December 26, 2012

“Operation Trojan Horse”: The First Outline

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The outline below is for John’s first UFO article.  He had written a radio show (“Things in the Sky”) for the American Forces Network while he was stationed in Frankfurt, but hadn’t pursued the subject after that, despite a sighting in Egypt in 1954.

He had been working in television, writing game shows (“Play Your Hunch”) and kids’ shows (“Mack and Myer,” “The Chuck McCann Show”), and had become unhappy with the business.  Playboy had published a letter of his, about the poet and Bohemian wastrel Maxwell Bodenheim, so he followed up in March, 1966, with a few pitches.  The editor, Jack Kessie, turned down pieces on Hugo Gernsback (the founder of Amazing Stories) and on the colorful Hobo News that had printed some of John’s first poems.  But he was interested in an article on UFOs, which were then very much in the news.  John agreed to write 8,000 words on spec, and went to work.

Unfortunately, he became more and more obsessed with the subject; the article grew longer and longer; and his correspondence with Playboy grew acrimonious.  Eventually, Kessie rejected the article as far too long and credulous, and ran a piece by J. Allen Hynek instead.  Much, of course, to John’s dismay.

It’s perhaps just as well.  The surviving draft is, essentially, a digest of the current literature, taking the reader from simple lights in the sky up to the Villas-Boaz incident (a famous case in which a Brazilian farmer claimed a sexual experience with an alien).  John started doing his own research shortly after, leading to the book with the same title.

But here’s that first outline.  It shows John’s approach to the subject back then, and contains a number of piquant details.  I hadn’t known, for example, that he dated Carl Sagan’s former secretary.





December 19, 2012

John Keel and Your Bleeding Gums

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The ’80s were difficult years for John.  The market and audience had changed, forteana was unfashionable, and he wasn’t selling much.  He worked on a number of novels and plays, but without success.  He decided to make a few bucks with mail order, selling ad sheets and booklets from his P.O. Box.  Among them was a recipe for toothpaste, presented with his usual gusto.


December 12, 2012

John Keel and “The International Bankers”

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John, like other UFO researchers, had to contend with crank mail from a group (or, probably, one prankster) called “The International Bankers.”  Here’s how he defined them, in his unfinished dictionary:


He did, in fact, receive one of these letters.  Here’s how he described it in Anomaly 3:


Here are the letter and envelope:



As he says in Anomaly, he was struck by the similarity to military franking, as in this letter from PFC Richard S. Hack.  Note, though, that military mail is postmarked by the Army Postal Service, and that the letter above has no postmark:


This envelope was also in John’s files.  It was sealed, so I took the liberty of opening it, only to find newspaper ads cut to the size of the envelope.  I assume John sent it to himself, to see what the Post Office would do with another unstamped letter from “Bankers.”  He found out: they wanted their nickel.


The idea of “International Bankers” having a hand in UFOs had long been woven into the antisemitic conspiracy theories of George Hunt Williamson, John McCoy, William Dudley Pelley, and others.  Somebody, though, went to the trouble of printing stationery and sending out crank letters.  I suspect that it was Gray Barker, cooking up confusion again; although I suppose it’s unfair to blame all ufological pranks on him.  Any ideas?

ADDENDUM:  Mentioning Gray Barker reminds me that I’ve been meaning to rescan his “Grunt Letter.”  I’ve also added John’s notes on the matter…

December 4, 2012

The Wooden Plugs

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In Chapter 10 of The Mothman Prophecies, John discussed the curious wooden plugs that he found in a woman’s telephone in Point Pleasant.

He did indeed keep the sliver of wood in a plastic box.  In fact, there are two of them, along with a card noting the woman’s name and the date.

They’re 10 mm long, and, as you can see, whittled from some light wood.  Are they really cigarette loads?  I’m not going to put a match to them; judging from the reviews I checked on Amazon, many are duds anyway.  Here’s a photo of some contemporary loads for comparison.


Whether they’re cigarette loads are not, what were they doing in Doris Lilly’s phone?

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