsist on Atlantean technology and have an army of robots locked in a civil war feels that his articles were not being treated in the correct way and that no one would take them seriously. If you’re not laughing, go to a dictionary and look up the word ‘irony.’

I can imagine you saying to yourself “so what, some crazy guy wrote a bunch of articles and made himself a pile of cash. What’s wrong with that?” What’s wrong with that is that there’s an enormous number of people that believe everything he said was literally 100% true. That’s insane. Those articles were an attempt to make some quick cash, or gain some quick fame, and provide entertainment to the readers. That’s it. Nothing more. For heaven’s sake, they certainly weren’t first-hand accounts of the inner workings of a society living on the inside of the earth.

Yet still, there are believers. They point to rumors of a ‘lost diary’ written by arctic explorer Admiral Byrd, which they claim details his adventures at the hands of the Agartha. The only other piece of evidence that they have is NASA. They claim that the government would want to cover up the existence of a hollow earth, and therefore the fact that NASA releases photos of hole-less polar caps is damning proof that there’s something to cover up. Or something, I have trouble following circular logic after about the ninth or tenth pass.

The idea of the Hollow Earth is a goldmine. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people in this country alone make their living off of it every year. A woman in northern California earns her pay by sending a recounting of her time spent in a city beneath Mt. Shasta to any chump that sends her $20, plus shipping. Interviews with people and books written by people who claim to have been inside the hollow earth, like alien abductees, are numerous, and with a little imagination and some business sense, one can make a killing off of it. My personal favorite is a man who claims to be the grandson of Admiral Byrd, who says that the explorer met Sasquatch at the center of the earth, as well as a race of Aryans who had swastikas painted on their flying saucers. Indeed, some even claim that Hitler and many of his ministers did not succumb to the giant, jet-fueled bare-knuckle haymaker delivered to them by America, but rather that they escaped into the hole at the north pole and lived out their days in the center of the earth.

So that’s it. The hollow earth is a fun idea, the basis for some interesting stories, but ridiculously untrue. If you’re bored and need some entertainment, look into some of those stories. If you’re poor and need cash, look into making up some of those stories. And if I’m wrong, hell, I’m glad Bush is our president, because when legions of Nazi UFOs come flying out of the center of the earth, I bet he’ll beat the living tar out of them.

First Published in The Triangle, 3 December 2004