Claude Degler wanted to be an epic figure in 1940s sf fandom. He only succeeded in making himself the center of an unforgettable, morbid parody of early fans’ ambitions to change the world — as this Fancyclopedia 2 article shows.
I think there is an acknowledged “there-but-for-the-grace-of-God” quality to his self-aggrandizement that has sustained fans’ curiosity about the things he did and why he did them, such as creating the Cosmic Circle, headquartered in his hometown of New Castle, IN. Perhaps the best thing ever written about this fascination is David B. Williams’ “Looking for Degler” in Mimosa #30, which reveals the tragic end of the rest of the Degler family, if not Claude himself.
New Castle is in Henry County, Indiana and I have located the Deglers’ listing in the 1940 census.
Claude, his mother Virgie, and his brother Robert lived at 267 S. 6th on the day the census taker came to the door. The “x” marked beside his name on the census form shows Robert provided the information. They rented the place for $15 a month. Virgie was divorced, and worked as an assembler in an auto factory.
Claude was 19. He was born in Missouri. He’d completed the 6th grade.
The three Deglers lived in New Castle at the time of the 1930 census as well.
This may be the old Degler manse. Or it’s the next one on the left. Certainly near that corner on that side of 6th Street. (I found a pet shop three blocks away and used its listing to help me decide which was the odd-numbered side of the street.)
[I've moved the map after the jump because it's making everybody crazy, automatically centering the page on itself.]