John Keel

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John Keel

John Keel (born Alva John Kiehle on March 23, 1930) is a writer and researcher on paranormal subjects. Keel is most famous for his book The Mothman Prophecies, although he is highly regarded for his research over numerous decades.


Keel was born in Hornell, New York. His parents divorced when he was very young and he was sent to live with his grandparents. When he was 10, he joined his mother and her new husband on a farm nearby Perry.

Keels voracious curiosity manifested early, he read everything, particularly science, travel, humour and magic. When he was 12, he had one of his first brushes with the paranormal - an attic poltergeist that responded to his knocking. By the time he was 14, he was renting office space, writing a column for the Perry Herald, publishing the school paper, and contributing to magazines, all while working on the family farm. At 16, he was publishing a SF Fanzine, The Lunarite; and had sold a piece to The New Yorker.

In 1947, Keel packed a bag and hitch-hicked to Manhattan. He was soon active in the Greenwich Village scene, editing the magazine Poets of America, and writing for the arts weekly Limelight. He also turned out comic books for superman creator Jerry Siegel, scripts for pioneer TV station WEBD, and countless magazine articles and shorts stories. In the 1950, John Keel worked for the department of the army as chief of continuity and production for the American Forces Network (AFN) in Frankfurt, Germany.

In 1952 he wrote and produces the radio program Things in the Sky, about unidentified flying objects, which was heard by millions throughout Europe. His broadcast locations ranged from Frankenstein's Castle in Germany to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. For the next few ears, Keel travelled through the middle East, supporting himself by articles sent back to the U.S. He spotted a UFO in Egypt and, possibly, a Yeti in Sikkim. He has interviewed snake charmers, filmed street magicians, and learned the Indian ripe trick. He was finally deported as an adventurer in Singapore, he moved to Barcelona and wrote up his experiences in his autobiography, Jadoo (Hindi word for Magic).

Keel then re-entered the worlds of television and radio. He provided ad-libs for Merv Griffin, wrote for game shows, and completed 200 episodes of the slapstick series Mack and Meyer for Hire. He was head writer for a station WPIX in New York, and he worked in Hollywood, contributing scripts to Get Smart, The Monkeys, Lost in Space, and other shows. In 1965, and editor at Playboy asked for the "definitive" UFO article. For the next few years, Keel pursued the subject, interviewing witnesses and investigating reports across the country. The phenomenon, he learned, was not a passive one. He entered a shadowy world where black cars disappeared on country roads, meaningless messages turned up in hotel rooms, and his phone and mail suffered increasingly strange interception.

In 1966, he repeatedly visited Point Pleasant, WV, then the site of a particularly lively UFO and monster flap; the result of was one of his most popular books, The Mothman Prophecies, which was adapted into a 2002 feature film starring Richard Gere. For many years, John Keel wrote a syndicated newspaper columns that appeared in major dailies throughout the world, and countless magazine articles that appeared in nearly every leading periodical. His monthly column "Modern Mysteries" ran in Saga magazine for ten years. He was editor and publisher of Anomaly, a newsletter devoted to scientific mysteries, and served on the Board of Directors of the Society for the Investigations of the Unexplained (S.I.T.U.), founded by Ivan T. Sanderson. He was also the editor of the Society's journal, Pursuit.

In the 1970s, Keel lived in Woodstock and then New York City, and received his private pilot license. He was recently the subject of Secrets of the Shadow World, a feature-length documentary film by director George Kuchar that premiered at the 2000 New York Video Festival at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater.


Keel initially pursued UFOs within the popular extraterrestrial visitation hypothesis. However, like contemporary researcher Jacques Vallee, he soon realised that the extraterrestrial hypothesis was untenable, due to the psychic aspects of UFO and contactee reports.

According to Keel, "I abandoned the extraterrestrial hypothesis in 1967 when my own field investigations disclosed an astonishing overlap between psychic phenomena and UFOs...The objects and apparitions do not necessarily originate on another planet and may not even exist as permanent constructions of matter. It is more likely that we see what we want to see and interpret such visions according to our contemporary beliefs."

As such, Keel coined an alternative term for sightings of such vehicles and creatures: ultraterrestrials.


  • Jadoo (1957)
  • UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse (1970)
  • Our Haunted Planet (1971)
  • The Mothman Prophecies (1975)
  • The Eighth Tower (1975)
  • Disneyland of the Gods (1988)

External Links