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Three recent John A. Keel anthologies examined

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
A selection of collected writings by the late John A. Keel. All edited by Andy Colvin.
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BOOK REVIEWS:

The Outer Limits of the Twilight Zone: Selected Writings of John A. Keel, Edited by Andrew B. Colvin (Metadisc Books) 2013

Searching for the String: Selected Writings of John A. Keel, Edited by Andy Colvin (New Saucerian Books) 2014

The Passionate Percipient: Illusions I Have Known and Loved – Selected Writings of John A. Keel, Edited by Andrew B. Colvin (New Saucerian Books) 2015

A fan of the late John A. Keel’s books including Jadoo, Operation Trojan Horse, The Mothman Prophecies and The Eighth Tower, I have been digging even deeper for more writings by Keel, a man who seemed to have really keen insight into the UFO mystery, something that irked many of the so-called mainstream Ufologists who were active, particularly in the 1960’s and 70’s, when Keel was doing his best research and writing.

Andy Colvin, a friend of Keel (who died in 2009) and long fascinated with the whole Mothman saga that struck Point Pleasant, West Virginia back in 1966-67, leading up to the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge, spanning the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, has collected and edited these fascinating writings

Colvin gets it. A Gen X’er who was part of the Austin, Texas “slacker” scene and a founding member of the Austin-based noise-rock band Ed Hall (which appeared in Richard Linklater’s Slacker film) and who has worked diligently over the past decade or so to collect Keel’s prolific thoughts and present them to the public in an easy-to-read and entertaining way.

Face it, John Keel was one of the most interesting and courageous literary figures of the 20th century, our paranormal-seeking Mark Twain, as some have suggested, a guy who traveled the world to learn about sorcery in the Himalayas, pursue the Abominable Snowman, write jokes for Merv Griffin, and write "adult-only" books like The Fickle Finger of Fate, way back in 1966.

Keel lived a full life, and despite the controversial nature of many of his investigations and writings proved to be pretty well respected for his journalistic integrity and simple humanity. Plus, Keel had a talent for cutting through the bullshit and seeing things as they are – as much as anyone can when it comes to the weird, bizarre and seemingly inexplicable. I've selected three of the recent Keel books - on both Metadisc and New Saucerian - acknowledging there are others in this anthology series I have yet to even crack open. 

Regarding The Outer Limits of the Twilight Zone (4.5/5 Rusties), Keel’s writings and lectures, roughly between the 1960’s and the 1990’s, are presented in these pages and were originally published in old “saucer nut” publications and elsewhere, which were leant a certain “credibility” because of Keel’s sharp writing, quick wit and smart observations – in a field filled with disinfomation, misinformation, and various turf wars involving ego-fueled lecture circuit types and writers who are looking for fame and fortune.

Of course, here it is, 2017, and John Keel, despite being dead, is one of the last one UFO writers standing. That is because there is a lot to still learn about this phenomenon, even today.

Chapter 1 is an historic overview of the mystery, particularly from the late 19th century, during the “airship” flaps of 1896-97 and into the 20th century with the “ghostfliers,” “ghost rockets” and “foo fighters” that were witnessed not only in America and Europe, but in other parts of the world as well.

This takes us up to the so-called “modern” era of UFOs, with the 1947 incident involving pilot Kenneth Arnold seeing “flying saucers” skipping through the sky near Mount Rainier. This is well-tred territory for most folks who read UFO-related literature or turn on The History Channel pretty much any hour of the day.

The Arnold sighting took place immediately after the bizarre “Maury Island Incident” in Washington’s Puget Sound, where allegedly a strange craft sputtered in the air near a boat and dropped “slag” into the water, landing on the boat and killing a dog and injuring a teen boy – who later disappeared, only to be found suffering from amnesia in a small town in Wyoming some time later.

Mothman, of course, is noted, courtesy of a 1989 lecture, as are the mysterious “Men in Black,” entities who still bedevil folks who claim to have seen strange craft in the skies. Keel, in a reprinted 1974 SAGA magazine article, writes about mysterious, fast-moving submarines of unknown origin. 

And as Keel continues forward, he begins openly asking about what the "superspectrum" phenomenon wanted, particularly after his bizarre experiences during the latter portion of the 1960's. As his paranormal investigating predecessor Charles Fort said, "We are property." And as Keel noted in The Eighth Tower, it seems as if we are puppets controlled by an unknown and possibly insane puppetmaster.

"Human history is filled with examples of people who self-destructed when they dared to step beyond the outer limits, when they consciously tried to alter history in wasy that did not conform to our hypothetical cosmic plan," writes Keel in a 1978 UFO Report article. "Religious and political leaders have frequently been cut down by wild-eyed assassins obeying voices in their heads or following the dicttates of the loathsome entities that materialized before them during cultist rites ..."

Noting presidential assassins like Charles Guiteau, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald (all seemingly under control of some other force or conspiracy), Keel says that they did not act in a normal way in their final days. And those entities from the superspectrum that are manipulating us are "doubly enslaved," he writes, saying that they are both ruled by the "mind" behind the superspectrum and by us. A later chapter addresses E. Howard Hunt, who was one of the Watergate "plumbers" and was believed to have been one of the three "tramps" near Dealey Plaza when President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Keel's writings on Hunt - who would die in 2007 - are quite revealing, including Hunt's interest in black magic and witchcraft, particularly in relation to characters in his spy books of that era.

In a subchapter called "Pornography from Heaven," Keel writes of the remarkable 1957 case out of Brazil involving a young man named Antônio Vilas-Boas, who was abducted by "aliens" at his farm and seemed to have consensual sex with a beautiful alien, not altogether different from the succubi of ancient times.

And in 1971, Keel wonders if the superspectrum had a role in killing our astronauts, not only ours, but Russian cosmonauts as well. Throughout the 1960's strange things happened to these trained space voyagers from the US and USSR. The most famous case being that of Apollo astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White, who died on the launchpad at Cape Kennedy in Florida in early 1967, after being incinerated in their capsule, this, after smelling a foul, sulfuric odor in the capsule beforehand. It remains a mystery. And more mysterious is that a "ufonaut" visited a farmer in New York a few years earlier predicting Grissom's death. The superspectrum may warn us, but does not explain how to avoid future tragedy.

With Searching for the String (4/5 Rusties), we get more of the same - and its great! Colvin has carefully scoured the Keel files for some fantastic material, as is expected with a writer of Keel's stature and ability. 

Keel lets us know that he had long had paranormal experiences, stretching back to childhood in rural New York, with his first UFO sighting taking place in Egypt in 1954. 

"I have talked with literally thousands of people in the last few years who have seen these things," Keel writes in a piece which originally appeared in Argosy magazine in 1977. "They are from all walks of life. I'm interested in what common, ordinary people see. The average person would normally be extremley skeptical of a flying saucer, but these sightings seem to change their mind."

Adds Keel: "A lot of people are gradually switching over to the theory that there is an interdimensioal aspect involved here - that the UFOs are not necessarily from outer space, but may be from another dimension." Similar to the way leprechauns and fairies of the Middle Ages seemed to appear from another plane of existence in a darkened wood, frightening the superstitious locals. 

And that is really what separated Keel from the majority "nuts-and-bolts"/ET cultists involving in Ufology in those days. 

Keel knocks the US Air Force and their pathetic pretense of "investigating" UFO sightings via the purposeless Project BLUEBOOK. But he adds that he doesn't envy the Air Force guys who are stuck with lying to the press and the public about what the USAF was doing - or what they weren't doing.

And then there was The Passionate Percipient (3/5 Rusties). Another top-notch anthology of Keel's work covering a wide span of time.

Much of the material here is from the 1960's, early 70's period. But it picks up again in the 1980's, concluding in the early 1990's, although the first chapter, from 1957, involves Keel's adventures in India, which are from his Jadoo period, and will interest folks familiar with the adventure writing of Theosophist Talbot Mundy.

Picking up in 1966, when the Mothman scare really took off in West Virginia, Keel reminds us how useless the US Air Force was at that time, noting that they "deliberately lie to reporter and to congressmen about UFO matters" and that citizen eyewitnesses are unfairly branded "frauds, liars and hallucinating lunatics when they have the gall to report a sighting." And back then, there were a lot of UFO sightings.

But by 1970, in a piece from his lecture that year to the American Society of Dowsers, a "revolution of the mind" was beginning to take hold, particularly with young people of that generation, as Keel noted the use of LSD and psychedelic drugs. This, along with dabbling in black magic and witchcraft and a desire to tap into the cosmology of the "supermind," has led young people to rapidly "gain ... firsthand knowledge of the phantom world of demons and ultraterrestrials as a result of such efforts."

This collection is not as strong nor as interesting as the first two, but Keel enthusiasts (including myself) find Keel's insights to be remarkably important, even decades after he first wrote them.

I certainly appreciate Andy Colvin's efforts to bring these writings to the wider public. They are books I suspect I'll return to again and again, finding new nuggets of info each time. Books like that are keepers!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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

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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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