Author Archive | Tristan Eldritch

Sky Quakes and Latter Day Dinosaurs: John Keel on Letterman

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:

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Mental Channel Number One: The Space Brother Contact the BBC.

The documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, best known for acclaimed and often controversial works such as The Century of the Self and Power of Nightmares, is an inveterate crate-digger of archival footage, as evidenced by both his films, and his blog at the BBC website.  In his most recent post, Curtis unearthed a surreal gem that should appeal to enthusiasts of ufological history and fringe culture: a BBC interview from the 50s with George King, a London taxi driver who claimed to be in regular contact with an Interplanetary Parliament of Martian, Venusian, and Saturnite Space Brothers.  The Contactee phenomenon, a charming and eccentric chapter in the history both of the Space Age and of DIY religious movements in general, was largely focussed in the US, where the used car-salesman and the mystic are ever in close proximity.  King, who established the Aetherius Society based on his alleged contact experiences, is the most prominent British example of the genre.  In this fantastic clip from 1977 Brit-UFO documentary Out of this World, King tells his story, and presides over a delightfully Wicker Man-esque ritual on a hilltop designed to charge up a “Prayer Power Battery”:

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