JOHN KEEL: NOT AN AUTHORITY ON ANYTHING

August 11, 2009

About

Filed under: — admin @ 8:32 pm

This site is a tribute to that unique writer and character, John A. Keel.  It’s maintained by Doug Skinner, in memory of a friendship of some nineteen years.  The site will develop from week to week, so check back and see what happens.  I’ll see you in time!

The title of the site comes from the calling card John used in India in the 1950s.

JAKCARD1

27 Comments »

  1. Wow…. the more I come back to Keel the more respect I have for his place in the scheme of things. He was literally a true pioneer. I think closer to Fort than lets say Vallee…

    I have been re-reading Trojan Horse and came across some info in there about the ‘silent contactees’. I remember the X-Files had some character(s) I think would fall into that group and Roswell had one- somebody that would simply disappear from time to time and return.

    And Keel speaks about this silent group- and one or two in particular- in Trojan Horse. Very strange cases… probably the heart of whatever is really going on.

    And then I find these drawings on your site… never heard or seen of them before… I know it says they are from the silent contactees.. I haven’t been on this site for any length of time to know anything about their origins… so I will have to look at what you say. The drawings definitely look … odd.

    Please feel free to email me. Keel’s influence is a great deal more ubiquitous than I think probably even he realized. I know he was aware that his findings and research had ‘rubbed off’ on many people… to be polite. I don’t think he realized just how influential he really is… even now. Thanks!

    Comment by James — July 5, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  2. Hi, James; I’m glad to hear you enjoy the site. The silent contactees were simply contactees who didn’t publicize their experiences. They were willing to talk to researchers, but wanted to keep it private. John’s relationship to them was complicated; they were, to put it mildly, unreliable sources.

    I don’t know anything about those drawings either. John made xerox copies of them, so I assume he circulated them. I’m guessing that Jaye Paro had a hand in them, but that’s just a guess.

    It’s funny that you mention the “X-Files”: he said they called him up to pump him for story ideas, but didn’t want to pay him. He declined.

    Comment by Doug — July 5, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

  3. I am a research scientist long interested in John Keel’s work and ideas. Does the unedited original manuscript of OPERATION TROJAN HORSE survive? It would do a great service to his meticulous research for it to be published as a new expanded third edition of the book.

    Comment by Liam Roscrea — August 27, 2012 @ 3:18 am

  4. I’m not sure if the original draft survived. The cut parts were reworked into Strange Creatures, just as The Eighth Tower grew from The Mothman Prophecies. A draft of the original Playboy article (also called “Operation Trojan Horse”) has survived, along with correspondence about it, both to his editors and to other researchers. I plan to post some of that material soon; it shows John diving into the field with his usual gusto.

    Comment by Doug — August 27, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

  5. I’m glad to hear that case material cut from TROJAN HORSE was eventually published, but I am as interested in how it would have fit in with the original scheme for the book, as he describes it in the Foreword to the original 1970 edition: “[The] book is a summation of that effort. The original manuscript was more than 2,000 pages long. It has been boiled down and carefully edited to its present length. In the process, a good deal of documentation and many details have been deleted or heavily condensed. I had hoped to include acknowledgment of my many sources and of the many people who helped me in this task. But that proved to be impossible. More than 2,000 books were reviewed in the course of this study, in addition to thousands of magazines, newsletters, and newspapers. Since it is not feasible to list them all, I have included a selected bibliography, listing those works which proved to be the most valid and useful.” In other words, as Keel himself says, he was attempting a work of scrupulous scholarship. But the published version does not even include a selected bibliography, though he said it did. Is it possible that the manuscript is preserved in the archives of G. P. Putnam’s? Keel’s description suggests that he had written a veritable magnum opus!

    Comment by Liam Roscrea — August 28, 2012 @ 1:26 am

  6. Well, we’re still going through John’s papers, so I’ll certainly look for the longer manuscript. I suspect, though, that John simply cannibalized the deleted passages, and didn’t keep the unsaleable manuscript intact. A five-page bibliography was included in the original Putnam’s edition; but was cut from the 1996 IllumiNet edition, probably because it was out of date by then. John also included a UFO bibliography in his article “The Flying Saucer Subculture” (Journal of Popular Culture, 1975). It’s similar, though shorter and updated.

    Comment by Doug — August 28, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

  7. Thanks for clarifying that, because though I read the original version in paperback, the only copy I own is the IllumiNet edition, which as you note contains no bibliography. Partly I mention the unedited manuscript because in light of it, his work takes on a very different character (and value) from the standpoint of scholarship and science, different from the mostly journalistic reportage that we know from his published books. Why the “scholarly apparatus” was omitted from the published TROJAN HORSE must have been the decision of the publisher (or their in house editor). As a professional journalist Keel probably sent his original typescript to the publisher for review and kept a carbon copy for himself. So there were probably two copies of the text to start with, because no writer worth his salt would submit his only copy of a manuscript. Of course, if Putnam’s sent the original back to Keel for editing, they might not have retained a copy. Again, if Putnam’s has an archive, they may be able to answer this question, as even contract files might contain info about the manuscript and its alteration/disposition.

    Comment by Liam Roscrea — August 29, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  8. Doug:

    Bless you for giving a damn about John Keel. A wonderful ‘site. The first one I visit every day.

    Bill Grabowski

    If you’re interested, I have articles at UFODIGEST.com, and a UFO/Paranormal blog at thenightrun.wordpress.com

    I’m a freelance writer and copy-editor for Samhain Publishing. Currently I’m finishing a nonfiction book, BLACK LIGHT: PERSPECTIVES ON MYSTERIOUS PHENOMENA.

    Simply put, you have a big heart.

    All best,

    Bill G

    Comment by William J. Grabowski — September 1, 2012 @ 8:05 am

  9. Bill — Thanks! I knew John for 19 years, was one of the group of friends that kept him going in his later years, and, somehow, ended up being the one left at his deathbed. I’ll check out your articles and blog.

    Liam — We may still uncover more files on OTH! Right now, I’m going through the correspondence about the rejected “Playboy” article that started it all. I’ll look for further correspondence on the book as it developed. I suppose I should add that although John had every intention of being scientific and scholarly, he had no academic training, and always wrote for the marketplace; so I’m not sure how much more scholarly the first draft would have been. But we’ll see!

    Comment by Doug — September 2, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  10. Thank you, Doug, and certainly you deserve a lot of credit for your interest and support of Keel and his work, a man who was evidently a sort of Lowell Thomas of the bizarre. If one reads the opening gambit of OTH, it is clear that Keel’s ambition was one of rigor and exactitude, and I suspect he got some tutoring on how best to sort and analyze the raft of reports that inundated him from the clipping services, because the skills shown are not just those of the average journalist. He might have just read a little about elementary statistical analysis, but I would guess he got some guidance about statistical methodology and its rationales (perhaps from Jacques Vallee?) He made no apologies for his lack of academic training, but forged ahead as an independent scholar (like any typical headstrong Aries, for that matter), as evident from this declaration of his intentions: “I have tried to apply the standard rules of scholarship wherever possible (etc.)”

    I still don’t know what was meant by Keel’s “mind-blowing philosophy” or what exactly he meant by “philosophy,” except that he seems to allude to things said by Wilbert Smith in this regard (ultimately elaborated in Smith’s rather arcane posthumously published “Alien Science” which similarly talks of “philosophy” by which he really means elementary metaphysics going back to the ancient Greeks, viz “atoms and the void”). My guess therefore is that Keel was referring to the study of metaphysics (what philosophers call “ontology,” i.e., the study or reality).

    Comment by Liam Roscrea — September 2, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

  11. Liam — John was certainly no average journalist! He put an extraordinary amount of time and work into the book. He probably did read some books on statistics (he was, as he put it, a “reading machine”). He may also have gotten some pointers from Ivan Sanderson, who had a solid scientific background; I don’t think he was that close to Vallee. His methodology was not always impeccable: sometimes finding the same detail in two witness reports was enough for him to verify them. But then, he was deluged with strangeness in the late ’60s, and was often frankly overwhelmed.

    I’m not sure what he meant by “philosophy” either; your guess sounds about right. He told me that Sartre had been a big influence on him, but I don’t really see it in his work.

    Comment by Doug — September 2, 2012 @ 11:50 pm

  12. First of all, thanks so much for putting this website together. I just happened upon it today – it’s been a couple of years since I attempted to trawl for John Keel articles/interviews online, and back then I had little success. It’s a delight to discover such a range of pieces preserved and shared here. Your efforts are very much appreciated, and I’ll be checking back in regularly.

    A quick question – do you have any plans to share the contents of the NYFS meeting cassette recordings (as glimpsed here: http://www.johnkeel.com/?p=1303)? If someone could play out the tapes to recording software & render them as mp3s for online sharing, that would be fantastic!

    Comment by Michael — September 10, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  13. Thanks! Yes, I do plan to get to those tapes, as well as some other tapes of radio and TV appearances. Right now, Anthony Matt and I (Anthony was another of John’s friends) are making digital transfers of John’s films before they fall apart. But do check back!

    Comment by Doug — September 10, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  14. John’s films on DVD — I’d buy one.

    Comment by Jerry Hamm — September 14, 2012 @ 12:33 am

  15. I would really like to thank you for this site. John Keel was such an inspiration to me and I really resonated with his view on UFO’s and the Paranormal. I remember some of the patterns he described way back (such as the flickering lights, and then the manifestations) and I saw these same patterns described on such shows as UFO Files – and then saw these later investigators fall so short by strictly sticking to the “Nuts-n-Bolts” aspects of the UFO enigma. It is amazing to me that John Keel isn’t a more honored name in the field of Paranormal Research.

    I paid homage to him in my paranormal mystery children’s book “The Adventures of Victoria Noire and Friends” in hopes that intelligent Googling might gain him a few more young fans. The Mothman Prophecies is one of my most read books, and I find something new every time I read it.

    I deeply wish Mr. Keel was still around to give us more of his insight, wit and humor.

    Best regards, and thanks again.

    Comment by Mark — November 12, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

  16. You’re quite welcome; glad you enjoy the site.

    Comment by Doug — November 13, 2012 @ 8:10 am

  17. Hi Doug,

    I just uploaded an excerpt from JADOO, Published by REAL ADVENTURE magazine, Vol. C, #1, January 1958.
    Excerpt contains photos that are not in the book, JADOO, which contained no photos.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/161086690/An-Excerpt-from-JADOO-By-John-A-Keel

    Comment by Jerry Hamm — August 18, 2013 @ 2:29 am

  18. Very nice! I suspect, though, that the magazine found those photos, and that John had nothing to do with them. He seldom had any say in illustrations.

    Comment by Doug — August 19, 2013 @ 12:02 am

  19. Hi Doug:

    Will we get to hear any of John Keel’s recordings of the conversations he had with ultraterrestrial beings? That would be awesome.

    thanks

    Comment by Becky — December 12, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

  20. I don’t know of any such recordings! John did correspond with a certain “Mr. Apol,” whom he believed to be some sort of non-human, and I posted some of those letters on this site.

    Comment by Doug — December 13, 2013 @ 11:13 pm

  21. I’ve come across an article, allegedly written by Keel, from Fate Magazine, called “Make Your Own UFO Detector.” Ever hear of it? When it was written or published?

    Comment by Ted Eng — December 23, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

  22. I think it was one of the “Beyond the Known” columns that John wrote for Fate in the ’90s. My boxes of Fate are in storage now, so I can’t check.

    Comment by Doug — December 24, 2013 @ 11:45 am

  23. Hello Doug Skinner,

    I’m working on a book called “Magical Manhattan” and of course will include mention of John Keel. What site in Manhattan would you say is most deeply associated with him? Do you know the address of his apartment off Times Square when he first came to NYC?

    Thanks very much,
    Kevin Dann

    Comment by Kevin Dann — October 20, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

  24. Kevin — I don’t know exactly where John stayed when he first came to NYC. I know he headed immediately for the Village, then (1947) a haven for young writers. Some of the apartments he lived in later were at i33 Christopher St., 330 E. 33rd St., and 334 W. 85th St. Best of luck with the book!

    Comment by Doug — October 21, 2014 @ 12:21 am

  25. doug,
    by any chance was john’s first foray into ufology, that playboy article,
    available? I’d love to read it.

    thanks very much for this site and your dedication.

    jimmer

    Comment by Jimmer — November 24, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

  26. John did keep a draft of the article, although I don’t know if it was the final draft. It’s too long to post here; in fact, it was too long for “Playboy.” It’s just a summary of all the familiar UFO cases up to that time, with little of John’s personality or interpretation. It was before he started doing primary research.

    I had posted some of the correspondence between John and “Playboy,” showing how the article grew to unmanageable size, and the editors’ final rejection of it. A lot of that got wiped when this site was hacked a while ago. I may have to repost it.

    John’s first foray into ufology was actually a radio script he wrote for the American Forces Network in 1952; fortunately, both a script and recording have survived.

    Comment by Doug — November 25, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

  27. yes, doug, please repost whatever you can leading to and
    any excerpt of that now famous, never published article
    that led JAK to the field and eventually his ‘theory.’

    I understand this would be a lot of work, but could you
    find a way or someone to digitize that AFR recording,
    post it to youtube and post that link here?
    that would be a big hit.
    thanks again for your response and keeping this all alive
    and accessible to we new comers to keelian.

    Comment by Jimmer — November 27, 2014 @ 11:10 am

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