January 5, 2011

Ivan T. Sanderson and John A. Keel: The Book They Never Wrote

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:02 pm



In 1967, John Keel and Ivan Sanderson made a serious attempt to write a book together.  The subject was UFOs; the year was notable for the unusual number of sightings, and public interest was at its height.  A book by these two remarkable writers and researchers was bound to be a success.

They chose the title to avoid the words “UFO” and “saucer” (which “send the interested reader and even the aficionados screaming for television”), and to invoke Sanderson’s popular book Abominable Snowmen: “it avoided both the stigma of kookery on the one hand and heavy science on the other.”

Unfortunately, this promising idea was never to be.  All that remains is this title page, a brief pitch, and a proposed table of contents.  The book was to be “strictly reportorial… completely without faiths, beliefs, and theories.”  The table of contents was chronological, from “The Beginning: Prior to 20,000 B.C.” to “The Breakthrough: A.D. 1966.”

Despite these clear intentions, their collaboration proved impossible.  Keel found Sanderson’s approach too speculative and chatty; and Sanderson, in turn, wasn’t interested in detailed lists of sightings.  Both went on to write their own, very different, treatments of the subject.  And we’ll never know what their combined approach would have produced.


  1. Absolutely fascinating! Wouldn’t it have been a dream if a manuscript had turned up and was published?

    I hope that someday in John Keel’s papers something will be found that merits publication. I recall how John and I discussed over the phone a sequel to The Mothman Prophecies. Hel jokingly suggested as title: The Return of Mothman. I sometimes imagine how such a book might be, would it actually have been written by the late, great John Keel.

    Recently I reread and interview with John Keel in Strange Magazine, the excellent publication started by the late Mark Chorvinsky. Keel talked about his freindship with Sanderson but did not mention this project.

    I’d love to read the blurb and proposed table of contents. Could, provided you have access to these, be posted here too?

    Sincere regards,


    Comment by Theo Paijmans — January 19, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

  2. As far as I know, John didn’t leave any publishable manuscripts. He left many unfinished projects and proposals: some plays, a diet book, a few fragments of novels. They were intended as commercial projects, but were rejected by his agents and editors. The Keel-Sanderson project is short, but still too many pages to post here…

    Comment by Doug — January 20, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  3. […] posted something a while ago on the book that John Keel and Ivan Sanderson tried to write together in 1966.  It was […]

    Pingback by Keel and Sanderson Try to Write a Book « JOHN KEEL: NOT AN AUTHORITY ON ANYTHING — February 21, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

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