Sunday, September 16, 2012

Men In Black, Addendum: A moment in UFO History.

Some time ago I had the pleasure [?] [well, in some sense of the word] to listen to a taped talk by John Keel on the Men-in-Black topic. At the time I didn't know enough to recognize its probable historical impact. [Don't overplay this, folks, it hardly changed the course of world history, but may have had significance in how the University of Colorado finished its UFO examination].

John Keel. In many ways one of the least helpful people to lurk within the wider UFO community. A sometimes riveting writer and speaker, who at times didn't seem to care one whit about what he was saying [truth-wise] and at others seemed to be simply out of his mind. The Men-in-Black topic was perfect for both of his mindsets.

In the talk on this tape, Keel claimed the following things: MIBs were responsible for strange disappearances of people and animals, most particularly teenage boys; MIBs are/were knocking out police car radios and are/were responsible for whole system power outages; MIBs drive around in mysterious cars three times the normal size of automobiles; "something very bad and very serious is in the works" he muttered ominously; MIBs are responsible for poltergeist activities, the eery sounds of babies crying in the night, of monsters and ABSMs; MIBs are beginning to start fires in buildings, and are showing up as monk-hooded giants to terrorize people. All of this is "A Nightmare on the Ground that has been completely unpublicized".

I will leave it to your best estimate as to whether this was Keel in his liar or insane mode.

If you think that he was "right on the money", well, please don't try to get my home address and come for a visit.

This talk by Keel was part of the equally-unhelpful James Moseley's 1967 UFO convention in NYC. And guess who attended? Edward Condon, showed up at that convention ready to fully enjoy himself with a great hoot at the UFO fools who he firmly believed composed the entirety of the UFO community. In one sense the convention did not disappoint. Even the talk by Ivan Sanderson [which we have a copy of in the SITU archives], came dangerously close to being chaotic, unpolished, lunacy. But Keel as you can see went far beyond that into a world of dark paranoia and unsubstantiated claims which would have better served the fictional pen of Stephen King than the mind of Edward Condon.

Condon was not amused.

What "percentage" the Nightmare talk of Keel played in this is just my speculation, but Condon came back from NYC a changed man. He returned to the project with the attitude that he was not studying some light foolishness as he had thought, but that the project was engaged in a report about a subject which had serious negative consequences for the mental health and reasoning processes of the people who became too involved with UFOs. UFOs, ridiculous as they seemed to Condon, were dangerous. Dangerous not in themselves [as they did not even exist], but dangerous in where they led the untrained mind.

Condon began to speak about UFOs as never being allowed into the schoolrooms of the nation, as the concept would damage the childrens' minds --- he is quoted as saying exactly that. He went from a sort of benign uncaring about how the project did its business, to a malign hostility towards the subject and even its sane researchers such as Hynek and McDonald, suddenly beginning to openly call them "kooks". After this convention, the Final Report of the Colorado Project had far less chance of containing balanced conclusions than it had previously. John Keel was certainly part of that. In that, Keel and Moseley were precisely what the intelligence community wanted: foolish dupes capable of turning off any serious person who might decide to look into the subject.

The previous post gave my thoughts on the three different things which are dumped into the MIB "bag" by indiscriminate observers and interested parties. Who can say what the third group [the crowd from Whackland] are? But regardless of what/who they are, they are not the thing John Keel described in New York in 1967. He was WAY over the top. He was in pure Hollywood horror movie country. He was wrong, and he either didn't know, or he didn't care.

John Keel was an entertaining writer and speaker. We could have done without him.


  1. Mike,

    Keel, whom I knew from the late 1960s and to whom I was close in my naive youth, was not a good guy, as you correctly observe.

    The late Alfred Kazin once memorably characterized Richard Nixon as "boringly complex," and that serves as an apt summing up of Keel's ego and psyche. The longer I knew him, the more I came to see him as some species of megalomaniac who had long ceased to recognize his own bullshit -- one of the most fatal flaws to which a human can be susceptible.

    I have a hard time not popping a gasket (or, worse, flying into a full-throated, spittle-spewing rant) when I encounter sentimental piffle, which continues to be expressed abundantly, about this mean-spirited madman. Good on you for not sparing the needed words.

  2. I had listened to several of Keel's rambles, not in person mind you but on Reel - Real, Audio and Video....OMG, I really think he was the first "Shock Jock" without being a DJ...Man oh Man, he came out of left field on everything..In my honest opinion he suffered from lack of human attention so he made his "tales" as tall and a BIG as he could...he needed others to listen in awe (or at least he thought)...he was more of a Bill Shatner on drugs..I often wonder if there was a brain tumor or personality disorder to go along with the paranoia.
    Oh well, his "chats" was more of a Tim Burton's daydream...but they did have you on the edge of your seat....Even if it was just to get up and leave.

    1. Hmmmm..... well, I prefer not to be quite so deprecating of an individual, especially when it comes to speculations about "brain tumors", "personality disorders" and drugs. That for me and this blog is a little over-the-top. John Keel seems to me to be a writer-entertainer who gradually evolved into, as Jerry said, someone who believed his own crap. Because he was such a compelling speaker and writer for a certain kind of thrill-seeking/follower/non-thinker type of mentality, he was capable of collecting a cult-like following. This not only can easily go to ones head, but can create a semi-crazy environment such as Condon witnessed and was appalled by.

  3. prof

    unlike you and mr clark here who know john keel personally, i do not have that luxury. so i want to ask from both of you this : which one of the john keel book you deem LEAST crazy or at least 75% ok. Or did all his books all crap and sensationalist journalism ?

    is john keel similar to john lear in term of the lunacy and out of this world hyperbolism and exaggerated story teller type of guy?

    1. I haven't cared enough about Keel's writings to even read all of them. Sometimes the reading of just a bit of someone tells you what you need to know. Keel seemed to go somewhat nuts around 1967. Probably things written earlier than that are saner.

      John Keel and John Lear have nothing in common, unless you subscribe to an unusual theory about similar structured names. I also have no insight into the inner workings of John Lear's mind.

  4. Reading the replies above I see good examples of People who have no tact and believing of their own bullshit.



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