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Interview-Alternate Perceptions Magazine, February 2016

An Interview with:
Steve Ward:
Keel, Mothman, and One Man’s Ufological Journey
Part 5

by: Brent Raynes

Steve Ward: Here's a thought-provoking quote for you. "But gradually all these men are being drawn closer and closer to ontology; to an examination of the question that lies beyond the simplistic, 'can these things be?' The real question is, 'Why are there these things?'"  ---- John Keel; "The Mothman Prophecies"

         After half a century I still don't know the "why."  In the early days, I believed that we were being visited by diminutive ET's dressed in silver one piece garments that would jump out of their egg shaped spacecraft and collect soil samples. Occasionally, someone would be taken aboard and offered a tour of their craft. Some might even receive an unscheduled medical exam. This belief was based on many of the CE3 reports of the '50's and '60's  and culled from the paperbacks of Frank Edwards and other early writers of that era. This was long before the "Grays" began showing up in mass around the 1980's to hog the spotlight. It was also before some of the paranormal aspects of the phenomena started to become well known and part of the general discussion.  

      As I mentioned much earlier in the interview, it took researchers like Allen Greenfield, John Keel & Jacques Vallee to get me to question my comfortable world view regarding the UFO mystery. They began to see over time that a purely nuts and bolts and materialistic view of the encounters that people were experiencing did not explain some of the "occult" aspects of the manifestations.  Allen Greenfield's "Alternate Reality Theory" and John Keel's early concept of "Windows" (portals) helped to explain the way that UFO craft, humanoid creatures, and strange cryptids seemed to vanish and appear out of nowhere, yet seemed to at the same time exhibit very physical characteristics. Mere hallucinations didn't explain landing and burn marks or mysterious footprints. Jacques Vallee's first two books, "Challenge to Science" and "Anatomy of a Phenomenon" examined the UFO subject and humanoid encounters in a straight forward manner as real events. But then like Greenfield and Keel he too discovered that the "invaders from space" scenario didn't completely explain the reports that he investigated.  His third book took a much different view of the UFO phenomena. Vallee himself called the book "unscientific." It was entitled, "Passport to Magonia." and pointed out the connection between Celtic folklore and modern day UFO experiences and then made the case that the two shared the same origin. "Fairy Rings" became "saucer nests." Instead of being spirited away to fairyland and experiencing a time distortion (like Rumplestiltskin)  you might be abducted aboard a UFO to lose three or more hours of time. Many other researchers would follow in the years to come to the same evolution from a nuts and bolts approach to something more ethereal.

Brent Raynes: Keel and Vallee certainly changed my perspective on all of this UFO business quite dramatically as well. I first came onboard with this mystery after reading Frank Edwards's book Flying Saucers-Serious business, which was most definitely pro “nuts and bolts” ET. Then as I was gathering intel on this subject, I soon came upon Vallee and Keel's writings. It was Keel that really caught my attention with all of this! I first began a periodic correspondence exchange with Keel in 1969 and Allen Greenfield was one of my early correspondents too. Their alternative viewpoints seemed to make more sense to me.

Steve Ward:   UFO investigators were not the only ones to make the transition. F.W. Holiday, the great British Loch Ness Monster researcher followed the same course. In his first book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" he made the case that Nessie was an oversized mollusk. The book was well researched and very convincing and when I was standing on the shores of the loch in 1973 I half expected to see the giant mollusk breech the surface of the water in front of me. As time went on, Holiday ran into the same problem of those before him where he found that the pieces didn't all neatly fit with the idea that Nessie was some undocumented animal. First he had to come to grips with the very elusive nature of the creature. Cameras would jam when someone was lucky enough to spot her -- it happened to him. There had been continuous UFO reports around the loch. Holiday also uncovered the existence of  ancient stone carvings with the symbols of a "disk" and a serpent side by side. Some of these things may have been irrelevant, but  based on these and other factors, Holiday  began to doubt the physical reality of Nessie and started to lean more toward a paraphysical explanation, which he put forth  in his second book on Loch Ness, "The Dragon and the Disk." 

   It is difficult to do justice to the "Why are there these things" question that Keel posed in an interview or even a series of books . Suffice to say that I have always gravitated towards researchers that are able to make connections and see patterns with what may seem to be disparate types of phenomena, but are actually linked in some way. Keel and Vallee were two of the early pioneers of that approach. Another is Stan Gordon (Anomalies Zone) who has been investigating a high strangeness area in SW Pennsylvania since the 1970's. There lies an area that has seen UFO's, Bigfoot-like creatures and even a case of possession all in the same place and time. You will find these events and others covered in his book, "Silent Invasion." Rosemary Ellen Guiley (Visionary Living) is another researcher who fits that mold. When my wife and I met Rosemary at the 2006 Mothman festival, she told us that she was investigating encounters that people were having with so called "Shadow People." A couple of years later, she gave a talk at the festival that revealed some of results of that research. One of the things that was most surprising was that fact that a very large percentage of Shadow People experiencers were also classic UFO abductees.  Who saw that coming? See her book, "The Djinn Connection" 

    The answer, or at least some of the answers, I believe are most likely to be found in the so called high strangeness areas where all these seemingly different types of paranormal phenomena are all occurring at the same time and in the same place. But you also need researchers of the caliber of those previously mentioned that can see through the fog and can break through the old conventional ways of viewing these mysteries. We may not have all the answers but the afore mentioned individuals and others like them have cracked at least some of the mystery. We have come a long way from Adamski, swamp gas and Project Blue Book. 

   I want to mention a few things before I close. First of all Brent, I want to thank you for this opportunity. It has been a lot of fun to go all the way back to the High School UFO club days and the early sense of wonder of that time, all the way up to the advent of the Mothman Festival. I guess I have never really lost that sense of wonder. 

     Also I wanted to mention my friend Brian Zeller. Brian wrote a song entitled,"Mothman; What You Going To Do Now?" The song talks about all of the weirdness of that time in the mid '60's of the Mothman, the MIB's & the UFO's. It also pays tribute to those 46 people that lost their lives during the bridge collapse in December of 1967.  There is a line in the chorus that goes, "Keel go get your flashlight and chase down the Mothman." I guess I have always thought of that line as a metaphor for what all of us do. Regardless of whether we are wandering through graveyards, old buildings or concrete igloos, dark forests looking for cryptids, or searching the skies looking for mysterious lights, we are out there with our flashlights chasing down the unknown. 

    Andy Colvin (AKA The Mothman's Photographer) interviewed John Keel for his DVD series. It was in 2003 at the Mothman Festival. Great interview. You never knew where John was going to go with a question. Sometimes he would completely ignore what he was asked and go off to wherever he wanted. At one point, in the interview he suddenly stopped and there was a long pause. Then he said, "So many mysteries --- people should stop trying to solve mysteries and live their lives." I was floored!! Here was the man that tackled some of the most bizarre mysteries of all time that people have pondered through the ages and at this point in his life he was saying that we should forget about all that and live our lives!! Maybe if I ever reach John's ripe old age and look back I will feel the same way, but for now I will have to disagree with my mentor on this one subject. I would say to John, respectfully, seeking the unknown is how I and all of us live our lives.

Brent Raynes: Thank you so very much Steve for sharing with us your deep thoughts and investigative experiences in this field. It has been very enjoyable and very interesting. As for what Keel said at the end, I think he had seen so many people's lives hurt or ruined by pursuing this stuff, describing once how it can become “emotional quicksand,” a huge obsession that can swallow you and take you down dark pathways, that he indeed felt many lives were probably better lived without such involvement. I remember how in a phone conversation that we were having that we were talking about angels and I asked him if he felt that there was anything positive in any of these encounters and he told me no, he had never found it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023