Paul Alfred Doerr, Jr., was born 1 April 1927—and that apparently wasn’t a joke—to Paul and Mary Doerr. They lived in Sharon, Pennsylvania, where Paul senior worked in a steel mill. Paul and Mary wed sometime around 1925. By 1930, they were living in a rented house (sans radio) along with Paul senior’s mother, also named Mary. (Conversations had to be confusing, or there must have been nicknames.) Another family was living with them, too, relatives, Vance S. and Anna J. Bowen. Vance worked in a grocery store.
In February 1936, Mary Doerr, the younger, divorced Paul on the grounds of “indignities to the person,” which roughly is equivalent to the mental cruelty of today. The divorce made the papers (though the city directory listed them as married for a few more years). Paul moved out, and his mother became head of the household. The 1940 census had her at home, along with her own daughter, Alice, her daughter-in-law, Mary, and Paul. The two sisters-in-law worked at a bakery, Alice as a clerk, Mary as a baker; Paul was in school. Much later, he would remember his childhood fondly—it was when he started learning the survivalist techniques he would refine throughout his life. He wrote,
“When a kid, we would go out for weeks with only what we could carry: a bottle of water, a bag of ground grains, maybe salt, a blanket, a knife & digger, a pan or pot, and a gun or bow. We could eat only what we got that day. I also had a small seine since minnows are handier than bigger fish. The blanket had a slit in the center and was blanket, serape, carry-pack, etc.”
Doerr does not seem to have attended college. He joined the military on 13 April 1945, not even two weeks after he turned 18, and remained in it for just over a year, finally honorably discharged on 2 March 1946. He would later claim that he was in the Marines and taught survival skills. The Pennsylvania Application for World War II Compensation listed him as in the navy (there was a separate, unchecked box for marines) and separating from the military at Great Lakes, Illinois, having done strictly domestic service. He may have suffered some sort of injury, as he applied for special pension, but was denied.
His military career finished, Doerr returned to Sharon and went to work in the steel mills. He was married no later than 1949 to a woman named Rose—they were in that year’s city directory. Rose was a few months his senior, born 23 September 1924. His father remarried, too, and about the same time—a 1949 marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman in Arkansas. I’m not sure of why he did so in that state, since both he and Elizabeth were from Pennsylvania, and returned there, too, he continuing to work in the mills, eventually as a foreman. I’m not sure what happened to Paul, Jr.’s mother, Mary: she was listed as a baker in city directories into the 1950s, then no more, probably having remarried. Paul, Jr., and Rose remained in Sharon at least until 1959, Paul never rising as high as foremen. He was involved in real estate transactions, though, and would later claim to have lived very primitively on a large tract of land with a house from the 1800s during some portion of this period. Rose and Paul had a daughter, Gloria, around 1952. As far as I know, she was their only child.
Some time after 1959 but before 1963, he moved to California’s Solano County—the easternmost of the Bay Area counties, just bleeding into the Great Central Valley. By his own account, the move was an adventure. He sailed an 18-foot sloop out of Lake Erie and around to California, apparently via Central America—at least he was in Central America at one point, and the way he told the story of his life to Backwoods Home Magazine in 2001 it seemed as though many of the adventures he had were as part of this trip: he hunted rattlesnake and fished shark; he scraped barnacles from boats and dove for sunken galleons. And he killed a jaguar with a sword and spear: “I had drunk too much or I never would have taken that challenge. That thing walked up, looked at me, buffed its claws a couple times, smiled and said, ‘Dinner!” A friend there with him, experienced with jaguars, told him the right way to attack the beast. There’s no mention of his wife and daughter on this voyage, so presumably they made their own way to California.
That he was in California by 1963 is proved by a newspaper advertisement, in which he was looking for a boat with a livable cabin (apparently to establish his family in); his address was given as Fairfield, California. Records indicate that he moved a bit, between Fairfield and Vallejo, and Suisun, but there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to rehearse the exact order of his different residences. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure what he was up to during the 1960s. He was associated with science fiction, through the National Fantasy Fan, a fan organization, advertising for magazines on Alaska and the desert in 1969. He apparently also became drawn to Mt. Shasta—no surprise given his interest in adventures and also in esotericism and mysterious creatures, since by the early 1960s Shasta had taken on a sacred dimension for many occultists, and was associated with both the lost continent of Lemur and Bigfoot.
In 1964, the Redding (California) Search Light ran a story on the hunt for Lemurians near Shasta. There was by now a long tradition claiming that Shasta was a refuge for Lemurians who—as in the legend of Shangri La—stored forgotten knowledge in the mountain’s caves. Footprints seen in the area had been attributed to them, although after 1958 the tendency was to connect the footprints and mysterious beings in the area with Bigfoot. Indeed, one of the article’s authors was Garth Sanders, who had been on the Bigfoot beat for the paper since the beginning. The other author was Paul Doerr. How he became associated with Sanders or Shasta is unknown. But he would come to have a number of stories about the Mountain (which was several hundred miles from his home in Solano county).
One tale had him finding an odd ruby in the area, which an acquaintance crushed by hand. Shards of it supposedly went to some museums. That time, Doerr followed a ground squirrel to a cave, which he was able to explore. Another—or perhaps an elaboration of that first one?—told of him discovering a large room in a cave, at the center of which was a crystal. He picked it up, and boulders began crashing around him—think Indiana Jones—apparently to squash him. His only means of escape was deeper through the cave and an underground body of water. He never did return to that cavern, though he had thought it might be the source of a number of odd footprints seen in the area.
Doerr said, “I like people with courage and intelligence. . . . Doers, not sitters and explain how-to.” Whether he recognized the pun his own name played with those attributes, he seemed to be a doer himself, if his stories are to be believed (and I have no reason not to believe them). I cannot quite get all of his activities straightened out chronologically, nor do I really see the need at this point. But he was active with a lot of hobbies throughout the end of the century and slightly into the next one. I’m not sure what he did for money. His daughter married in 1972, and the next year he reported he was building his own boat and contemplating a worldwide sailing trip. I don’t know if he followed through on that or not. He raised pigeons. He raised fish. He played around with hydroponics, so that he could sail a ship and always have fresh vegetables. He raised bees.
In the 1980s—if not earlier—he produced a rah of ‘zines, many of them distributed on microfiche. These dealt with intentional communities, intentional families (including polygamous ones), survivalism (later, in the ‘90s, he published an article on camping tricks for a scouting magazine), independent living, sustainability, tropical fish, and science fiction—indeed, his Luna Publications was listed in a number of Writer’s Markets for science fiction authors, though it is unlikely he paid much if at all. His politics leaned strongly libertarian—with publications such as “Pioneer”—and, at least toward the end of his life, were associated with he right wings of that movement. (He wrote a letter recommending that crime could be curtailed by torturing drug dealers to reveal their suppliers, who would then be tortured, on and on, each level of the criminal hierarchy executed, up to and including the billionaires.)
The ‘zines, and he, had an aversion to cities, and as late as 2001 he was hoping to escape even further into the boonies. His libertarianism could curdle into resentment, and by the end of the century he was frustrated that the government had failed to support the exploration of space. (There was an interesting paradox in his writing: a celebration of the primitive paired with a keen interest in the latest technology, and how it could be used to make an individual even less dependent upon the rest of society.) Instead of spacer exploration, he explained, politicians spent money on re-election. Besides, they were afraid of the libertarian implications of space exploration—again that paradox, pining for a giant government program to subsidize, without recognition, individual liberty—writing in 2002, “People in space would be out of the direct control of the masters of the Earth. Read how difficult it was for the European masters to maintain rule over people in colonies scattered all over the world . . .“Living in space is simple, inexpensive, easy, efficient if ‘balanced aquarium’ principe is used. I kept a sealed, balanced aquarium going for a couple of years.” He thought the aim should be the moon—perhaps that was why he named his publishing company Luna Ventures?—and not Mars, because Mars’s environment was simply too inhospitable, while the moon could be survived by—wait for it—digging caverns deep under the surface. Caves, again.
Doerr continued to write about underground races late into his life, his enthusiasm outliving the height of the Shaver Mystery, which reigned when he was in his early 20s. And his name still appears, mostly vaporously, in explorations of underground races, fringe books and and internet websites.
Paul Doerr died 2 August 2007. He was 82.
I have no information on Doerr’s views about Fort or Forteanism. I have no idea when he read Fort, or if he ever did. His name has only come up once in direct relationship to Forteanism, and that was a single mention in the Fortean Society Magazine. In Doubt 16, from 1946, Thayer noted that Paul Doerr of Sharon, Pennsylvania, was seeking data on the abominable snowman. On the face of it, that small bit doesn’t give much information about him. But it does say that he was focused on a particular anomaly, the same one he corresponded with Layne about. There was something about underground races and caves that excited him. Perhaps he had other thoughts on Fort, but we can say that this subject was of special interest to him.
Certainly, there does seem to be a symbolic resonance between the topic and his own ideas about the perfect life—living in a cave somewhere, freed from the burdens of society, the entire system perfectly sustainable, like an aquarium. And maybe there was some Fort in this, since one interpretation of Fort is his saying that we humans are in an aquarium, property of some greater race, a theme that has been developed in science fiction Doerr was likely to read, such as Heinlein’s short story, “Goldfish Bowl.” And there is evidence to push this idea further, though it goes well beyond the confines of the Fortean Society, occurring after it had died, and after theories of the hollow earth and underground races had become among the wackiest of the wacky—when some Fortean ideas were losing their edge, as was the case with Vincent Gaddis’s late writings.
In the 1970s, the Canadian UFOlogist Gene Duplantier produced a pamphlet comprised of various writings on the topic of hollow earth theories and underground races called “Subterranean Worlds.” Among the items collected was a piece by Doerr; I do not know its provenance beyond this collection. It was called “HOLLOW EARTH? UNDERGROUND RACES?” Here it is:
“These are questions that have bothered man for ages. He has studied and probed the Earth and its waters seeking answers. The evidence is not conclusive either way so far. But . . .
Legends of a once-powerful Amerindian people say they emerged from a great cave where they lived before moving to the surface. Legends of other peoples scattered from pole to pole, tell of flight from some vast catastrophe, into caverns where they lived for many generations before again emerging on the surface of earth. Some legends even tell of inner world suns.
Explorers of polar regions sometimes tell of seeing two suns, finding fresh water ice and green floating leaves and branches, seeing prehistoric mammals on the ice or great areas covered with pollen or the air crowded with butterflies, possibly indicating the location of an entrance into the inner world.
Stories exist of an underground passage from the mountain of Gibraltar, under the Straits to the Atlas Mountains in Africa, used by the Gibraltar monkeys and which would explain the fluctuations in their numbers.
Records from medieval times, preserved in monasteries, etc., tell of people who emerged from the underground, some to live out normal lives on the surface of the earth.
Science enters the controversy with such ideas as the “bubble theory” which holds that planets can be hollow spheres with a shell a few hundred miles thick and a mass of radiantly-hot material in the center serving as an interior sun. Saga magazine published several pages on this electromagnetic theory.
Certain photos taken by satellite, published recently in Flying Saucers magazine, seem to show a hole at the pole. If the theory of moving poles and toppling Earth is correct, and every few thousand years the imbalance in the spin plane of the Earth causes it to topple, the “polar” openings could have, at other times, been in temperate or tropic zones.
The Nazis, with their Golden Dawn Society, the Buddhist Agharta, Perelandra, etc., are other stories and beliefs based on an inner world. The Bible says the devil is chained in a vast chamber in the earth. The occult contains many references to the underground, both to individuals and entire races, human or otherwise.
Edgar rice Burroughs in his Pellucidar series was the first author I know of to write extensively about a world inside the earth though many have written one or two books, fiction, non-fiction or compilations of legends, etc.
An article in Fate covers the search for the cavern systems mentioned in Perelandra and describes the area found and some of the caves, including one which can be followed for miles by boat along its half-flooded passages. Of course, no one has explored deep enough yet to find the city, if it exists.
A Polynesian legend describes the ancient race living deep beneath the ruins of the stone city on the South Pacific island and says they will someday emerge to again rule the earth. A peculiarity of the construction of these buildings is the odd stone shapes which make the structures look somewhat like colonial forts.
Some odd records remain from the Nazis of their search and some of them hint of strange discoveries made by HitIer’s searchers. One entrance to an underground world is said to be in the Tetra mountains in Czechoslovakia. Among other entrances spoken of in legend are those on Mount Shasta, under the Thunderbird-shaped city fortress of Machu Pichu in Peru, South America.
Strange structures have been found in Australia, either built underground or since covered by earth in some manner. One was found only because a rancher tied his horse to an odd-shaped stone sticking out of the ground. These have not been explored yet, So whether they were deliberately built underground is not known.
Many moderns are probing the underground world. Speleologists (spelunkers or cave-crawlers) are mapping caves all over the world. I recently entered a newly-found cave high on a mountainside overlooking the Stanislaus River. The cave was discovered only because a rock climber saw mist issuing from a small hole in the rocks. The entrance is about seven feet deep, vertical with smooth sides. It is so small I must extend my hands straight overhead and empty my lungs to slide in.
Getting out is most difficult because neither arms nor legs can be flexed and there are no holds except at top and bottom. Inside, it widens out into passageways and rooms magnificent in diamond-sparkling bands of flowstone, stone draperies, stalactites, stalagmites, cave-milk and other fantastic cave formations in many colors.
Incidentally, when a cave-form is removed from the cave where it “lives” and “grows” it “dies” and loses most of its color and beauty. My photo illustrated article on this cave was published in 1972 in Explorers Journal. This cave apparently ends but air continues to move through it so unfound continuations must exist.
Many cavern systems exist all over the world, most of them unexplored. They range from rooms hundreds of feet high, some with lakes and streams on the floors to passages so low that when traversing them, you must lie flat, pulling yourself along by fingers and toes, where the roof is too low even to crawl on elbows and knees. You hold your head to the side to keep your nose and half your mouth above the water that often flows in these places.
Deep mines show that heat increases as depth increases, though this may not be true everywhere and no one knows if some point may be passed where the heat begins to decrease as depth in “increased”.
A cave was found in Cornwall which had artifacts useable only by very tiny people. Another cave in the American west was dry when the finders entered it, only to fill up with boiling water. Some think the lights of Brown Mountain issue from a cave as yet undiscovered on the side of the mountain, hidden in the very dense underbrush.
Various caves are said, by reliable witnesses, to have strange sounds and even lights deep inside them. One cave “disappears”. The entrance can be found at some times and not at others. Some caves fill with poison gases.
Some surface peoples have done a lot of digging and some still do. Viet Nam is a web of tunnels, some of them almost unbelievable. One tunnel, stretching more than 50 miles west from Saigon is high and wide enough for two bicyclists to ride abreast.
The desert peoples dig, and wall in stone, miles of tunnels to gather the scarce water and conduct it to cisterns. It is strange to ride over miles of bare sand and stone, then to stop and move a flat rock and find beneath it a great well of water, with tunnels radiating out in various directions for miles.
The Tuareg supposedly have great, very ancient, underground cities. Some North Africans still build their homes underground to escape the great heat. labyrinths of tunnels and catacombs underlie many great cities, both ancient and modern, from the Gobi to Mayaland. The UFOs have been said to have underground homes in isolated places, or in the Amazona. Certainly, thousands of documented cases exist of this exciting subject.”
Vague as the rest of the information I have collected on Doerr’s Forteanism, the article is nonetheless suggestive and shows how certain Fortean ideas, while the data persisted, dropped out of sight, as if down a deep hole.