Sky Quakes and Latter Day Dinosaurs: John Keel on Letterman

Ultraterrestrial: Phone Home.

Back in the heyday of small magazine publication, the late John Keel zigzagged the length and breadth of America in pursuit of UFOs and mysterious apparitions, a Fortean gumshoe and philosopher seeking the grand pattern underlying everything that ever went bump in the night.  Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies is a classic of Fortean and paranoid literature, and his ideas, along with those of Jacques Vallee, redefined the paranormal for the age of postmodernism and quantum physics.  I love Keel, but he’s a tough character to figure out.  He can appear canny and cynical one moment, a little too credulous of tall tales the next.  You feel sometimes like he’s being completely earnest and serious, others like he’s pulling your leg near out of its socket.  Anyway, I was surprized recently to discover on youtube that Keel’s journeys into the weirder spectrum of American life brought him face to face with David Letterman in 1980.  It is interesting to note Keel’s reference to what he calls “sky quakes”, explosions in the sky which sound very much like the mysterious loud booms which have been one of the biggest Fortean memes of 2012 so far.  Keel gets a surprisingly respectful treatment, although he seems to stretch Letterman and the audience’s patience when he refers to modern dinosaur appearances:

More from Tristan Eldritch at A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere.

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  • Nakedpicturesofyourmom

    I’m convinced that this is not a real article. I’m positive the author simply wanted an excuse to use the word “Fortean” repeatedly…

    • http://2012diaries.blogspot.com tristan eldritch

       I’m convinced that this is not a real comment.  I’m positive the author simply wanted an excuse to collate the words “naked” and “mom” together for some obscure psychological reason of their own….

    • Matt Staggs

       Interesting. “Not real” in what way?

      • TennesseeCyberian

        Don’t question this too deeply, it’s a trap.  The commenter wants you to count the words aloud to yourself, because he knows that if you say “Fortean” three times out loud while looking into a computer screen, naked pictures of your mom will appear.

        • Matt Staggs

          You’re quickly becoming one of my favorite posters.

          • Shit Tim Gunn Says

             Taste Level.

  • TennesseeCyberian

    I’d say Mr. Eldritch’s description of Keel’s character is dead on from this interview.  Those were the good ol’ days, before skeptics could take to the Internet for instant debunking of all things mysterious.  Fortunately for the adamant Fortean, the debunkers of debunking are hard at work.

    Hearing Letterman’s last line, I’m also reminded of the days when jokes wouldn’t necessarily lead to rounds of pandering apologies.

    Dinosaurs leaving tracks!  What a great video.

    • Matt Staggs

      I strongly recommend “Fringe-Ology: How I tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable…And Couldn’t” by Steve Volk. It’s an exploration of all kinds of fringe topics and kind of a calling out of both fundamental religionists and militant atheists alike to just chill the fuck out and try to have an actual conversation about belief, science and the importance of both in understanding the universe and our place in it.

  • Doug Skinner

    I don’t think Keel coined the term “skyquakes”; but I’m not sure who did.  I suspect Tiffany Thayer.  They’ve also been known as “mistpouffers,” “Barisal guns,” “air quakes,” and various other things.  Fort wrote about them in “New Lands.”

    Even odder than Keel’s Letterman interview was his appearance as a mystery guest on “To Tell the Truth.”  I don’t know of any video, but he did keep an audio recording.  I’ll have to transcribe it one of these days…

    I invite fans to visit johnkeel.com, where I post assorted Keeliana.  The latest post is about his abandoned UFO film.  Cheers!      

    • Matt Staggs

      Thanks for coming by, Doug!

    • Matt Staggs

      Thanks for coming by, Doug!