[Review] The Shaver Mystery [MidWest WeirdFest]: Documentary Short Explores the Fantastic Tales and Unusual Life of Richard Shaver

Were writer Richard Shaver’s works published in the Amazing Stories pulp magazine factual accounts, as claimed, or works of fiction — or something more startling? Director Dean Bertram tackles these and other questions about the man and his stories in the documentary short film The Shaver Mystery (2024).

Shaver was an interesting person, indeed, and Bertam does a superb job of bringing his story to cinematic life in this 14-minute short. In short and avoiding spoilers, Shaver claimed, among other things, that he had been held prisoner for several years by a sinister ancient civilization called “Deros” — short for “detrimental robots” — that lived beneath the Earth’s surface and caused mayhem of all sorts. Many of his writings for Amazing Stories concerned the Deros and the much kinder entities known as Teros.

Richard Shaver (left) and Amazing Stories editor and publisher Ray Palmer

Bertram is no stranger to paranormal topics. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Sydney, Australia, where his doctoral dissertation was “Flying Saucer Culture: An Historical Survey of American UFO Belief”; he hosts the Talking Weird paranormal interview program on the Untold Radio Network; and he runs MidWest WeirdFest and A Night of Horror International Film Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. His connections with experts in the fields of high strangeness are numerous, and in this documentary, he interviews a variety of knowledgeable writers, editors, podcasters, and researchers about Shaver, his life, his Amazing Stories run, and beyond.  

Far more than a mere talking heads documentary, The Shaver Mystery is a highly entertaining work. Bertram uses black-and-white science fiction film and serial clips and a variety of vintage pulp magazine covers to whisk viewers back in time to the heyday of Amazing Stories — circa 1945–1948. The short also discusses Amazing Stories editor and publisher Ray Palmer’s role in the Shaver mystery, including the magazine’s leap in circulation and sudden ceasing of publishing Shaver mystery stories because of alleged outside forces. 

For viewers unfamiliar with Shaver and his tales, The Shaver Mystery is an excellent introduction, and for those more familiar with the subjects, the documentary is certain to shed some new light, or at least present some new opinions. 

The Shaver Mystery short film is a standalone segment from Bertram’s upcoming feature documentary The Man Who Invented Flying Saucers: a film about Ray Palmer, the Shaver Mystery, and the creation of modern UFO belief. With this compelling short as a preview of things to come, I can’t wait to see Bertram’s full-length documentary on this tantalizing topic.

The Shaver Mystery screened as part of MidWest WeirdFest, which ran March 1–3, 2024 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. For more information, visit https://www.midwestweirdfest.com/. The short is currently on the film festival circuit.

For more information about The Man Who Invented Flying Saucers, visit https://www.facebook.com/TheManWhoInventedFlyingSaucers.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.