The late John A. Keel had as many detractors as supporters. Even his critics must admit that Keel, often at his own expense, traveled most of America in order to meet with and interview witnesses to the unknown.
Keel did so not out of some personal belief-system, but out of natural curiosity and more than a little concern. He had, as a youngster hanging out in his parents’ barn in Perry, New York, a brief yet powerful experience about which most of his readers know nothing.
Keel’s home was rural and isolated, so prevented him from engaging in the usual activities of others. As mentioned in Jadoo, his 1957 book chronicling journeys in Egypt, Tibet, India and elsewhere, in search of “magic” and other secrets, the 20-something man craved experience and thrills.
In the old barn, Keel noticed a scratchy thump against the wood. He said aloud: “Knock once for yes, twice for no.”
Whatever was present complied, giving the teen his first taste of the unknown. This frightened him, and ignited the spark of what became his life.
Keel’s parents, though not abusive, did not support his literary interests, and he packed a small box and left home at age 17. “So on a hot summer day in 1947 I packed a few things into a cardboard box and walked downstairs, a queasy feeling in my stomach. My mother looked at me, startled. ‘Aren’t you going out to the hay field today?’ she asked.
“No. I’m going away,” I said simply. . .
“It was four years before I saw her again. And then only for a brief two-week period before I went into the Army.”
Keel hitched into Pennsylvania and ended up in New York City, barely a dollar in his pocket.
So began a hand-to-mouth existence, hanging out with poets, crackpots, and artists of the Beat generation. He became the unpaid editor of a poetry magazine, and “ . . . slowly I gained a toehold on the writing business, churning out such intriguing hack articles as: ‘Are You A Repressed Sex Fiend?’ and ‘Will Sex Become Obsolete?’ before I managed to land steady assignments writing continuity for comic books...
“Then the Korean war broke out and I was drafted.”
What happened after is the stuff of Keelian history.
Despite being American and white, and over six-feet-tall, the young man managed to talk himself into many fascinating—and dangerous—situations.
Keel’s search for genuine magic rarely was fulfilled, as he learned that many so-called secrets were shams. He tried, and failed, to reproduce the classic “rope-trick,” the claimed extra-human ability for a man to actually climb up a rope. It was possible, of course, if one knew the “trick.”
But Keel, in Tibet, did claim to witness both telekinesis and levitation he could not explain. I credit him for sticking with his life-long practicality, something that mostly benefitted him later (investigating the Mothman events, for one).
After my first reading of The Mothman Prophecies, I found myself disturbed and skeptical. Years later, after reading Jadoo, I had a quite different take.
Here was a guy, very intelligent and practical, who actually had the courage to seek answers to questions that fascinated him, and discovered most of these ancient “secrets” were bullshit. It must have hurt to see the simple reality, despite a very few apparently genuine experiences—crushed before a man in his early
This put a whole different “spin” on The Mothman Prophecies.
Some positive, some not.
After all, a man who had traveled far, putting his very life on the line, was impressive. And is still. Keel himself, upon hearing of the Point Pleasant events, admitted much doubt. But he took these seriously, armed with knowledge of the potential for hoaxing, and how much easier it might be to “put one over” on Americans unaware of Eastern “secrets.”
I am not the first to note that Keel could have exaggerated certain aspects of the UFO/MIB/Mothman activity. Too, he had the skills to convince nearly anyone of anything.
But he chose not to pursue that reprehensible path. As much as I admire Gray Barker (conceivably responsible, in his They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (1957), for creating the Men-in-Black business, ample evidence exists that he had a hand in much of the telephone, MIB harassment).
I’ll just come out with it: I hate hoaxers and the unnecessary trouble they cause. Who can say how many lives were either disrupted or ruined in the guise of “a good time”?
The cliche works: You’re part of the problem or part of the solution.
Barker, at least before 1960, attempted both.
He pissed off many, Keel included. But Keel at least gave Barker the benefit of the doubt, even after he’d discovered that Barker was responsible for a handful of bizarre telephone nonsense.
Barker wrote, and published, some very interesting books.
Then again, as noted by James Moseley and Keel, he for some mysterious reason “gave up,” and started having fun. While I am certainly not worthy of denying Barker his frolics, I wish he had given more thought to their consequences.
In my estimation, Keel summed up what all others have missed: UFOs/paranormal phenomena are real. They exist and are a normal aspect of our environment. What they might actually be we do not, probably cannot, know.
Behind these events exists an intelligence both disturbing and powerful—nearly “godlike.” There is as much evidence for hostile “intent” as there is for “good,” or simply enigmatic.
I am not a believer. But I think Keel had it right. All of these things share a common source, most of which originates in humankind, but with some unknown external trigger—which could be anything from extraterrestrials to interdimensional intelligence.
Or even some heretofore unrecognized earth-based phenomenon.
Whatever it might be is undoubtedly energetic, occasionally luminous, stealthy, and deceptive. It has no interest in allowing us to know its origin, hence the absurd and ultimately useless statements of “spirits” and “spacemen.” One can review transcripts from trance-mediums and the contactees from the 1950s and 1960s, up to present-day abductees, and see how these function. Everything the voices say (excepting a few accurate predictions, nothing to be sniffed at) is either a lie or deception.
The fact that such voices occasionally give genuine data points toward an answer, if not a total solution. They know about us because they come from us.
I find this possibility as confounding and fascinating as any theory regarding sentient beings from this universe.
And, rest him well, I owe this to the considerable, mostly unheralded, efforts of John Alva Keel.