The Shaver Mystery Magazine Pulp Cover

Artist:Harold McCauley
Medium:Oil on Canvas
Dimensions:Sight Size 20" x 30"
Original Use:Cover for The Shaver Mystery Magazine Pulp
Price: S O L D
Above: Full view of spicy pulp rendering

A rare surviving original oil on canvas by the talented cover artist Harold or H.W. McCauley (1913-1977), who specialized in science fiction genre work.

Exploring fantasy, adventure and space travel themes while maintaining a keen eye for the feminine guiles and allure of the pin-up girl, McCauley was a frequent cover illustrator for Fantastic Adventures between 1939 - 1942. He later illustrated covers for Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy.

Above: Detail of half girl -half horse "Centaur"

This work was first used as a cover in the underground 1947 Shaver Mystery Magazine, a fanatically coveted black & white sci-fi pulp devoted to the fantasies and cosmologies of writer/artist Dick Shaver.

This work is also very much like the published cover for the December 1950 issue of Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy which used a tamed-down, far less sexually explosive version of the concept with the title of Meet Me in Tomorrow. This cover is included in the sale.

Above: Framed View of pastel work
Above: Verso view of canvas and old stretchers
Above: Frame Detail

The Shaver Mystery Magazine, for which this painting was created, is one of the most fascinating outgrowths of the early science fiction/pulp movement of the 1940s-1950s.

Author Richard Shaver, working with Amazing Stories publisher Ray Palmer, created a mythology of a hidden past of the "hollow earth" with a lost Atlantis-like civilization Lemuria.

Not unlike the imaginative creations of L. Ron Hubbard which morphed into scientology, a whole alternative history developed around Shaver's writings, which he helped nuture in his self-published underground magazine The Shaver Mystery Magazine.

McCauley's involvement with this undertaking puts him in a critical juncture of the development of pulp and science fiction, and further demonstrates McCauley's influence in the development of the aesthetic of this great art. Along with McCauley, Virgil Finlay contributed covers to these underground cult classic magazines.

Above: 1947 Shaver Magazine McCauley Illustration Cover
Above: 1947 Shaver Magazine

The remarkable provenance of this provocative painting makes the artwork an exceptionally collectible and stunningly rare original Spicy Pulp cover illustration. In excellent condition as seen, in a stunning gallery frame.

Above: December 1950 Imagination Stories Cover

More on the Shaver Mystery

The "Shaver Mystery" began in 1943 when Shaver wrote a letter to sci-fi pulp magazine Amazing Stories. He claimed to have uncovered an ancient language he called "Mantog" which was the source of all Earthly language. In Mantog, each sound had a hidden meaning, and by applying this formula to any word in any language, one could decode a secret meaning to any word, name or phrase. Palmer applied the Mantog formula to several words, and said he realized Shaver was on to something.

Palmer wrote to Shaver, asking how he had learned of Mantog. Shaver responded with a 10,000 word document entitled "A Warning to Future Man." Shaver wrote of tremendously advanced pre-historic races who had built cavern cities inside Earth before abandoning Earth for another planet. Those ancients also abandoned some of their own diseased offspring here, who degenerated over time into a population of mentally impaired sadists known as Dero--short for detrimental robots.

These Dero still lived in the cave cities, according to Shaver, kidnapping surface-dwelling people by the thosands for meat and using the fantastic "ray" machines that the great ancient races left behind to project tormenting thoughts and voices into our minds. Shaver claimed first-hand knowledge of the Dero and their caves, insisting he had been a prisoner for several years.
Palmer edited and rewrote the document, retitling it "I Remember Lemuria"; it was published in March, 1945.

The issue sold out, and generated quite a response: between 1945 and 1949, letters poured in attesting to the truth of Shaver's claims (tens of thousands of letters, according to Palmer). The correspondents, too, had heard strange voices or encountered denizens of the hollow Earth.

Palmer claimed that Amazing Stories saw huge boosts in circulation because of the Shaver Mystery, and the magazine emphasized the Shaver Mystery for several years. Shaver's rambling manuscripts were rewritten by Arnold, both to make them more readable, and to remove or downplay most of the explicit sexual content.

Fred Crisman, later to gain notoriety for his role in the Maury Island Incident and the John F. Kennedy Assassination, was among those claiming to have had run-ins with the Deros. "Shaver Mystery Club" chapters sprang up in several cities.

The controversy gained some notice in the mainstream press at the time, including a mention in a 1951 issue of Life magazine.
In 1948, Amazing Stories ceased all publication of Shaver's stories. Palmer would later claim the magazine was pressured by sinister outside forces to make the change.

In recent years Shaver's Dero have also appeared in SubGenius mythology and are prominent in the work of artist Jermaine Rogers. The relative success of "The Shaver Mystery" in acquiring adherents from science fiction fandom may have influenced L. Ron Hubbard to invent Dianetics and promote it via SF magazines.


Contact Grapefruit Moon Gallery