John died five years ago today. After he died, I wrote a piece on his final years for the Fortean Times. Some readers, especially American, may not have seen it, so I’ll post it here. RIP, John!
July 3, 2014
June 30, 2014
John wrote this one-act play in 1960. It was one of his few excursions into science fiction, and it’s thoroughly dystopian. After a nuclear holocaust, a few survivors huddle in a dark cave. They complain about the cold and dark, reminisce about life under sunlight, and prepare to hunt rats as the rats hunt them. Another survivor joins the group, and they greedily devour the small bag of termites she’s managed to find. A firefly makes its way into the cave, and they marvel at its dazzling light, “a sun of our own”—except for the youngest of the group, who is blind. Here’s the first couple of pages.
June 17, 2014
In the 1980s, John’s magazine work was drying up, and he tried working on a number of novels and plays. Unstrung, from 1982, is a two-act romantic comedy set in World War III. A couple, Pete and Barbara, wake up hungover after a one-night stand. They discover that World War III has broken out, there’s no power, and the streets are full of rioters and looters. In the course of the play, they get to know one another, quarrel, make up, fight off intruders, and finally decide to stay together. One amusing note: near the end, Pete reveals something he thinks Barbara should know: he’s a great fan of Harvey Kurtzman.
Here’s the beginning.
June 8, 2014
Mary Hyre’s next letter to John was postmarked May 20, but, as she notes in a postscript, it had been returned; so, I’m assuming it was written the preceding Sunday, the 14th. She fills him in on UFO sightings, Mothman reports, strange noises, doorbell ringers, and a dream of her own.
May 21, 2014
One of John’s odder unrealized projects was a short diet book, known as either The Invisible Diet or How to Turn Yourself Inside Out. He wrote it in the ’80s under his favorite pseudonym, Randolph Halsey-Quince, and imagined it illustrated with cartoons. Although written in John’s usual humorous style, it offered serious advice: cut out white bread, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco; keep track of what you eat; get more exercise. It also recommended changing your eating habits by changing your other habits: read a different newspaper, go to a different church, watch different TV shows. As he put it, “you must change everything.”
Publishers were confused, since it was neither a standard diet book nor a parody, so he was never able to sell it. Here are the first few pages. The “Dachau diet” of the chapter title, by the way, is the starvation diet that was given prisoners — a bad way to lose weight.
May 16, 2014
Mary Hyre’s next letter to John discussed UFO sightings, phone troubles, and “space grass.” John wrote “phones” on the envelope, so that was probably the part that most interested him. The clipping was not in the envelope; he must have filed it elsewhere. He did, by the way, save some of the “space grass” (radar chaff) that he collected from a UFO landing site in Point Pleasant 1n 1966. Here it is.
May 14, 2014
Andy Colvin has edited and published a third collection of John Keel’s lectures and magazine articles, Searching for the String, which is now available on Amazon.
He has also published new editions of Disneyland of the Gods, Strange Creatures from Time and Space, and The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings (those last two being different versions of the same book).
Jadoo, Operation Trojan Horse, and The Eighth Tower are available from Anomalist Books; and This Haunted Planet and The Best of John Keel are available from Galde Press (the latter only in a Kindle edition).
All of John’s books are now in print, then — except for the novels, Three Women, Town Tease, and The Fickle Finger of Fate. Stock up!
April 24, 2014
Mary Hyre’s next letter to John was from May 11, 1967. She talks about her own UFO sighting, her phone troubles, a strange heartbeat sound reported by Mothman witnesses Roger and Linda Scarberry (and which she too heard), and the theft of John’s papers from his car. She scrawled the letter on cheap paper (while sitting under the hairdryer, she adds), so I’ve added a more legible transcription after the scans. The clippings she mentioned were not in the envelope; John must have filed them elsewhere.
Well the UFOs were really out last night! I was driving out 22nd Street about 11 p.m. and suddenly the brightest object was right in front of me very low and just to the north of it was this orange colored one.
I haven’t seen one just like this bright color before.
Many others reported sighting also last night (I was sober, although I had a very big day, celebrating my 25 anniversary).
It seems I can never think of half the things that happens to me when I write or talk with you. Friday night the same night I seen the thick-lens glasses man. My telephone on 695-1560 line performed a strange thing. When I call out I use the 695-4543 phone, Scotty called me on that phone as it not listed and said my 1560 phone was out of order. I picked phone and dialed the 1560 number and the operator said the line is busy, well the operator don’t tell the line is busy unless she calling long distance, I told it was right on my desk and most certainly was not busy. The operator gave me the service department and she said it was OK and for to dial again, but the same thing happened, and again gave me the operator and we went through the same thing… It was near midnight I gave up and went home, and called from home and the same thing happened. The next morning it was the same thing and told the phone was not busy and said Wait a minute and in about five minutes the phone rang and no one answers, but dialed the number and answered it and believe or not it was OK.
I guess the best thing for me to do is give up or should I stay with it?
Linda and Roger one night heard the noise or sound like a heart beat. I too heard this (sound) and thought it was my heart pounding although I never have in ill effects from heart. Not saying that I won’t, but I thought it very strange and was about the same hour 3 a.m. in morning. I still say if they want me — come and get me!
I haven’t had time talk with Mrs. Boucea [?]. This is a busy week, I have lot of meetings the first week of the month, but I shall do it soon.
I have received so many calls congratulating me on my 25 anniversary.
Sending you a clipping of the tribute the Messenger paid me, of which I am very proud. When I die I don’t need flowers as I have received mine while I live.
My house looks like a flower shop with the beautiful arrangements I received, I hope am worthy of the praise I received.
Without my friends I could never have accomplished it.
Also sending a clipping of a UFO in today’s paper.
John if I have any clipping you need please let me know, even if only have one you can always send them back after you make a copy.
Do you feel that someone knew what you had in your car and wanted it for information or to destroy it?
It has worried me, I really don’t see what they would want with your note books and clippings, or perhaps they just took everything and didn’t give a damn what they took.
I am writing this letter while sitting under hair dryer.
As ever, Mary
April 15, 2014
Mary Hyre’s next letter to John was actually a clipping, looking back on her 25 years at The Messenger, in Athens, Ohio. It’s a somewhat morbid article, but I suppose she had a lot of “grief, tragedy or loss” to cover. It appeared on Monday, May 8, 1967, and was mailed the same day.
April 11, 2014
I’ll return to posting Mary Hyre’s letters, sent to John during the Point Pleasant flap of 1967. The last was from May 2; this one followed on the 4th. She catches him up on more UFO sightings, and mentions that she will soon celebrate 25 years at the Messenger. For those who have trouble with Hyrean longhand, I’ve transcribed it below. I looked up Camp Conley, by the way: it’s not a camp, but a road near the TNT area.
Well it has been so rainy here this week and I haven’t been out, but hope to go out for a while tonight. Mrs. Lilly said they had seen two tonight.
Do you recall Mrs. Lilly telling that a Mrs. Mary Wheeler had seen something in Camp Conley, well I saw her today and ask her about and described it to me and it identical of the same thing I seen on the river that night. She said the thing went around-and-around with a white light enclosed was a orange light.
I sure wish I had stayed that night I saw it on the river bank, but guess I wasn’t brave enough to stay by myself.
A man told me last night that we should build a UFO port and maybe one would land on it.
Maxine is using the typewritter tonight and you will never read this writting. She and one of the police are going out to see if they can see a UFO, I told them I doubt if they look.
I am going with Dr. Oliver and one of the police I will never get back, because none of us ever know the time of day.
If anything exciting occurs I shall let you know.
As ever, Mary H.
P.S. Guess we are going to celebrate my 25th year with the Messenger next Tuesday. MH