1 - Beelzebub
Visits West Virginia
Fingers of lightning tore holes in the black skies as an angry
cloudburst drenched the surrealistic landscape. It was 3 A.M. on a
cold, wet morning in late November 1967. and the little houses
scattered along the dirt road winding through the hills of West
Virginia were all dark. Some seemed unoccupied and in the final
stages of decay. Others were unpainted, neglected, forlorn. The
whole setting was like the opening scene of a Grade B horror film
from the 1930s.
Along the road there came a stranger in a land where strangers were
rare and suspect. He walked up to the door of a crumbling farmhouse
and hammered. After a long moment a light blinked on somewhere in
the house and a young woman appeared, drawing a cheap mail-order
bathrobe tightly about her. She opened the door a crack and her
sleep-swollen face winced with fear as she stared at the apparition
on her doorstep. He was over six feet tall and dressed entirely in
black. He wore a black suit, black tie, black hat, and black
overcoat, with impractical black dress shoes covered with mud. His
face, barely visible in the darkness, sported a neatly trimmed
mustache and goatee.
The flashes of lightning
behind him added an eerie effect.
“May I use your
phone?” He asked in a deep baritone, his voice lacking the
familiar West Virginia accent. The girl gulped silently and
“My husband ...” She mumbled. “Talk to my husband.“
She closed the door
quickly and backed away into the darkness. Minutes passed. Then she
returned accompanied by a rugged young man hastily buckling his
trousers in place.
He, too, turned pale at the sight of the
“We ain’t got a
phone here,” he grunted through the crack in the door just
before he slammed it.
The couple retreated
murmuring to themselves and the tall stranger faded into the night.
Beards were a very rare sight in West Virginia in 1967. Men in
formal suits and ties were even rarer in those back hills of the
Ohio valley. And bearded, black-garbed strangers on foot in the rain
had never been seen there before.
In the days that followed the young couple told their friends about
the apparition. Obviously, they concluded, he had been a fearful
omen of some sort. Perhaps he had been the devil himself!
Three weeks later these two people were dead, among the victims of
the worst tragedy ever to strike that section of West Virginia. They
were driving across the Silver Bridge. which spanned the Ohio River,
when it suddenly collapsed.
Their friends remembered. They remembered the story of the bearded
stranger in the night. It had, indeed, been a sinister omen. One
that confirmed their religious beliefs and superstitions. So a new
legend was born. Beelzebub had visited West Virginia on the eve of a
Being a dedicated nonconformist is not easy these days. I grew my
beard in 1966 while loafing for a week op the farm of my friend,
zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson. I kept it until 1968 when hair
became popular and half the young men hi America suddenly began
burying their identities in a great sea of facial hair. In those
more innocent days only artists, writers, and college professors
could get away with beards. People even seemed to expect it of us.
Perhaps if crew cuts
ever come back and beards disappear I will regrow my own. But today
it would be sprinkled with gray. Too much gray, probably. Likewise,
long hair was once the symbol of the super-intellectual, the
property of concert violinists and Einstein-type mathematicians—the
ultimate squares, really.
I would prefer to believe that I did not look like the devil in my
I certainly had no
intention of launching new legends when my car ran off the road in
West Virginia that November and I plodded from house to house
searching for a telephone so I could call a tow truck. I had just
come up from Atlanta, Georgia, where I had delivered a speech to a
local UFO club. West Virginia was almost a second home to me in
I had visited the state
five times, investigating a long series of very strange events, and
had many friends there.
One of them, Mrs. Mary Hyre, the star reporter of the Athens, Ohio,
Messenger, was with me that night. We had been out talking to UFO
witnesses, and earlier that evening we ourselves had watched, a very
strange light in the sky. Since there was a heavy, low cloud layer
it could not have been a star. It maneuvered over the hills, its
brilliant glow very familiar to both of us for we both had seen many
such lights in the Ohio valley that year.
Mrs. Hyre waited in the car while I trudged through the mud and ram.
We had been trying to climb a slippery hill to a spot where we had
seen many unusual things in the past. I found that the telephones in
the houses closest to our location were not working, apparently
knocked out by the storm. So I had to keep walking until I finally
found a house with a working phone. The owner refused to open his
door so we shouted back and forth. I gave him a phone number to
call. He obliged and went back to bed. I never knew what he looked
My point, of course is that Beelzebub was not wandering along the
back roads of West Virginia that night. It was just a very tired
John Keel busy catching a whale of a cold. But from the view of the
people who lived on that road, something very unusual had happened.
They had never before been roused in the middle of the night by a
tall bearded stranger in black.
They knew nothing about
me or the reasons for my presence so they were forced to speculate.
Even speculation was difficult. They could only place me in the
frame of reference they knew best—the religious. Bearded men in city
dress simply did not turn up on isolated back roads in the middle of
the night. In fact, they didn’t even turn up on the main streets of
Ohio valley towns in broad daylight! So a perfectly normal event
(normal, that is, to me) was placed in an entirely different context
by the witnesses.
The final proof of my
supernatural origin came three weeks later when two of the people I
had awakened were killed in the bridge tragedy. Some future
investigator of the paranormal may wander into those hills someday,
talk with these people, and write a whole chapter of a learned book
on demonology repeating this piece of folklore. Other scholars will
pick up and repeat his story in their books and articles. The
presence of the devil in West Virginia in November 1967 will become
a historical fact, backed by the testimony of several witnesses.
Those of us who somewhat sheepishly spend our time chasing
dinosaurs, sea serpents, and little green men in space suits are
painfully aware that things often are not what they seem; that
sincere eyewitnesses can—and do— grossly misinterpret what they have
seen; that many extraordinary events can have disappointingly
For every report I have
published in my articles and books, I have shelved maybe fifty
others because they had a possible explanation, or because I
detected problematical details in the witness’s story, which cast
doubt on the validity of a paranormal explanation. On the other
hand, I have come across many events which seemed perfectly normal
in one context but which were actually most unusual when compared
with similar events.
That is, some apparent
coincidences cease to be coincidental when you realize they have
been repeated again and again in many parts of the world. Collect
enough of these coincidences together and you have a whole tapestry
of the paranormal.
As we progress, you will see that many seemingly straightforward
accounts of monster sightings and UFO landings can be explained by
irritatingly complex medical and psychological theories. In some
cases, the theories will seem more unbelievable than the original
events. Please bear in mind that the summaries published here are
backed by years of study and experience.
I am no longer
particularly interested in the manifestations of the phenomenon. I
am pursuing the source of the phenomenon itself. To do this, I have
objectively divorced myself from all the popular frames of
I am not concerned with
beliefs but with the cosmic mechanism “which has generated and
perpetuated those beliefs.
There is an
old house on a tree-lined street in New York’s Greenwich Village
which harbors a strange ghost. Hans Holzer and other ghost-chasers
have included the house in their catalogs of haunted places. The
phantom has been seen by several people in recent years. It is
dressed hi, a long black cape and wears a wide-brimmed slouch hat
pulled down over its eyes as it slinks from room to room.
Self-styled parapsychologists have woven all kinds of fantasies
around this apparition. Obviously a spy from the revolutionary war
was caught and killed in the old house.
But wait. This ghost may not be a member of the restless dead at
all. There were never any reports of hauntings there until about
twenty years ago, after the house was vacated by a writer named
He was, and is, an
extraordinarily prolific author. For many years he churned out a
full-length novel each month, and many of those novels were written
in the house in Greenwich Village. All of them were centered around
the spectacularly successful character Gibson created in the 1930s,
that nemesis of evil known as The Shadow. If you have read any of
The Shadow novels you know that he was fond of lurking in dark
alleys dressed in a cape and broad-brimmed slouch hat.
Why would a Shadow-like apparition suddenly appear in an old house?
Could it be some kind of residue from Walter Gibson’s very powerful
mind? We do know that some people can move objects, even bend spoons
and keys, with the power of their minds alone. Mental telepathy is
now a tested and verified phenomenon.
And about 10 percent of
the population have the ability to see above and beyond the narrow
spectrum of visible light. They can see radiations and even objects
invisible to the rest of us. A very large part of the UFO lore is,
in fact, based upon the observations of such people. What seems
normal to them seems abnormal, even ridiculous, to the rest of us.
People who see ghosts or the wandering Shadow have these abilities.
They are peering at
forms that are always there, always present around us like radio
waves, and when certain conditions exist they can see these things.
The Tibetans believe that advanced human minds can manipulate these
invisible energies into visible forms called tulpas, or thought
projections. Did Walter Gibson’s intense concentration on his Shadow
novels inadvertently bring a tulpa into existence?
Readers of occult literature know there are innumerable cases of
ghosts haunting a particular site year after year, century after
century, carrying out the same mindless activities endlessly. Build
a house on such a site and the ghost will leave locked doors ajar as
it marches through to carry out its programmed activity. Could these
ghosts really be tulpas, residues of powerful minds like the phantom
in the broad-brimmed hat?
Next, consider this. UFO activity is concentrated in the same areas
year after year. In the Ohio valley, they show a penchant for the
ancient Indian mounds which stand throughout the area. Could some
UFOs be mere tulpas created by a long forgotten people and doomed
forever to senseless maneuvers in the night skies?
There are archaeological sites in the Mississippi valley which have
been dated to 8,000 years ago ... long before the Indians are
supposed to have arrived. Some of the Indian mounds (there are
hundreds of them scattered throughout North America) are laid out
and constructed with the same kind of mathematical precision found
in the pyramids of Egypt.
While it is known that the Indians were
still adding to some of the mounds in the south when the Europeans
first arrived, other mounds seem to be considerably older. Some are
built in the form of elephants. What did the builders use for a
model? Others are in the shape of sea serpents. These forms can only
be seen from the air. To plan and build such mountains of shaped
earth required technical skills beyond the simple nomadic woods
Currently there is a revival in diffusionism, a popular scientific
concept of the 1920s which asserted that many of the puzzling
artifacts and ancient constructions found throughout the world were
the products of a single worldwide culture. The cult of believers in
Atlantis were the principal advocates of this idea, so sober
scientists naturally turned away from it for a theory that is almost
impossible to support. This was the notion that many inventions and
ideas simply occurred simultaneously to widespread, isolated
The flying saucer entities have allegedly contacted many people in
almost every country and have immodestly claimed credit for
everything from the building of the pyramids to the sinking of
Atlantis. Erich Von Daniken, a Swiss author, has popularized the
concept that members of an extraterrestrial civilization did contact
early earthlings, basing his theories on expansive
misinterpretations—and in several instances, deliberate
misrepresentations—of archaeological curiosities.
Von Daniken seems to be
totally ignorant of the work of European scholars such as Brinsley
Trench, Paul Misraki, and W. Raymond Drake, who have examined the
same curiosities very carefully in the past ten years and developed
elaborate philosophical hypotheses about the intrusion and effect of
alien beings on mankind since the beginning. Their concepts are
wider in scope and significance, and far better documented than Von Daniken’ simplistic efforts.
That unidentified flying objects have been present since the dawn of
man is an undeniable fact. They are not only described repeatedly in
the Bible, but were also the subject of cave paintings made
thousands of years before the Bible was written. And a strange
procession of weird entities and frightening creatures have been
with us just as long.
When you review the
ancient references you are obliged to conclude that the presence of
these objects and beings is a normal condition for this planet.
These things, these other intelligences or OINTs as Ivan Sanderson
labeled them, either reside here but somehow remain concealed from
us, or they do not exist at all and are actually special aberrations
of the human mind—tulpas, hallucinations, psychological constructs,
momentary materializations of energy from that dimension beyond the
reach of our senses and even beyond the reaches of our scientific
They are not from outer
space. There is no need for them to be. They have always been here.
Perhaps they were here long before we started bashing each other
over the head with clubs. If so, they will undoubtedly still be here
long after we have incinerated our cities, polluted all the waters,
and rendered the very atmosphere unbreathable. Of course, their
lives—if they have lives in the usual sense—will be much duller
after we have gone.
But if they wait around
long enough another form of so-called intelligent life will crawl
out from under a rock and they can begin their games again.
Back in the
1920s, Charles Fort, the first writer to explore inexplicable
events, observed you can measure a circle by beginning anywhere.
Paranormal phenomena are so widespread, so diversified, and so
sporadic yet so persistent that separating and studying any single
element is not only a waste of time but also will automatically lead
to the development of belief.
Once you have
established a belief, the phenomenon adjusts its manifestations to
support that belief and thereby escalate it. If you believe in the
devil he will surely come striding down your road one rainy night
and ask to use your phone. If you believe that flying saucers are
astronauts from another planet they will begin landing and
collecting rocks from your garden.
Many—most—of the manifestations accompanying the UFO phenomenon
simply did not fit into the enthusiasts3 concept of how a superior
intelligence from another galaxy would behave. So the flying saucer
clubs carefully ignored, even suppressed, the details of those
manifestations for many years.
When a black-suited man
in a Cadillac turned up, he couldn’t possibly be one of the
endearing space people so he had to be a rotten, sneaky government
agent. It was inconceivable to the hardcore UFO believers that the
flying saucers would be a permanent part of our environment and that
these men in black were residents of this planet associated with the
But this is a fact; the “truth” the UFO fans have sought for so
long. And as Daniel Webster put it,
“There is nothing so
powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange.“
You can’t learn the
truth by chasing UFOs helter-skelter through the skies in planes.
The air forces of several governments tried that for years. It is
vain to hire astronomers. They are not trained in the kind of
disciplines needed to investigate earthly phenomena, or even to
interview earthly witnesses.
Interviewing is an advanced art, the province of journalists and
psychologists. One does not hire a parachutist to go spelunking in a
cave or a balloonist to go diving for treasure. If you need a brain
surgeon you don’t hire a horticulturist who has spent his life
trimming plants. Yet this is the approach our government has taken
to the UFO phenomenon.
I realized the folly of trying to measure the circle from some
distant point, so I picked a microcosm on the edge of the circle—a
place where many strange manifestations were occurring
And I hit the jackpot
immediately, rather like the opening of an old Max Schulman novel:
“Bang! Bang! Bang!
Bang! Four shots ripped into my groin and I was off on the
greatest adventure of my life.“