If John Keel were still here, I’m sure he’d be glad to toast you with a diet soda in a parking lot. This photo was taken by George Kuchar, who seems to have his thumb over the lens.
As we head into another year, please tell me what you’d like to see on this site. I’ll warn you that John left surprisingly few notes about Mothman, although he did keep a file of clippings about it.
I’ve had a busy year, myself. Black Scat Books published my translation of a selection of plays by the proto-Surrealist Alphonse Allais, as well as a collection of my comics and picture stories, The Unknown Adjective. I also wrote the introduction to the second volume of Richard Toronto’s definitive collection of Richard Shaver’s artwork, Rokfogo, which may be of interest to some of you… I’ll be marking my 60th birthday with a concert of my music at Brooklyn’s delightful Jalopy Theater, and am planning a number of lectures at the equally delightful Morbid Anatomy Museum, also in Brooklyn. You can check my site if you’re curious. Meanwhile, Happy New Year, and more Keeliana is on the way.
The next letter from Mary Hyre is from August 5, 1967. She reports on more UFO sightings and interference with television reception, as well as her sister’s health problems. The clipping she mentioned is not in the envelope; as usual, John must have filed it separately.
There’s been some interest in Vivenus in the comments, so I’ll post a few items about her as a sort of footnote to Mary Hyre’s letters. All of these come from her book Vivenus: Starchild, published in 1982 by Global Communications. On one of these pages, she says she’s written 81 songs. I’d certainly like to hear them.
I apologize for the corduroy pattern above; I guess my scanner doesn’t like halftones.
PS: I’ve learned from further searching that Timothy Green Beckley has republished Vivenus: Starchild. Get a copy for more Vivenus!
Mary Hyre’s next letter to John, from July 21, 1967, gives more news from Point Pleasant. There are lights in the sky, reports of turkey vultures, television interference, and an update on Roger and Linda Scarberry’s marital troubles. Mary is also concerned about John’s safety as he investigates the flap.
Here’s the second part of John’s little talk on writing, date and place of delivery unknown. He was, by the way, influenced by Jack Woodford’s 1933 book Trial and Error, a blunt, unsentimental guide to commercial writing. He once told me it had saved him a lot of time.
I always enjoy reading what John had to say about writing. Here’s a short talk he gave on the subject; it seems to be from the ’50s. I’ll give half of it here; the second half will follow.
Mary Hyre’s next letter to John is full of news: there’s a story about contactee sex, a report on Woodrow Derenberger’s brother, and more UFO sightings. There’s also a report of six helicopters flying in close formation over the Ohio River; John marked the envelope “Helicopters,” so that must have been the part that most intrigued him. The clippings she mentioned weren’t in the envelope; John must have filed them elsewhere. I don’t know what happened to Jesse Herrold’s tapes, either.
We have here another of John’s abandoned projects from the ’80s, and it’s an odd one. Prurient Interests was to be a comic novel written in exaggerated bad taste, under one of his preferred pseudonyms, Randolph Halsey-Quince. And the main character was none other than Dr. Thornton M. Vaseltarp.
Vaseltarp was the name John used for his humor pieces for Screw. I revealed this in an article in the Fortean Times in 2002; William Gibson read it, and used the name in his novel Pattern Recognition. Since then, Vaseltarps have proliferated on the internet.
In Prurient Interests, the good doctor appears as a fart expert on a TV show, warning about the danger that flatulence poses to the atmosphere, and promoting the Vaseltarp Fart Filter. His performance leads to the producer being taken away in a strait jacket. After an irrelevant and obligatory sex scene, Vaseltarp visits a gun store, where he buys a field mortar. He then goes to the park, and shoots mortars at all the people having sex in the bushes. He also runs into one of his fart subjects, Stanley Furchin, who is dressed as the Shadow. (John knew Walter Gibson, who wrote the Shadow novels, which may explain it.) After an interlude in which the TV director and his assistant discuss the commercial possibilities of flatulence, an unnamed couple tries to have sex in the back seat of a Volkswagen. Claustrophobic sex scenes also played a large part in Kiss My Gun; John must have found them particularly funny. A novelty song called “Making Love in a Subaru” did pretty well in 1977; maybe he was responding to that.
John sent the 34 pages to his agent, Knox Burger, but Burger’s response isn’t in the envelope. Judging from his reaction to Kiss My Gun, I suspect he wasn’t enthusiastic. John must have had fun writing it, though.
Following are the first few pages, the irrelevant sex scene, and a concluding pitch.
John worked on a comic novel called Kiss My Gun in the late ’80s. He was pitching it as early as 1985, and seems to have abandoned it by 1987. It involved UFOs, MIB, midgets disguised as aliens, and, for reasons known only to the inscrutable Keel, numerous sex scenes in small enclosed spaces. He completed four chapters, as well as a few scattered synopses and addenda. His agent didn’t like it, however, and so he abandoned it. I can understand the objections, but I’m still sorry we were deprived of a Keelian comedy about UFOs. As John said, “Jeez… What’d you expect from a book titled KISS MY GUN? Tolstoy?”
Following are John’s letter to his agent, Knox Burger; Burger’s reply; and a four-page synopsis that followed the sample chapters.
Mary Hyre’s next letter to John is from July 2, 1967. She chats about her recent trip to New York, relates more UFO sightings, and mentions that Roger and Linda Scarberry heard Mothman on their roof. The article about Miss Venus that she mentions is one I already posted; it’s over here. “Jennie” may have been Ginny Carew, whom John was dating that year; I don’t know who Myron was.