Yesterday I talked a bit about the Shaver Mystery, the 1945 hoax in which writer Richard S. Shaver claimed that he had descended under the earth, encountered a fantastically ancient race possessed of high technology, and reported the shocking truth only under the guise of fiction. In reality, of course, the hoax was the joint work of Shaver, a former mental patient, and Amazing Stories editor Ray Palmer (who wrote more than two-thirds of the Shaver material and soon after started Fate magazine, the nonfiction title that launched the Kenneth Arnold UFO claims), but I didn’t know when I discussed this yesterday was the debt that Palmer and Shaver owed to H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard, whose tales of lost civilizations and underground races (cf. Lovecraft and Heald, “The Mound,” or Lovecraft, Shadow Out of Time) were the direct predecessors of Shaver’s, mitigating and transmitting earlier claims from sources like Bulwer-Lytton’s Coming Race, Frederick S. Oliver’s Dweller on Two Planets, and various hollow earth theories from the Victorian era. From Lovecraft, too, we see echoes in the idea that the ancient people were a space-faring race and that the Elder Race (his words: cf. Lovecraft’s Elder Things, Ancient Ones, and Old Ones) would return from the stars.
In discussing this with Jeb J. Card yesterday, Card pointed me toward facts I was not aware of but which help to confirm the important role the Lovecraft Mythos played in the development of fringe history and ufology. Card told me about the Lovecraftian influence on the neo-Theosophist Maurice Doreal (Claude Doggins), the author of the Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean, often cited in fringe literature as genuine ancient texts from Atlantis. From Dweller on Two Planets Doreal incorporated into his vision of the cosmos the alleged lost civilization hiding out beneath Mount Shasta in California, and he adopted the Shaver Mystery as part of his own burgeoning mythos as the 1940s progressed and Palmer began recommending Doreal’s work to Shaver fans.
Doreal wrote a pamphlet called “Mysteries of the Gobi” about an underground race beneath that desert, and I wonder if that wasn’t a source for some of Peter Kolosimo’s Gobi claims. I’ve never read it, so I don’t know. What I do know is that Doreal’s claims were explicitly Lovecraftian. His underground race were serpent people, and they were ancient aliens from another world—essentially Robert E. Howard’s serpent people. Both shared the same description: humans with snake heads. In a later pamphlet, “UFOs: An Occult Perspective” (1948), they were asserted to be primeval and entombed under the earth in suspended animation—just like the reptilians of “The Nameless City,” which Lovecraft wrote in 1921 but which Doreal would have read in Fanciful Tales in 1936 or Weird Tales in 1938. Doreal appropriated from Howard the idea that the snake men masquerade as humans and have taken positions of power in human society.
But even more interesting is Doreal’s more or less explicit plagiarism of Lovecraft in Emerald Tablets, in which he has reimagined the serpent race in terms Lovecraft associated with the Old Ones, apparently equating the two groups in a way Lovecraft only occasionally and partially implied. I had never read these tablets in their entirety because, frankly, they are fakes so I never had any incentive to read so much drivel. It turns out that they contain some very interesting evidence.
Although Doreal claims that he found and translated these tablets—named for the ninth-century Hermetic text to which it bears little resemblance—in the Great Pyramid of Giza in 1925, this is an almost certain fiction, and the “translations” weren’t published until the late 1930s or 1940s. I want to take a look at a passage from Tablet 8 side-by-side with the parallel text from the Necronomicon fragment given in “The Dunwich Horror” and the Cthulhu theogony in “Call of Cthulhu” to show the textual dependency of Doreal on Lovecraft. The passage begins with a paraphrase of Old Castro’s claims from “The Call of Cthulhu,” rendering the Old Ones as “children of shadow” but preserving the claim that they are to be found under the earth. From there, he plagiarizes “Dunwich,” but almost certainly from the version given by August Derleth in The Lurker at the Threshold, which alters the text in small but significant ways, emphasizing the punishment of the Old Ones by his Elder Gods. It is Derleth’s version of Lovecraft that informs Doreal, though Doreal has inverted the relationship between the Old Ones and their human servants, subordinating the supernatural to the mortal.
It’s probably worth noting that in the passage quoted above from “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” Lovecraft makes the Necronomicon refer to a semi-fictitious Book of Thoth (found in references in Ptolemaic texts to a book that allows for perception of the gods), which must in Doreal’s mind be identical with the Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean.
You might say that all of this is a coincidence, but after this, Doreal goes on to plagiarize the Hounds of Tindalos from Frank Belknap Long’s 1929 short story of the same name in all their essential details, in a way that is unmistakeable:
I don’t think there’s any mistaking the dependence of Doreal on pulp fiction. How any ancient astronaut theorist or fringe historian could read this and not recognize the textual origins of the passage is beyond me, except through the relatively strong wall that kept science fiction and fantasy stories confined to a literary ghetto through the middle twentieth century.
But what we see here is proto-science fiction feeding into Theosophy, which in turn inspires Lovecraftian fiction before feeding back into neo-Theosophical fringe history and ufology. No wonder Helena Blavatsky chose the ouroboros as the symbol of Theosophy. The whole sci-fi fringe history complex is a closed loop.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.