Weird science research in America: John Keel remembered

Weird science research in America: John Keel remembered
August 14, 2009
Zack Kopp

John A. Keel, who died last month, is best known for his writings on the "Mothman” sightings in West Virginia, and paranormal phenomena generally. He was among the first to popularize the idea that many aspects of contemporary humanoid encounters with UFOs are paralleled in ancient folklore and religious encounters. It was he who coined the term "men in black" for the mysterious figures rumored to dissuade UFO witnesses from reporting their sightings, and he suggested a direct relationship between UFOs and psychic phenomena.

A film called The Mothman Prophecies, starring Richard Gere as Keel, is completely dissimilar to Keel’s book by that title. The original is a compendium of weird science research in late 60s-early 70s America, centering symbolically around a series of events in Point Pleasant, Virginia. John Keel is a self-styled investigative researcher of the paranormal in the Fortean spirit who writes with witty logic. He believes all paranormal phemonena are manifestations of an ultra-terrestrial force that has always been with the human race, and that flying saucers are just the latest version. One among many interesting details left out of the Tommy Lee Jones-Will Smith blockbuster film Men In Black: the original "men in black" reported by Keel, far from being government agents, were apparently non-humans posing as intelligence officers; they kept asking for glasses of water, without which their faces turned red, had funny haircuts and mysterious wires running up their legs, and spoke in singsong, prerecorded-sounding voices.

In addition to The Mothman Prophecies, Keel wrote several other books, some now out of print but many easily found at used bookstores in Denver and elsewhere. His Our Haunted Planet is an excellent record of the contemporary Fortean take on the paranormal, including UFOs and all the mysteries surrounding them. Unlike Communion author Whitley Strieber, who settles on a definite (read literal) interpretation of this particular phenomenon, Keel is broad-minded enough to include all possibilities. This book was published in 1970, is well-written and reads well. His The Eighth Tower, which proposes to pinpoint our position and future destiny in the cosmic scheme, is unsettling, but it’s a thought-provoking work of essential importance to readers interested in the paranormal phenomena surrounding UFO sightings. Keel (1930-2009) clearly leans against a literally extraterrestrial origin for these phenomena, referring instead to speculation about mysterious external control to explain them. He rejected the term ufologist, preferring Fortean, which encompasses a wide range of paranormal subjects, to describe himself.
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