Wednesday, July 08, 2009

John A. Keel (1930 - 2009)

Ever since I read about John Keel’s passing on Loren Coleman’s Cryptomundo site I’ve been meaning to write something, but the keyboard seemed unresponsive. The sensation was akin to trying to grab hold of a mountain and raise it aloft – utterly impossible.

For how does one begin to write about the man who can safely be described as being second in importance only to Charles Fort, and the one of the few writers of UFO subjects who “got it right”? Unlike Coleman and others who have written brilliant and moving eulogies to the departed master, I never met Keel. I exchanged a few late night phone calls with him, may have received a reply to a letter, and shared friends in common. However, I read his paperbacks in the 1970s so earnestly as to believe that the words were written for me alone – a conceit common to many fans. Visiting the newsstand after school meant seeing if SAGA UFO Report had arrived, and then checking to see if there was an article by Keel in it (or Brad Steiger, naturally).

While other writers and radio personalities focused on corporeal aliens and possible ports-of-call for our “extraterrestrial visitors”, Keel raised the stakes by positing a belief that was closer to Spiritism: intelligent, not necessarily benevolent forces that had been with humanity forever, and would more than likely outlive our species. Over time, the same magazines that carried Keel’s articles would feature works by Gordon Creighton, the editor of Flying Saucer Review, who shared the same views. Radio and television programs would introduce me to the former Jesuit priest, Salvador Freixedo, who would always hail Keel as a pioneer in this new perception of the field.

As fate would have it, and nearly twenty years later, Keel offered to write the foreword to my translation of Salvador Freixedo’s “Visionaries, Mystics and Contactees” (Illuminet Press, 1992), for which I am ever so grateful to this very day.

John Keel blazed a trail through the dark woods of the paranormal. It is our duty to keep it clear for generations yet to come.

Descanse en paz, maestro.