“John Keel was our Michael Jackson.”

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 8th, 2009

Anomalist Books editor-in-chief Patrick Huyghe remarked after hearing of the death, “John Keel was our Michael Jackson.”

After Keel’s 1975 book was adapted into the 2002 film, The Mothman Prophecies, “Mothman” became a household name. But it was John Keel that was the true star, not the monster. One of our own had crossed over and had a big tent Hollywood movie made from one of his books.

In January 2002, when the film was first released, Fortean historian and author Jerome Clark said that he felt a sense of sincere pride for John Keel when he saw Keel’s name flash on the movie theater screen. It was a good moment.

Among the press, the Point Pleasant Daily Register shared this: “As several celebrity deaths have swept the nation in recent weeks, perhaps the closest to the area is the death of John Keel.”

John Keel, The Mothman Prophecies author, stood with Point Pleasant, West Virginia’s Main Street Director Charles Humphreys prior to the official unveiling of the Mothman Statue at Gunn Park in 2002. Keel died on Friday, July 3, 2009.

At Fortfest 1992, John A. Keel discusses his research findings (mostly ufological & hints of the cryptozoological) keyed to “pivotal years,” e.g. 1848, 1968, 1973, and 1975. In the last 30 seconds of this video, Keel talks about the interrelationship of Forteana and economic collapses.

Certainly a focus among the Fortean, cryptozoological, and ufological communities for three days now, Keel’s passing is beginning to be acknowledged in the mainstream media:

Keel, writer of ‘Mothman Prophecies,’ dies at 79.”
Newsday, New York.

“‘Mothman Prophecies’ Writer, Keel, Dies At 79.”
WCBS-TV New York

John Keel.”
Associated Press.

Keel, writer of ‘Mothman Prophecies,’ dies at 79.”
WTEN – Albany, New York

Cryptomundo links have included:

John A. Keel Has Died, July 6, 2009.

Keel Ends Life Rather Alone, July 7, 2009.

C2C: Keel Tribute, July 7, 2007.

Vallée & Keel, July 7, 2009.

John Keel was our Michael Jackson,” July 8, 2009.

Garuda: Harbinger of Doom, from an Indian postcard, being sold by a New York City vendor on a walk home from Keel’s apartment. Credit: Doug Skinner.

John Keel Loren Coleman
In 1994, John A. Keel is the demonologist, the man in black in the middle, in between ufologist J. Antonio Huneeus and cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Photo by anomalist Patrick Huyghe.

On July 3rd, in 1969, Brian Jones, English musician and member of The Rolling Stones died. On July 3rd, in 1971, Jim Morrison, the Lizard King and American leader of The Doors died. On July 3rd, in 2009, another kind of rock star, the Mothman king, John A. Keel died.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

12 Responses to ““John Keel was our Michael Jackson.””

  1. DavidFullam responds:

    Keel means more to me than Mr. Jackson ever will.

  2. JMonkey responds:

    True Keel really did some amazing work in his field. But I don’t think he could moonwalk like Michael.

  3. MattBille responds:

    Loren, my condolences on the loss of your friend. Keel was certainly an original.
    I do wonder: did he leave to anyone the files he must have accumulated? In reading Keel’s Strange Creatures, I often found something that made me think, “that’s interesting, I wonder what the information source was?” John was more of a philosophical/big picture writer who didn’t often pinpoint sources, but he must have had them.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Thank you, Matt, and so many others who have sent in your thoughts for Keel’s family, friends, and to me. It is appreciated during this rough week.

    But, Matt, I would not hold out any hope for any types of organized files from Keel from the 1960s/1970s, which is when Strange Creatures from Time and Space was compiled. John wrote news articles and magazine articles, then those were reworked for his books.

    Keel had been in and out of hospitals, nursing homes, and ER rooms so often in the last ten years, we have to be realistic about what the non-academic Keel saved and maintained in his small apartment. He seriously told me once a small dog of his destroyed a works-in-progress manuscript. Also, people have had to clean up his place, lately, and even though I trust those folks, John was not maintaining his domain well.

    The family just became aware of John’s death after reading Cryptomundo on Monday and then located the body in the hospital’s morgue. My grief covers John’s departure and the disposition of his works for future researchers and students of Keel. I have to trust that those dealing with John and his archives now will make the best decisions for his legacy.

  5. cryptidsrus responds:

    One big difference between MJ and Keel was that Keel didn’t drop dead at the relatively young age of 50, wasn’t filthy rich, and was not as much of a “household name” as MJ. Keel at least lived into a ripe old age. Keel also did not get to date Brooke Shields, did not have a Chimp for a pet and did not have Liz Taylor as a second “mother.” Keel also almost certainly did not have the surreal, horrific, abusive childhood Jackson had. Or the eating disorders and chronic drug use problems Jacko suffered from.

    On the other hand, both were eccentric geniuses, both were misunderstood wildly in their lifetimes, both were very reclusive and isolated near the end of their lives, both enjoyed very controversial careers, and both spoke to specific longings in the human heart in all of us. Both ended up in debt, too.

    Both him and Jackson were larger-than-life and unforgettable. For better or for worse. I wish Keel was more of a “household name” on the level of Jackson but I’m comforted by the fact that there are STILL thousands, if not millions of folks out there who have been made “Fortean” enthusiasts because of Keel and his like. In that way, I am happy. Both will be sorely missed.

  6. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    Meaning no disrespect to fans of Michael Jackson, but Keel’s contributions to our world were much more important, and very likely touched lives in a much more profound way than Jackson’s. I can remember reading Keel and debating within my own mind the things he investigated and wrote about. I can’t say I was ever inspired, changed or challenged by anything Jackson did. Of course, Jackson was an entertainer and Keel was a visionary and an explorer in realms where relatively few dare to tread. Yet I can say I have been moved by entertainers like Fred Astair or Gene Kelly or even Elvis. Not so with Jackson. To call Keel our Michael Jackson is, to me, a great disservice to John Keel.

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    For those who appear to not “get it,” the comparative statement said that Keel was “our Michael Jackson,” as an analogy. This was a comment on the timing, not a linkage between the men.

    The statement is to note that in the midst of the wave of celebrity deaths hitting this point in our contemporary history John Keel’s death to many anomalists, Forteans, and yes, cryptozoologists is a big deal.

    I am not allowing this thread to be pulled into a debate by MJ fans who seem to miss the whole point of the Huyghe comment.

    Keel was significant to “our world,” as defined by the masthead of this blog. This is not some statement on the importance, character or fame of Michael Jackson to his fans, but is all about Keel. I shall make certain this blog stays with that focus.

    Thank you for understanding.

  8. Doug Skinner responds:

    Rest assured; Larry Sloman and I made sure none of John’s papers were lost in the cleanings. Many water bottles, shoe boxes, yogurt containers, and newspapers were lost to posterity, but none of his papers.

    We’re working with the family to find a place where John’s papers can be properly preserved and accessible. From what I’ve seen, John was more likely to keep files of his own writings than of his sources, but whatever he kept will be preserved.

  9. Loren Coleman responds:

    Once again, publicly, I want to say “thank you” to Doug, Larry, and others, plus all those unnamed nurses and neighbors, uncredited, who helped John in the last few years.

    Doug, Larry, Cheryl, and Nicole, I’m sure, are doing what is best for John and the family, and I respect what they must do to get through the next few days.

    Thank you for your comment Doug.

  10. JMonkey responds:

    To say that John Keel is our Michael Jackson is, and should be, and honor for both of them. They were both inspirational to their audiences.

    My condolences Loren.

  11. Dib responds:

    It’s comforting to know Mr. Keel’s legacy is being taken care of.

  12. buzeldredge responds:

    Chalk me up as another person who wouldn’t have a lifetime interest in the paranormal, except for John Keel. His writing was humorous, factual, scientific and I couldn’t put his books down when I bought them. He’s one of those people that I would have loved to meet in person. Can’t help wonderin where he is, as an atheist he must be in a really wonderful afterlife state. Be at peace, John.

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