John wrote proposals for a number of books that never got the green light. Here’s one: Strange Exits, a book about unusual deaths. The proposal is ten pages, so I’ll divide it into two posts. Included with it, by the way, were three of John’s magazine articles: “He Climbed Everest Alone!” (Argosy, March 1956), “UFOs and the Strange Deaths of our Astronauts — Or Was It MURDER?” (Saga, August, 1971), and “Carnarvon’s Curse” (unidentified).
One of John’s first written pieces on UFOs was a 1952 radio program for the American Forces Network, done while he was stationed in Frankfurt. The script, “Things in the Sky,” covered the major sightings from Kenneth Arnold onward, and concluded by citing the various competing explanations. Charles Fort also appeared as a character, which may mark the only time he was trotted out to educate servicemen. The script is too tightly bound to scan properly; so, with a few excuses for the margins, here’s a sample of “Things in the Sky.”
One of John Keel’s odder media appearances was as a guest on “To Tell the Truth.” There may be a video somewhere, but I haven’t seen it; fortunately, John saved an audio tape. It’s undated, but since he was plugging The Mothman Prophecies, I assume it was sometime in 1975.
The sequence is ten minutes. John and the two pseudo-Keels are quizzed by Kitty Carlisle, Bill Cullen, Peggy Cass, and Nipsey Russell on Mothman, the Yeti and Bigfoot, and ultraterrestials. For me, it was certainly odd to hear Nipsey Russell interrogating John about Mothman, and to hear Kitty Carlisle try to figure out what an ultraterrestrial was.
For the record, the other Keels were Christopher Arnold, who described himself as an instructor, and Jeff Brown, a producer of TV commercials. John was apparently the most convincing Keel, since only Peggy Cass voted for the wrong Keel, casting her vote for Arnold.
Operation Trojan Horse has just been republished by Anomalist Books. It’s Keel’s major statement on UFOs, and (as readers may have noticed) one of the hardest of his books to find. So, make your way to Anomalist Books and get yourself some Keel!
The final part of the proposal for Abominable Space Things is simply headed “Descriptive.” It sounds more like an introduction than a description; maybe it would have turned into one. It also sounds more like Keel than Sanderson to me; see what you think.
Here you go: the last four chapters of the proposed Keel-Sanderson book, from their pitch. From the vantage point of 1966, that was the breakthrough year. The book proposal also included a more general section headed “Descriptive”; that will be next.
The pitch for the proposed Keel-Sanderson opus (Abominable Space Things) continues with a chapter by chapter outline. It seems to bear the stamp of Sanderson more than Keel; John mentioned in correspondence that he wanted to keep speculation to a minimum. But then again, John was more likely to misspell “Renaissance”; Sanderson was a better speller. Here are the first eight chapters (of twelve), taking us up through 1948. I’ll break it up, to keep the posts manageable. It sounds like it would have been a lively book…
We continue with the pitch for Abominable Space Things, the proposed UFO book by John Keel and Ivan Sanderson. Here are two pages of acknowledgements: note that both men were then on good terms with both NICAP and APRO.
So, below you’ll find the first part of the pitch for Abominable Space Things. Keel and Sanderson specify their approach, and explain the title. The appreciation of the word “things” is interesting, given that Sanderson went on to write books simply called Things and More Things. The proposal also contains a section on acknowledgements, a table of contents, and a general description, which we’ll get to later. But here’s the first part…
John wrote Ivan Sanderson again on May 2, 1966. He was indeed corresponding regularly with the Lorenzens; and he was indeed inundated with material. The meeting with Fawcett concerned his superhero spoof, The Fickle Finger of Fate (which has, parenthetically, puzzled some Keel fans unaware of his earlier work as a comedy writer). He doesn’t seem to have corresponded with Isabel Davis, active in the UFO organizations CSI and NICAP. I wonder how the meeting went…
Around this time, John was putting more work into his projected UFO article for Playboy, and the book with Sanderson sort of fizzled out. But they did get as far as an outline/pitch, which I’ll bring you next time.