Deros, also known as "Detrimental Robots" (not because they are mechanical machines, but because they are a humanoid race which have become robot-like slaves to their own sadism and hedonism); comparable to H.G. Wells' Morlocks from The Time Machine
[The Deros resemble] fearfully aenemic jitterbugs, small, with pipestem arms and legs, pot bellies, huge protruding eyes and wide, idiotically grinning mouths. Super-goofy, I believe modern youth would call them....
- Richard Sharpe Shaver, Formula from the Underworld
Deros are a creation (or, allegedly, a discovery) of Richard Sharpe Shaver in books that were promoted as "The Shaver Mystery"; Shaver, who "discovered" the truth about this race before he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, claimed that his weird fiction stories were based on reality.
Shaver described Deros as an ancient race of aliens living in caverns under the earth who, taking shelter from the harmful effects of the Sun's radiation (which interferes with the Deros' immortality), have slowly gone insane in the dark, damp caverns and vaults deep in the earth, and are responsible for tragedies, insanities, bad luck, nightmares, hauntings, demonic oppression, and alien abduction on the surface world, because sadism is the last pleasure left to these degenerate beings.
Deros speak a language called Mantong, which seems to have been a root language for most modern human languages pre-dating Indo-Aryan; the word "Dero" itself is Mantong, from two words meaning approximately "detrimental robot" (or something closer to "Those who are slaves to their evil obsessions and compulsions.")
"Clothed in rags and dirt, hung all over with hand weapons, their hair long and matted, were the strangest, most disgusting creatures I had ever seen in my life. They were dwarfs, some of them white-haired, from the Gods know what hidden hole in Mu's endless warren of caverns."
- Richard Sharpe Shaver, I Remember Lemuria!
The word "Dero" is constructed from the words "Detrimental Robot" - the word "detrimental" in this sense refers to poisonous rays of the sun which have damaged the brain, and "robot" refers to the psychological/behavioral result of this damage, as explained by Shaver: "robotism, or the inability to think constructively".
In I Remember Lemuria!, Shaver describes Deros as ragged, filthy, albino dwarfs; this description has been used in the depiction of Derros in Dungeons and Dragons (there is also some overlap with the thematically identical Drow Elves in Dungeons and Dragons).
The Dero civilization has long ago collapsed into a degenerate, nightmare decadence. Fleeing the sun's life-draining rays in Earth's distant past into caverns and vaults deep in the Earth, the immortal Deros have been slowly degenerating in the dark and damp among their rusting machinery into twisted, sadistic, insane cannibal gnomes whose last source of pleasure is torture and mayhem inflicted upon those mortal creatures who enjoy the sunlight.
The array of deteriorating machinery left in Earth's shadowy vaults for the Deros to amuse themselves with include flying saucers and a bewildering variety of surgical machines and rays for manipulating matter and minds from a distance. The ray machines include technology that the Deros use to cause disasters and start wars, kidnap surface-dwellers via levitation, cause people to hear voices and see hallucinations, control minds and moods through remote hypnosis, spy on conversations, cause instant deaths and slow and painful deaths, mutilate cattle, contact and conspire with other alien races, and many other hostile, disturbing and upsetting interactions with surface-dwelling humans.
In addition to the Deros, the caverns of their underworld are crowded with the Deros' human slaves, as well as cartels of human henchmen, mercenaries, collaborators, cultists, and customers who willingly cooperate with the Deros' schemes for various unsavory reasons of their own, and each major city has beneath its streets a literal underworld peopled by gangsters and cultists employed by the Deros for the purpose of gathering slaves and otherwise carrying out the Deros' dirty work on the surface world, with many of the cities' runaways, homeless, and other lost causes who would not be missed kidnapped by their fellow humans and "sold down the shaft" to monstrous Dero sadists and cannibals waiting below, for Deros have developed a taste for human flesh, and their human collaborators are skillful and capable of supplying it in great quantities. Most cities have even developed a literal underground secret industry of kidnapping human victims and using them as voluntary or involuntary breeding stock by forcing them to breed with other human victims, and even with various inhuman monsters to produce foodstock in exotic and exciting flavors and endless mongrel variety for the tables of Dero feasts, as well as the torture chambers of Dero entertainments. Dero tampering to stir up unrest, chaos, and war on the surface world via their ray technology, along with the efforts of their collaborators in the governments and the militaries of every nation, have sparked many a war whose sole purposes are to generate misery, death, and destruction on the surface world, while supplying large populations of victims who are diverted into underground "shelters" for "safety", into the waiting clutches of the Deros, never to be seen or heard from again, to be counted among the war's countless, faceless victims.
In Other Contexts
As twisted, dwarfish, shape-shifting, subterranean creatures who kidnap, torment, and breed with surface-dwellers, Deros might be identified with Machen's protean Faerie folk, who beget wizened, deformed, mentally-defective, olive-skinned, black-haired, black-eyed changelings with slurred, guttural voices on terrified rural families. Similarly, there seems to be some overlap with the subterranean, deformed, rubbery-faced Ghouls as a degenerate, troglodytic race that haunts and torments surface-dwellers at night.
UFOlogists sometimes associate Deros with shape-shifting "Reptilian Alien" aliens, which may be taken as identifying Deros with Serpent People, Deep Ones, the strange crocodile-mammal Reptile People from "The Nameless City (fiction)", and other such subterranean reptilian beings from the works of Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft.
The thematically similar Morlocks, a similar concept from H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, are described as a degenerate, troglodytic sub-race of cannibals living in underground factory-abbatoirs beneath a far-future post-apocalyptic Earth, where they descended from generations of factory workers forced to live underground in service to a decadent and equally devolved ruling class, the child-like Eloi; as time passed, the ruling class lost their power and became more and more simple-minded, child-like, and helpless until they evolved into a branch of humanity called Eloi, while the working class became more and more troglodytic, corrupt, and bestial, until their roles switched; from then on, the Morlocks kept the delicate and child-like Eloi as human livestock, creeping up to the surface world by night to drag their feeble surface-dwelling victims underground into the Morlocks' tunnels to be butchered for cannibal feasts....
Deros seem to have some overlap with Men in Black, which have variously been described as strangely-shaped men in dark suits and hats obscuring most of their features; the men seem to have disturbingly smooth pale or albino skin, have no hair, are unnaturally thin, don't seem to be shaped like normal people, waddle on stilt-like legs, have expressionless mask-like faces, have wires attached to their limbs or necks, communicate threateningly by what seems to be telepathy, and seem to demonstrate an unnatural control over time and space and supernatural knowledge of activities they couldn't have seen directly. Deros might also take the form of the "Shadow People" commonly encountered in the hallucinatory nightmares of Sleep Paralysis.
Blasphemies and Heresies
- The Deros are not entities in the material world, but instead dwell on the Astral Plane, from which they influence our world. (Richard Sharpe Shaver's publisher, Ray Palmer; Shaver vehemently disagreed, but appears to have spent the years he claimed to be a prisoner of the Deros in a mental hospital, in which it was unlikely the Deros had physical access to Shaver)
- Deros are thematically similar to a number of standard Call of Cthulhu races and entities and occult creatures which they might be used interchangeably with, including:
- Deep Ones
- Denizens of K'n-yan
- Robert E. Howard's Serpent People, Worms of the Earth, and Children of the Night
- Machen's Little People, and any of a variety of mischievous, hideous, and twisted trolls, goblins, elves, dwarfs, imps, demons, and spirits from folklore (the Scottish word "trow", the Scandinavian troll, and the undead, cairn-dwelling Nordic "draugr", might be said to all be related etymologically to the word "dero".)
- The Deros can be directly linked with the Mothman, Men in Black, Reptilian Aliens and/or Grey Aliens, and other UFO phenomenon (the "Shaver Mystery" stories seem to have been the direct precursor to the modern Alien Abduction culture, introducing such elements as flying saucers, alien abductions, medical experiments, thought-control rays, cover-ups, underground bases, etc.)
- Counter-culture artist Jermain Rogers has portrayed Deros in rock concert memorabilia as 6-foot tall, sinister, leering creatures with bulging eyes, wearing teddy bear costumes; Rogers explains that this is just one of many "masks" worn by Deros as they torment mortal surface-dwellers.
- I Remember Lemuria! and dozens of other stories - Richard Sharpe Shaver
- The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (as Morlocks)
- Marebito (2004 film)
- "[The Deros resemble] fearfully aenemic jitterbugs, small, with pipestem arms and legs, pot bellies, huge protruding eyes and wide, idiotically grinning mouths. Super-goofy, I believe modern youth would call them...." - Richard Sharpe Shaver, Formula from the Underworld
- "Clothed in rags and dirt, hung all over with hand weapons, their hair long and matted, were the strangest, most disgusting creatures I had ever seen in my life. They were dwarfs, some of them white-haired, from the Gods know what hidden hole in Mu's endless warren of caverns." - Richard Sharpe Shaver, I Remember Lemuria!
- "'E' is for Elevator People. They never speak, and they cannot meet your gaze. There are five hundred buildings in the United States whose elevators go deeper than the basement. When you have pressed the basement button and reached the bottom, you must press the basement button twice more. The elevator doors will close and you will hear the sound of special relays being thrown, and the elevator will descend. Into the caverns. Chance has not looked favorably on occasional voyagers in those five hundred cages. They have pressed the wrong button, too many times. They have been seized by those who shuffle through the caverns, and they have been … treated. Now they ride the cages. They never speak, and they cannot meet your gaze. They stare up at the numbers as they light and then go off, riding up and down even after night has fallen. Their clothes are clean. There is a special dry cleaner who does the work. Once you saw one of them, and her eyes were filled with screams. London is a city filled with narrow, secure stairways." - Harlan Ellison, From A to Z in the Chocolate Alphabet
...Suddenly I halted spellbound. A pair of eyes, luminous by reflection against the daylight without, was watching me out of the darkness.... I clenched my hands and steadfastly looked into the glaring eyeballs. I was afraid to turn... and then I remembered that strange terror of the dark. Overcoming my fear to some extent, I advanced a step and spoke. I will admit that my voice was harsh and ill-controlled. I put out my hand and touched something soft. At once the eyes darted sideways, and something white ran past me. I turned with my heart in my mouth, and saw a queer little ape-like figure, its head held down in a peculiar manner, running across the sunlit space behind me.... I know it was a dull white, and had strange large greyish-red eyes; also that there was flaxen hair on its head and down its back. But, as I say, it went too fast for me to see distinctly. I cannot even say whether it ran on all fours, or only with its forearms held very low....
I lit a match, and, looking down, I saw a small, white, moving creature, with large bright eyes which regarded me steadfastly as it retreated. It made me shudder. It was so like a human spider! It was clambering down the wall.... the light burned my fingers and fell out of my hand, going out as it dropped, and when I had lit another the little monster had disappeared.
I saw three stooping white creatures hastily retreating before the light. Living, as they did, in what appeared to me impenetrable darkness, their eyes were abnormally large and sensitive, just as are the pupils of the abysmal fishes, and they reflected the light in the same way. I have no doubt they could see me in that rayless obscurity, and they did not seem to have any fear of me apart from the light. But, so soon as I struck a match in order to see them, they fled incontinently, vanishing into dark gutters and tunnels, from which their eyes glared at me in the strangest fashion....
Necessarily my memory is vague. Great shapes like big machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare. The place, by the bye, was very stuffy and oppressive, and the faint halitus of freshly-shed blood was in the air. Some way down the central vista was a little table of white metal, laid with what seemed a meal. The Morlocks at any rate were carnivorous! Even at the time, I remember wondering what large animal could have survived to furnish the red joint I saw. It was all very indistinct: the heavy smell, the big unmeaning shapes, the obscene figures lurking in the shadows, and only waiting for the darkness to come at me again!
...While I stood in the dark, a hand touched mine, lank fingers came feeling over my face, and I was sensible of a peculiar unpleasant odour. I fancied I heard the breathing of a crowd of those dreadful little beings about me.... The sense of these unseen creatures examining me was indescribably unpleasant.... I shouted at them as loudly as I could. They started away, and then I could feel them approaching me again. They clutched at me more boldly, whispering odd sounds to each other. I shivered violently.... I determined to strike another match and escape under the protection of its glare... and I made good my retreat to the narrow tunnel... my light was blown out and in the blackness I could hear the Morlocks rustling like wind among leaves, and pattering like the rain, as they hurried after me....
- H.G. Wells, The Time Machine