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PARA-GONZO: Keel's mind-expanding writings examined in three excellent collections

Metadisc Books
Released in 2013, four years after his death, "Flying Saucer tot he Center of Your Mind" is a collection of magazine articles and essays by John Keel.
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Rusty's Score
5
5 Rustys

BOOK REVIEWS:

Flying Saucer to the Center of Your Mind: Selected Writings of John A. Keel (Metadisc Books) 2013

The Great Phonograph in the Sky: Selected Writings of John A. Keel (New Saucerian Books) 2015

I Never Would Have Slept With You If I Had Known You Were a Giant Birdman From Outer Space: Ancient Aliens and Other Mysteries of the Modern Mind by John A. Keel

Easy to read. Entertaining. Enlightening. And out there! A reader is always taken on a wild ride when John A. Keel is behind the wheel inside your mind!

And in these three New Saucerian collections – Flying Saucer to the Center of Your Mind, The Great Phonograph in the Sky and I Never Would Have Slept With You ..., released between 2013 and 2017, the Point Pleasant, W.Va.-based New Saucerian helmsman and editor, Andrew B. Colvin, has lovingly offered up some of Keel’s best work, primarily from his 1960’s and 1970’s heyday, with some material coming from either side of those two wildly paranormal and zany decades.

And reading all of these stories, his insights, his predictions – you almost sense that Keel and the late Hunter S. Thompson were brothers from different mothers, in that they both had keen observational capabilities, incisive wit and great journalistic and writing talents that were honed by actually getting out of the office and to where things were actually happening!

Plus, both men had a scholarly understanding of American and world history and the place human beings – for good or ill – have carved out of all the madness, lo these many millennia.

And sticking with Keel, what of those “many millennia”? Did we have unseen “companions” toying with us? Lighting the way, in a sense,

This helped with Keel’s gonzo-ish writing, where, like Thompson, he puts you there, at the scene of the latest Mothman or saucer sighting, and all while he is seemingly as stunned and baffled by it all as you the reader.

Unlike Thompson, I get no sense that Keel’s writing adventures were fueled by any illicit and/or illegal substances. Still, Keel captures the mood that was America in the mid-to-latter part of the 20th century. Lots of toys at hand and many unanswered questions, not unlike the same questions that have plagued humankind since we were hunters and gatherers and hunting with spears and clubs and we saw unusual lights in the sky or on the ground. This is where “folklore” began and continues today, in different guises, of course.

Keel understands that. He came to these mysteries in the 1950’s and 60’s with the common theory that these alleged “spaceships” were nuts-and-bolts craft from faraway worlds. The Adamski-esque “contactee” and “Space Brothers” crowd embraced this approach.

But Keel, long attracted to magic – and exposing the truth behind the tricks – would be baffled about the encounters the eyewitnesses would relay to him. Keel was not sure what to make sure of the flying humanoids of rural West Virginia, or the “Men in Black” cruising in black Cadillacs around the backroads of Long Island, or the strange lights in the sky or the unearthly phone calls seemingly straight from the bowels of hell. Nope. This “mystery” was way beyond anything we could currently comprehend.

And thankfully, John Keel had the gumption and interest to go out and talk to thousands of people over the years, producing classics like Operation Trojan Horse, The Mothman Prophecies and The Eighth Tower.

But Keel also kept busy writing articles for “fringe” magazines like SAGA, Fate and Anomaly.

In one of those “fringe” mags – the January 1976 edition of Beyond Reality magazine, Keel (as featured in Flying Saucer to the Center of Your Mind) featured a “UFO Name Game” article that gamely cites dates, events, notes the recent Silver Bridge collapse/Mothman enigma of late ’67, and explained how certain surnames tend to be linked to the UFO mystery – names like Hill, Allen and Clark. Jones? Smith? Johnson? Not so much. There’s a pattern and it still has yet to be explained or uncovered.

Apparently there is a hidden factor here,” writes Keel. “A factor of selectivity.”

But why?

Jumping through history and geography, Keel takes us back to Roger Mills County, Oklahoma, in 1963, where an “evil smelling something” invaded and nearly destroyed a farming family near Sayre with the name “Allen.” What? Sure enough, the dark forces were drawn to this family, destroyed their home and following them as they moved. That case proved to be one of the weirder and more disturbing ones recounted by Keel (and noted in other volumes of his work, as well).

Over in The Great Phonograph in the Sky, an equally entertaining and informative collection from New Saucerian, Keel’s writings run the gamut of high weirdness from weird sounds in the sky (“skyquakes”), ghosts, strange creatures, UFO sightings and much, much more. Really, it’s the sort of material anyone familiar with Keel would come to expect from the man.

He begins with a excerpt from his remarkably interesting 1958 book Jadoo!, as it appeared in serial form in Real Adventure magazine, telling of his exposure of the “impossible” feats of “the gali-gali of Egypt, the sannyasin and fakirs of India, the lamas of Tibet …” And he has a blast on this Indiana Jones like quest through Asia and North Africa.

Keel notes how he bests a witch in India, with tricks of his own, suspecting his defense against the dark arts “disgraced” the witch of Dikchu “forever.”

But of the three books of John Keel's noted here, that I enjoyed most, was I Never Would Have Slept With You If I Had Known You Were A Giant Birdman From Space. Editor Andy Colvin seemed to save the best for last with a collection focusing on Keel's mid-1970's writings, this, coming off a decade or more when he was in the thick of one UFO or monster flap of one or the other.

There's Keel's August 1973 piece about "The Father of Ufology," and how at that time there was a creepy fear that perhaps "space arks" or some sort would need to be built. Or his 1975 article addressing the ancients and their use of "mysterious crystals" that "early priests and magicians" may have used, "like the oracles of Delphi in Greece and the wizards of Egypt and India" to contact those entities Keel felt inhabited the "superspectrum," out of sight of our limited vision.

I was quite interested in an August 1975 piece Keel wrote on the fabled Bermuda Triangle and the "magnetic anomalies" associated with it. Keel specifically notes cases in and around the Washington, D.C. area, the same place I lived in as a child when I had my own UFO experience. In the same chapter, Keel notes the "isogonic line" stretching from Mississippi in the South and Minnesota in the north and how UFOs and "strange, giant, hair-covered creatures with blazing red eyes" are common along this line of longitude, not far from an area I am investigating this year!

All in all, all three books are excellent collections, all of which deserve 5/5 Rusties.

And keep in mind, dear reader, there's no direction Keel won't take when seeking out the truth behind Earth's seemingly boundless mysteries.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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