When I was growing up, we had some family out in Arizona near Phoenix. My dad's sister (Aunt Marie), her husband (Uncle Charlie) and three kids had lived out there since I was old enough to know such things. At the time (late 1960's and early 1970's) the distance from Flint, Michigan to Phoenix was approximately the same as the distance from Flint to the dark side of the moon. Contact was limited to the occasional letter or card, and the annual Christmas-morning phone call. My parents twice drove out to visit them; the first time in the early 1960's before I was born, then again in either 1970 or 1971 when I was around six or seven years old. That was the only time I met Uncle Charlie. At the time, he was recovering from a recent stroke and spent most of our visit in his favorite chair. Later, I would be regaled with stories of all the crazy (and illegal) places he had taken my parents and sister during their first visit: hidden valleys, caves, old mines, pueblos, and so on. But who I met was a kindly "old" man (younger than I am now, but when you're six, anyone past third grade is "old") who seemed to live in his chair and was a bit awkward around a young boy.
I was also told that Uncle Charlie was... well... eccentric. He was a fair artist; there were rumors that GM had once offered him a serious sum of money for his drawings of cars of the future. He was also a writer, although my parents never seemed to know what he wrote about, or where, or if, any of his writings had ever been published. I never saw any of this, but I was assured it was all very "weird". In my young mind, that fit, as my Aunt Marie was a reverend in the Spiritualist Church. Aunt Marie and Uncle Charlie = weird. Got it. In a fundamentalist Baptist house, that isn't just something said with a wink and a knowing smile. That is an indictment of the most serious kind. I was being warned.
Sometime in the late 1970's, we received word that Uncle Charlie had divorced Aunt Marie, packed up all his writings and artwork, and vanished. At some point in the early 1980's, my Aunt Marie received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Uncle Charlie's widow. She informed my aunt that Charlie was dead, but refused to offer any details about where, when, how or what Uncle Charlie had been up to in the years since he'd pulled his Houdini on his family. There were a few rumors that he may have died of a heart attack or maybe was stung to death by bees. That he had died while climbing Superstition Mountain (one of his favorite haunts) or may somewhere in New Mexico. Or maybe Mexico. Or....
No one knew anything or who might know anything, so that was where things stood for over three decades.
A couple months ago, I had purchased a stack of books by John Michael Greer. I first encountered JMG thanks to someone posting a link to his blog, The Archdruid Report, on Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor website. I had already read most of JMG's current peak oil books and decided to try some of his less-mainstream books on magic, the occult, UFO's, monsters, and so on. One of those books was his Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies. The entries on men named Shaver and Palmer, and others on various beliefs centered on beings living underground started some serious itching in the back of my brain. I asked my parents a few questions, then spent time on the Googles. This is what I've dug up so far. Understand that this is from the internet, which isn't always the best source for facts, and that the people with these "facts" hold beliefs that most would find... okay; "weird" is as good a word as any. Here we go:
The early to mid 1900's was the heyday of pulp science fiction magazines with titles like Astounding, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories. One of them, Amazing Stories, was struggling financially until a new editor by the name of Ray Palmer began running stories by Richard S. Shaver about ancient humans he called the Deros and Teros, living deep underground and controlling humans via telepathy. Magazine subscriptions soared. Then Palmer dropped a bombshell: All the Shaver stories were true. Subscriptions exploded, but there was also some grumbling that Palmer was taking the magazine off the deep end. Palmer ended up starting several magazines that focused on Shaverism (that article is in German, but Wikipedia will translate it to passable English), Ufology, etc, while moving Amazing Stories back towards pulp sci-fi.
Enter stage left: Uncle Charlie, or as he is known in Shaverite circles, Charles A. Marcoux. He was a true believer. The drawing at the top of this post is one he made of two Teros he encountered on the corner of S. Saginaw St. and Union in Flint, Michigan while leaving the Thom McAn shoe store. You can read the entire story in his own words from an article published in Fate, another of Palmer's magazines. Just to give you a taste:
Soon, the light changed, and as they crossed the street they passed within six feet of me. I decided to walk over to them, while I searched for the right words to start a conversation. Try as I may, my body would not respond to what I wanted to do and to what my mind was telling it to do. In those few seconds when they passed so close to me, their eyes did not waver right or left, and their thoughts left a mark in my mind. They seemed to say, "Guard your thoughts from unfriendly rays."
I was stunned and speechless as I helplessly watched them go up the street with the crowd of Christmas shoppers. At that moment, I was again able to move, just as they seemed to merge into the crowd and disappear. Hastily I walked after them, and I assure you that I could have caught up with them, but try as I may I just couldn't find them. It appeared as if they became one with the other people. As I rushed to the spot where last I saw them, I psychically examined the crowd of people. The couple had simply disappeared or became "invisible" from my mind.
While still living in Flint, Uncle Charlie was also published in a non-Palmer publication called the Journal of Borderland Research. In this article, he relates being confronted by, as he calls them, Men in Black after verbally sparing with one Howard Menger after a talk Menger gave on aliens and flying discs in Flint. In Uncle Charlie's own words:
I knew it was time to stop this line of inquiry. It would he reckless to attack Merger on his chosen field of battle. I knew that if I continued, my hatred of THE SECRET EMPIRE would rile me up; so I got up and walked outside. My feeling then was that Menger was a complete hoax, or that he was a pawn of the Secret Empire, willingly or unwillingly. Obviously, the money taken in from these lectures would not pay Menger’s expenses and those of the two men in black with him, and pay for the $5,000 car they were driving. To me it was significant that their car bore New Jersey license plates. That state is a hot house of Dero control. The Cavern World is in complete control of ALL surface exchange in that area. The Cavern Bosses get much of their needs from this State.
As I left the meeting, one of the men in black, the one called Dave, followed me outside.
“Don’t you think it would be better to follow the higher contacts?” he said.
“I could have knocked loopholes in everything Menger claimed,” I replied. “I know a faker when I see one — after being in this work twenty years.”
“Then why didn’t you?” he asked.
“Wouldn’t that have been stupid — to attack him in his own field!”
“Yes, it would. You were wise, not to do so in such a large gathering.”
That was the end of it, or so I thought. The Menger meeting made me disgusted with all contactees. A few months later a car bearing Detroit license plates cane to my home in Flint. There were three men in black this time and they tried to barge in to my house, using foul, threatening language. They couldn’t scare me. I told them to get on down the road. The next thing I knew was a campaign of slander against me, from nowhere. This broke up my group. The members got scared out. They didn’t [want] anything more to do with me, just like that.
A major player in Shaverism was another Michigander named George D. Wight, who claimed that while exploring Blowing Cavern near Cushman, Arkansas, they had found an entrance to the Underworld, spent several days exploring, eventually being guided by Teros to one of their cities. Wight wrote everything up in a document called the Wight Manuscript, which made its way into the hands of good ol' Uncle Charlie. I have no proof of this as I haven't been able to nail down an exact timeline, but I suspect this was around the time Uncle Charlie disappeared from Arizona. Several years after receiving the Wight Manuscript, Uncle Charlie put together a team to explore Blowing Cavern in 1983. According to several accounts I have dug up, it was either in or near the cave that he was attacked by a swarm of bees and died from the resulting heart attack. Here is a story of Uncle Charlie's demise written by Richard Toronto published in Fate magazine in 2000:
With wife Lorene in tow, Marcoux moved to Cushman in September 1983. He made some tentative forays into the cave, preparing for the final assault once expeditionary unit members arrived. Before the team ever assembled, however, internal disagreements brought accusations from Marcoux that questioned some members' dedication to the project.
A month passed as Marcoux taunted readers in both Shavertron and The Hollow Hassle.
"I allow you to disclose the location and name of this cave, which will give your readers enough information to decide for themselves whether they want to explore it... if they have the guts."
Then, while hiking near the entrance of Blowing Cavern that November, Marcoux was attacked by a swarm of bees, bringing on a fatal heart attack. He died at the scene, leaving the handful of Blowing Cavern team members wondering what to do next.
Rumors fluttered around Marcoux's untimely -- some said mysterious -- death. Shaver had always warned that the cavern world was hidden for good reason, and that cavern dwellers liked to keep it that way.
A troubled Mary Martin conferred with a California psychic who knew nothing of Marcoux or Shaver. Martin wanted to know if Marcoux had any message to impart.
"I told [the psychic] his name and that he had died, and could she make contact with him," Martin said.
"This is the message she received: 'Tell her I am unable to find the way to the underground tunnel at this time. Tell her to look in the Cucamonga wilderness area for what she seeks. She must be very wary for the guardians are quite jealous... They won't let me talk to you anymore. They are forcing me away... help me...'"
The elusive "L" was also contacted. He said evil intent had nothing to do with Marcoux's death, but he would not elucidate. He also threatened to re assemble the old Michigan spelunking group one last time to wall up the Blowing Cavern portal to the Underworld. It had caused too much sorrow and misery already, he said.
The story of Blowing Cavern, the Wight manuscript, and Marcoux's efforts to locate the Underworld of Richard Shaver was the final nail in the Shaver Mystery's coffin.
Most active Shaver Mystery buffs had given up hope of finding proof long before Marcoux's 1983 attempt. They were facing old age and waning interest. Newcomers to the UFO/occult scene became New Agers, with new controversies to contemplate (Roswell, Area 51, Majestic 12) -- enough to distract from the Underworld of Shaver and Palmer.
That's pretty much what I have at this point. I'm in contact with a number of people who knew Uncle Charlie, and I'm chasing a lead that will hopefully uncover at least some of Uncle Charlie's journals and artwork. I've also ordered compilations of yet-another Palmer magazine titled Shavertron that Uncle Charlie wrote numerous articles for.
Little by little, the story is surfacing. I'm sure this will all consume far more time than it ought to over the coming months, but it's fun digging up information on someone who disappeared decades ago.