Monday, July 6, 2009 R.I.P. John Keel

Noted Fortean author John Keel passed away on July 3rd at the age of 79. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has posted an in-depth memorial for Keel on his Cryptomundo blog.

I first read Keel's classic work, The Mothman Prophecies, in the mid-80's. Keel's "ultraterrestrial" theory helped inspire one of the best RPG campaigns I have ever run, and it still influences a lot of my creative endeavors to this day. It also scared the crap out of me. The idea that there exist malevolent intelligences not subject to our laws of time and space... that's a hell of a lot creepier than ET's with anal fixations.

I discovered Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger around the same time. It seemed to me that both men were experiencing the same phenomenon from different points of view; Wilson believed the intelligences were benign if not outright supportive of humanity, while Keel's ultraterrestrials were cruel tricksters at best. (Being naturally pessimistic, I sided with Keel on the matter.)

Later on, I encountered the works of Jacques Vallée, F.W. Halliday, and others who all have their own experiences and opinions regarding the so-called interdimensional theory. But Keel's Prophecies remains the pinnacle work on the subject as far as I'm concerned. It may not be as scholarly or even as thoughtful as the books that followed in its wake (including some of Keel's own) but it's certainly the most accessible. Whether you approach it as fact, fiction, or outright hoax, it's a cracking good read, which no doubt leads to its continued popularity.

During the day, I steadfastly hold that the UFO experience is a social and psychological phenomenon. At night, however, alone in my rooms, I dread the coming of the ultraterrestrials. Damn you, John Keel! And thanks.