18 - Something Awful Is Going to Happen ...

Mrs. Virginia Thomas was working in her kitchen deep inside the TNT area when she heard a loud squeaking sound unlike anything she had ever heard before in her years there.

“The best way I can describe it,” she told Mrs. Hyre and me, “is that it was like a bad fan belt ... but much louder. I stepped outside. It seemed to be coming from one of the igloos. Then I saw a huge shadow spreading across the grass. It was just after noon so there shouldn’t have been any shadow like that. Then this figure appeared. It walked erect like a man, but it was all gray, and it was much bigger than any man I ever saw. It moved very fast across the field and disappeared into the trees. It didn’t seem to be walking exactly. It was almost gliding ... faster than any man could run.

“It was the hunting season so I knew it wasn’t a hunter. No hunter in his right mind would dress in gray. Around here they all wear red coats and red caps. And it wasn’t a bear or anything like that. It really scared me.“

Since that sighting on November 2, 1967, Mrs. Thomas had been plagued by bad dreams.

“I see a lot of strange people around the river,” she explained. “It’s like some kind of invasion or something. They come over the bridge in trucks and they pour into the TNT area. We grab the kids and run. I can’t figure out what it means.“

I had flown to West Virginia after a trip to Atlanta and a quick tour through the Carolinas investigating some UFO landings. Mrs. Hyre had picked me up at the Charleston airport, and as we drove to Point Pleasant she told me about her own dreams.

“Just before I got your letter,” she said, “I had a terrible nightmare. There were a lot of people drowning in the river and Christmas packages were floating everywhere in the water.“

“Maybe you were just picking up my thoughts somehow,” I suggested.

“Maybe. But I’ve covered a lot of drownings on that river, but never anything like this dream. There were so many people. I’ve been feeling uneasy ever since. And everybody else feels the same way. You can’t really put your finger on it ... but it’s like something awful is about to happen.“

Perhaps it was only suggestion and an emotional hangover from all I had been going through, but when we reached Point Pleasant I could feel a heavy atmosphere of foreboding. I wandered around the village under an oppressive cloud.


One by one, old friends confided in me.

“You know, Keel, something is wrong here. I don’t know what. Ever since all that flying saucer business last spring things just haven’t seemed right.“

“We don’t get many UFO reports anymore,” Mary told me. “And except for that thing Mrs. Thomas saw, Mothman seems to be laying low. Everything is quiet. Too quiet.“

Toward midnight on November 19, Mary and I were cruising through the TNT area. The sky was heavily overcast. It had been raining earlier and no stars were visible.


The cloud ceiling was probably below five thousand feet.

“Don’t look now, Mary,” I said lightly. “But there’s one of our friends straight ahead.“

A brilliant light was bouncing around in the blackened sky over a row of hills far to the east. Mary stopped the car and we watched it silently for about ten minutes. It dropped down, then shot upward again. It slid from side to side, moving several degrees and then returning to its original position. Finally, Mary started her car again and drove slowly along the dirt road, hoping to find a better vantage point.


We passed through a wooded section and when we reached another clearing the object was gone.

“Well, what do you think?” she asked laconically.

“It definitely wasn’t a star or a plane,” I observed. “It was so low somebody else was bound to have seen it. Let’s wait and see if we get any reports.“

We didn’t have to wait long. At 12:45 that morning Mr. Albert Brown, a shift superintendent at a mine near Elmwood, West Virginia, was driving home from work when he, too, noticed an unusual light weaving around the sky.


He stopped his car and watched.

“It seemed to turn colors,” he told us later. “First it was white, then blue, then orange. It looked like it was going down on top of a hill.“

Mr. Brown was northeast of the TNT area on Route 35, approximately twenty miles from our position in a direct line. After watching the object for a few minutes,
he tried to find a road that might lead him into the hills where the object seemed to be “playing.”


But he couldn’t find such a road, so he simply parked and watched, enthralled. Finally he went home and called the Civil Defense in Charleston. They told him to call the state police. A police car was sent to the area but the thing was gone by the time they arrived.

Who or what was on that remote hilltop, I wondered? Was some little cabin being bathed in an eerie light? Was some lonely person there staring fixedly, paralyzed, into the night?

From West Virginia I went to Washington, D.C. Al Johnson, an old army friend, was working for Voice of America and he had been doing a series of broadcasts on flying saucers, covering every aspect. (VOA is our official propaganda outlet and Johnson’s pro-UFO programs were heard around the world.) In the VOA studios we taped an hour-long discussion on the subject, covering everything from purple blobs to contactees.

Finally I returned to my New York apartment at 2 A.M. in early December, nursing a heavy cold, a souvenir of the freezing West Virginia rains, exhausted. Before I even had a chance to take off my coat the telephone jangled.

Dan Drasin was on the line and I had never heard him in such a state. His normally calm voice dripped with terror.

“How can I stop all this, Keel?” he cried.

“Stop what?“

“All the things that have been happening. I want to quit. I want out!“

“Look, I just got in. What’s wrong? What’s been happening?“

“Everything. I can’t take it anymore.“

I knew Dan didn’t drink or take drugs, and I certainly never expected him to go to pieces.

“There’s only one way ‘out,’ Dan. This damned thing becomes an obsession ... a fixation. The only way to stop all the nonsense is to stop thinking about UFOs. Get rid of all your files. Take up stamp collecting or chasing women. The UFO business is emotional quicksand. The more you struggle with it, the deeper you sink.“

I finally calmed him. A few days later he gave me part of his files and destroyed the rest. I returned his files to him a year or so later. I asked him many times about what prompted that frantic phone call but he would never discuss it.

The day after I returned, Al Johnson called. The tape of our interview had been accidentally erased, he said. He wanted me to come to Washington and do another one, which I finally did several months later. An engineer had accidentally placed the first tape on a pile to be erased. Such errors were becoming routine to me. On one occasion, a German reporter came to my apartment with a camera crew to interview me for German television. Originally he planned to shoot about fifteen minutes of film, but I was so brilliant, charming and informative that we ended up doing a full half-hour.


A few days later he phoned me.

“We can’t understand it, Mr. Keel,” he began, with dismay in his voice. “But the footage we shot in your apartment isn’t usable. Parts of it are overexposed and sections of the sound track are filled with static.“

The same reporter, incidentally, had visited Derenberger in West Virginia and was present when Woody announced, “Cold is over the house right now.” They went outside, and, sure enough, a large luminous blob was soaring casually overhead.

Strange things happened to the written word, too. I was at Ivan’s farm one afternoon when a New York editor called and demanded to know what had become of a UFO story Ivan had promised him.

“I sent it to you a week ago,” Ivan protested.

When we went into town to pick up the mail there was a large manila envelope with a, Florida postmark. Ivan opened it and threw the contents down in disgust. It was the UFO story which he had mailed to New York the week before! Somehow it had gone to Florida instead and someone had remailed it back to him.

My own problems were equally bizarre. The editor of a short-lived occult magazine asked me to contribute an article, “anything ... it can just be something from your trunk.” I dug out a short, unpublished piece from my files and mailed it to him. There was a deafening silence.


A couple of weeks later I met him for lunch and he pulled out a sheaf of papers.

“I’m afraid we really can’t use this, John,” he said.

He handed me a dog-eared manuscript, single-spaced in elite type. I have always used pica type and automatically double-space my manuscripts. My name and address were at the top of this masterpiece and it had arrived at his office in one of my envelopes. As I read it I could see that it was a real piece of garbage. To this day I don’t know what happened to my manuscript, or how the trashy substitute was switched with it.

When I returned to New York in December I found that my entire stable of contactees was mourning my passing. Apol, Lia, Cloe, and their band of poseurs had convinced them all that I had come to an untimely end in a mine cave-in. This marked the beginning of a new phase. It was no more Mr. Nice Guy. The entities spread vicious rumors, turned against the contactees, and terrified them.


Jane woke up one night to find all the gas jets on her kitchen stove were turned on and the house was filling with fumes. The same thing happened to Shirley, and on the same night. Fred Miller, an elderly Long Island fanner who entertained men in shiny spacesuits in his kitchen, suffered a rash of mysterious fires.

Even the old devil and Daniel Webster theme was dusted off. Harassed contactees were ordered to sign an impressive-looking piece of parchment, allegedly a contract for their beleaguered souls. I was caught up in the game, playing old Daniel’s role, arguing with demons to save the contactees. They let me win, of course, having proved their point. Good and evil were synonymous in their phantasmagorical world.

When Linda Scarberry gave birth to a baby girl that month she decided to name her Daniella Lia. No one other than a couple of contactees knew of the Indian-like entity named Lia. Linda had just picked the name from left field because she liked it. Later Dan Drasin told me his mother’s name was Lia ... a fact I had not known. Neither had Linda.

Synchronicity all over the place!

On my way to see an editor of True magazine one afternoon, the elevator in the Fawcett building stopped inexplicably between floors and the lights went out for several seconds. That night a contactee called to tell me she had met Mr. Apol and he was chuckling over how I had been “stuck in an elevator.“

The big “EM effect” slated for December 15 was now more clearly defined. The space people were timing it so it would coincide with the annual Christmas tree ceremony on the White House lawn, I was told At the very moment when President Lyndon Johnson threw the switch to light up the tree, the power all over the country would fail. Knowing the entities’ perverse sense of humor, and impressed by the accuracy of many of their previous predictions, I bought this lock, stock, and barrel.

My biggest concern, however, was my telephone. My bills were now astronomical.

I was constantly being cut off in the middle of conversations, or foreign sounds were injected into my line. Somebody would strum a one-stringed guitar or blow a shrill whistle while I was talking. Like Ivan, I often heard the distinct sound of an extension being picked up or put down Electronic beeps, eerie music, hollow metallic voices, all became common on the blasted instrument. My gentle protests to the telephone company turned into howls of rage. I demanded the privilege to personally examine my telephone line from one end to the other. And the telephone company granted permission.

On December 13 I visited the main office of my telephone exchange a few blocks from my apartment building. A technician and a young “Special Agent” met me at the door and escorted me through the entire building. The security measures were impressive. Every floor consisted of a series of locked rooms. My escorts were constantly fiddling with keys.

My line passed through the walls of my apartment building to the telephone room in the basement. The lines were built into the walls when the building was constructed so there was no way they could be tapped in the house itself. The basement room was always locked. There my line was hooked to a line which traveled in a tube under the city streets to the exchange building. Here again, a tap was impossible. If any tap existed, it had to be in the basement telephone room or in the exchange building.

Inside the exchange, the tube came out in a locked room and my line was separated from the others and soldered to a set of terminals which were connected to wires leading to the dialing mechanism. I had studied books on the telephone system and I knew exactly how all this machinery worked. The only thing that impressed me was the age of all the equipment. Most of it had been built and installed in the 1920s. It would be a compliment to call it junk. It was all antique. Some rooms contained apparatus so old it looked like young Tom Edison’s laboratory. There were coils, meters, switches, and rheostats that were outdated when Marconi was sending his first signals across the Atlantic.

However, all this rickety debris appeared to be in good working condition.

In another locked room a group of people were working with a device called a “pen register.” This was a gadget that could be patched into any telephone line to record every number dialed on that phone. A moving pen wrote the number on a strip of paper. Thus the telephone company could obtain a record of every local call made on a given phone (long-distance calls are automatically recorded on another, more elaborate device).

If anyone was tapping my phone, they had to do it from the two terminals at the tube outlet. Or a connection had to be made at that point and the wires strung to another room. The locked doors and tight security meant that only authorized snoops could connect such a tap. And, as I learned later, the New York Telephone Company was very uncooperative; even the FBI was refused access. Police tappers usually had to figure out a way to do it themselves without the help of the phone company.

I must admit I was impressed by the tour. It seemed impossible for anyone to tap my phone.

Three months later, however, I accidentally discovered what was probably the answer to many of my problems. A friend dialed my number and her finger slipped. Instead of dialing the last two digits—four eight—correctly, she dialed four zero. She realized instantly what she had done and was about to hang up and redial when I answered the phone! She told me what she had done and I suggested we hang up and try four zero again. Again my phone rang. I had two phone numbers and never knew it! I asked other friends to try the four zero number. Sometimes my phone would ring and I would answer.


Other times my phone would remain silent but someone else would answer and would offer to “take a message for Mr. Keel.“

I called the four zero number from a pay phone and someone picked it up.

“Hi, this is John Keel,” I said cheerily. “Any messages for me?“

There was an audible gasp on the other end and they slammed the receiver down.

Obviously I was getting four zero’s phone bills. I asked my friendly telephone representative to track down the owner of that other phone. But, of course, she could not “give out that information.“

So I went to the FBI to lodge a formal complaint. When you visit the New York FBI office you are ushered into one of several small cubicles where a polite young man hears you out sympathetically. You can imagine the loonies and weirdos who must pester the FBI day after day. But after hearing a summary of my story, my man escorted me to another room where I was interviewed by a group of older agents who were obviously extremely interested in my problems. They expressed surprise that.


I had been given a tour of the exchange building. This was unheard of. The FBI and CIA hate each other, and they both hate the telephone company. The telephone company, in turn, seems to hate everybody.

In April 1968, my outrageous phone bills were unpaid so my service was cut off, both incoming and outgoing. I simply told everyone to use the four zero number. Although my line was supposedly disconnected at the main exchange, I continued to receive phone calls. The line should have been totally dead ... but there was power coming through on it from somewhere. Technically this should have been impossible unless—unless the New York Telephone Company was the one who was tapping my phone!

Phones in the country are much easier to tap. Lines strung across the countryside offer easy access. It is even possible to mount a small induction coil next to the telephone box on the subject’s house. Modern technology is so sophisticated that a physical tap is not necessary. A panel truck containing the necessary equipment can simply park near the telephone line and pick up all the conversations like a radio signal.

In “the 1960s there were many mysterious panel trucks cruising around flap areas and sometimes they went to great pains to focus attention on telephones and telephone lines. One tactic was what I call the “silver tape gambit.”


Lengths of silver tape are strung rather meaninglessly on the telephone poles close to the subject’s home. I came across this several times and collected some samples of the tape. It was not electrical tape such as might be used by telephone repairmen but was a common weather insulating tape available in almost any hardware store.

“There was also evidence at this time that [the witnesses’s] phone had been tampered with,” Jennifer Stevens reported from Albany, New York, in 1968.


“She observed two ‘light Negroid types’ with completely expressionless faces, stringing ‘silver tape’ on the wires near her home. Since they did not have an official telephone company car, she called the police. The men left before the officers arrived and the only comment made by police was: ‘Oh, the silver tape again.’“

In March 1968, a large four-engined plane with no visible markings skirted the treetops over Henderson, West Virginia, just south of Point Pleasant, and discharged a large quantity of silver tape over the trees in the area. Sheriff George Johnson collected some of it and passed samples on to me. Matching samples I had collected from Ohio, Florida, and several other places, it was identical to the stuff being used by our mystery men.


Since the tapes are extremely sticky (the glue is about equal to the glue on Con-Tact paper) one wonders how a fast-moving plane was able to discharge it in a stream and what was the point of the exercise?

The U.S. Air Force had lied to me. The telephone company lied to me. The UFO entities lied to me. My own senses had, on occasion, lied to me. As December 15 drew closer I kept my mouth shut and told no one that I expected a major blackout. After all, Pope Paul had escaped assassination in Turkey. None of the chemical factories along the Ohio had exploded. Maybe this was just another mischievous error of prophecy, or a description of something in the past or far in the future.

A security officer for the Transit Authority and an old friend of mine, Joe Woodvine, happened to drop by my apartment late on the afternoon of the fifteenth. I hadn’t seen him in a long time and he knew nothing about UFOs and my capers. I didn’t mention the blackout until Dan Drasin stopped in. Joe listened in open-mouthed amazement as I explained to Dan that I expected the nation to blow a fuse the moment President Johnson pulled that switch.


Dan was as far gone as I was. He glanced nervously at his watch and decided that if there was going to be a blackout he preferred to be in his own apartment. Joe became very silent, probably wondering if we were dangerous.

Dan left about 5 P.M. I switched on the television. At 5:45 the brief White House ceremony began. I broke out my candles and flashlights. Joe watched me worriedly. President Johnson delivered the customary little speech to the crowd on the White House lawn, reached for the switch, arid the Christmas tree blazed with light. The crowd oooed and ahhed as if they bid never seen a Christmas tree before. My lights did not go out. Joe studied me silently.

Suddenly an announcer’s voice came over the crowd noises.

“We interrupt this program,” he announced flatly, “for a special bulletin. A bridge laden with rush-hour traffic has just collapsed at Gallipolis, Ohio. Further details as soon as they are available.“

I fell back in my chair. There was no bridge at Gallipolis, Ohio. The only bridge on that stretch of the river was the seven-hundred-foot Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant. The bridge I had crossed a thousand times.

“They’ve done it again,” I finally muttered softly. “Those lousy bastards have done it again. They knew this was going to happen ... and when. And they gave me all that bilge about a power failure. They knew. They just didn’t want me to be able to warn anyone.“

“They ... who’s ‘they,’ John?” Joe asked gently.

The phone rang. It was Dan.

“Did you hear?“

“I heard. I guess that’s what it was all about, Dan. That’s what it was all about”

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