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Reality Checking—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, December 2016

Staying on an even Keel

by: Brent Raynes

Here's a picture from a newspaper back in 1971 where I was sitting at my work desk reading my favorite author John Keel's book, Our Haunted Planet.

Ufology, or U-FOOL-ogy, as the late ufologist James Moseley liked to call it, is an inquiry still struggling for serious and scientific recognition and acceptance. Mainstream science requires, it states, clear, concise, and precise terms and definitions by which to establish the reality of any observed or reported phenomenon. Naturally, of course, repeatable, verifiable, and observable evidence, by scientifically trained and qualified observers, is the classic hallmark demanded by the academic community. The late John Keel, a New York journalist known for making his own controversial statements and observations about ufology and many other fields of the unexplained (especially what is known as Forteana), himself categorized ufology as a struggling, short-sighted “pseudoscience” composed largely of rank amatuers. In fact, he fussed and fumed a good bit about the teenaged UFO buffs and little old ladies in tennis shoes and their amatuer UFO clubs. And so, as a teenaged UFO buff myself, with my own UFO club way up in Hallowell, Maine, when I began writing Keel beginning in 1969 and sending him my mimeographed UFO newsletter (called Sauceritis, renamed later Sauceritis Review, and then even later Scientific Sauceritis Review for good measure), I did my best to conceal my true identity as a teenaged ufological enthusiast, but I doubt I was very successful. After all, I was a rank amateur of the dreaded teenage variety. A few years later, I was told Gray Barker had written in a newsletter where he wondered whatever happened to my publication, that he missed it, and thought it was a good zine. I had dropped out of sight for a couple years when I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1972.

I later was to wonder if that compliment was something to be proud of and cherished or not, as Gray Barker had become known as something of a ufological trickster and showman.

Keel often warned fellow researchers to be careful in their dealings with Gray Barker. Barker enjoyed playing pranks, making strange MIBish phone calls, hoaxing evidence, and one guy once confessed to me how he himself had dressed up as an MIB and barged into a UFO meeting, all arranged by Barker.

Keel wrote me a good number of thoughtful typewritten letters. One that was even three full pages in length, which certainly pleasantly surprised me at the time, and which I still have in a manilla folder to this day. I'm afraid I'm something of a horder when it comes to my UFO collection of newsclippings, books, periodicals, correspondences, and actual firsthand reports. Furthermore, even though I was pretty much out of touch with Keel during the time I was serving active duty in the Navy (1972 to 1974) and then sometime later after I contacted him awhile after I was married (1977), he still remembered me, wondering “whatinell” I was doing in Tennessee, adding “I thought you were in the Navy or Marines or something.” Well, at any rate, he definitely remembered me, even though he wasn't sure what branch of the service I had been in, which nonetheless was kind of neat that he remembered me at all. He had been, after all, one of my favorite ufological authors. He had a cool sardonic sense of humor, or so I thought anyway, and told me in that same message that the infamous Moseley had moved from New Jersey to Key West, Florida, and was now in the import business, adding “so if you want to buy a kilo or a bale, you know where you can get it.”

Keel and Moseley seemed to often be at odds with one another, but Moseley seemed to me to especially thrive on stirring things up with others in the field, playing the devil's advocate, often it seemed wallowing in gossip, rumors and hearsay, and to some he probably seemed a little like the devil incarnate himself at times, from time to time assisting Barker at muddying the ufological waters a little more with hoaxed situations. And he didn't seem to mind if the s--t was flung in his direction either, as I recall for example how Keel had once remarked in a letter to him that he was a “boil on the ass of ufology,” and Moseley for sometime there after proudly, it seemed, had that quote printed at the top of the front page of each issue of his appropriately titled “Saucer Smear” newsletter.

Keel needed his sense of humor and a thick skin too. Though he suffered numerous personal attacks and harsh criticisms from many in the UFO field, John Keel made, I certainly felt (and still do), a good number of revealing and valid observations about the UFO phenomenon that numerous of his critics had failed to adequately take into consideration or acknowledge. Like, for example, the strong, undeniable reported paranormal component described by many UFO experiencers, that many “nuts and bolts” mainstreamers seemed to (and often still do) largely be in denial over, or the fact that we may be dealing more with an intelligent, interactive, environmental electromagnetic (perhaps quantum) phenomenon instead of a straight-forward extraterrestrial visitation scenario. Plus Keel knew that immersing oneself in the thousands of UFO books and periodicals published was not going to be sufficient, though he personally poured through much of it to get an overall familiarity with the subject. He knew that one was going to have to actually conduct extensive field work, going to locations where the activity was being reported, competently interviewing eyewitnesses firsthand, skywatching at those locations when possible, and if the opportunity presented itself (which is the genuine wild card in this deck) seek to interact with these phenomena. In his case, it was with reportedly intelligent interactive intelligences, that he liked to refer to as earth-based “ultraterrestrials” [that he identified with the ancient folklore surrounding “elementals”] thus presumably gaining him a greater insight and understanding into the potentially true nature and origin of such phenomena at a deeper personal level. In this vien, he felt that he was better able to meaningfully connect the elusive and controversial dots that make up this complex and bewildering field of unexplained phenomena.

Keel stated time and again, that he wanted to introduce professionalism into this field. However, his ideas and reported findings were in such stark contrast to those of the ufologists who dominated the field at the time, that few in the ufological mainstream took him seriously. It must have been extremely frustrating for him to again and again strive to get his ideas, evidence and points across to a very resistant audience. It seems Keel was in a state of depression much of the time. I have been told that if one asked him how he was doing, he'd invariably reply, “Suffering and struggling,” and that it was as though a cloud was hovering over him most of the time. “From under that cloud everything must have looked pretty bleak,” I was informed. Some friends chose to distance themselves somewhat from him it appears because of this. A few years before his passing, Keel scribbled in a note to me, “Religions are merely a method to reach down to us and keep us confused. We are skidding to the end and we'll never know the ultimate truth.” One time, during a phone conversation with Keel, in which we had been discussing Virgin Mary apparitions and such, I asked him outright if he had ever stumbled upon any evidence or indication of any kind that there was a benevolent, positive force behind any of these occurrences, and he simply replied that he had not.

“There have probably been more books written on UFOs I would guess than any other subject,” Tim “Mr. UFO” Beckley told me in an interview a few years back. “I mean, there are just thousands of them. Even the Library of Congress, at one point, put out a bibliography of UFO books, and they had like 7,000.”

I pointed out to Tim that that particular bibliography was mentioned in John Keel’s UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse (1970). Tim then revealed to me that the author of that publication, Lynn Catoe, had actually been a very “good friend” of John Keel’s! In fact, Tim recalled how early on in the 1960s he had been giving a lecture at a Congress of Scientific Ufologists conference in Parma, Ohio, when both John and Lynn had sat in on his presentation together.

Regarding the bibliography, Keel had written: “Recently the U.S. Government Printing Office issued a publication compiled by the Library of Congress for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research: UFOs and Related Subjects: An Annotated Bibliography. In preparing this work, the senior bibliographer, Miss Lynn E. Catoe, actually read thousands of UFO articles, books, and publications. In her preface to this 400-page book she states:

“’A large part of the available UFO literature is closely linked with mysticism and the metaphysical. It deals with subjects like mental telepathy, automatic writing, and invisible entities, as well as phenomena like poltergeist manifestations and possession. Many of the UFO reports now being published in the popular press recount alleged incidents that are strikingly similar to demonic possession and psychic phenomena which has long been known to theologians and parapsychologists.’”

“That’s the closest that you could actually get to the government making a statement about flying saucers,” Tim quipped wryly. “It’s in an official book printed with taxpayer money.”

After that conversation, I couldn't help but wonder how deeply the relationship of these two went. They both strongly noted the correlation between UFO literature and mysticism, demonic possession, and various aspects of alleged psychic phenomena like telepathy, poltergiest manifestations and automatic writing. Catoe's extensive bibliography had been requested by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to help brief Dr. Edward U. Condon and his UFO research committee at the University of Colorado on these subjective elements to be found in popular ufological literature as, I suspect, a bit of a persuasive tool to further illustrate the fact that the Air Force was not the proper agency to investigate the UFO enigma. They undoubtedly wanted to be released from that public relations responsibility. I found it interesting later to read that John Keel had written that Air Force investigators had startled UFO witnesses and enraged ufologists by gently implying that perhaps witnesses had undergone a “psychic experience” rather than a physical one. [I'd like to know more particulars on that] I eventually checked with Keel's long time friend Doug Skinner, to determine how deep the relationship may have gone between Catoe and Keel. “John dated Lynn Catoe for a few months in 1968,” he replied. “They broke up when she wanted the relationship to become more serious. I don't think they investigated cases together, though.”

Nonetheless, I imagine that the two shared some pretty interesting conversations on the whole UFO/paranormal “can of worms,” as Keel sometimes liked to call it. They both had delved extensively into literature that covered so many of the same reported psychic, metaphysical, and spiritual phenomena.

Keel was a life-long athiest who had come to believe in the existence of a dark, interactive demonic-like intelligence, unable to bring himself to see anything positive in these mysterious manifestations that he had been diligently investigating and had, from time to time, encountered himself firsthand he claimed. It seems that some of those experiences disturbed him so badly, he kept them to himself, except for a few close friends and fellow researchers. He no doubt felt that he had taken enough flak from the irresponsible and amatuer “UFO buffs.” One of those stories, which I feel should have appeared in his Mothman Prophecies, he admitted kept him awake “many, many nights.”

But that will be a story for another time.

The passing of an old friend

Sadly, my dear old friend Jim Carey Sr., 80, a long time area resident of Augusta, Maine, passed away unexpectedly on the night of September 10th. I first met Jim, his wife Linda, and their then young son Jay, back around 1968, when I was about 15 years old. Jim was one of the first people I met who shared a real deep interest in UFOs, the paranormal and spiritual matters, and we spent hours and hours hashing over ideas, information, theories and beliefs on this stuff. I'd pick up the phone, give him a call, and if he answered, it might be two or three hours later before our conversation reached its conclusion. Plus he was only a few miles away, and so visits were frequent. We occasionally took off on road trips, to Maine hotspots like Palermo (complete with “saucer nests”) and Oxford, or down to Palmer, Massachusetts, to chat and skywatch with the well-known UFO experiencer Stella Lansing. We also used to visit a gentleman up near Skowhegan who teased our brains with tall tales related to UFOs, hinted at various deep secrets he had uncovered, but we were never able to determine if he really was on to something or it was just “tall tales.” We visited the famous contactee Francis Swan of Eliot, Maine, who a Canadian scientist and American intelligence officers took an interest in back in the '50s, and met her husband, daughter and granddaughter. We met a lot of nice and interesting folks.

There certainly were lots of great stories and great memories. A lot of it seems like it was only yesterday, but I know better. I don't know where the time goes, but it goes too fast, and as my aunt Dot told me as a young man, the older you get the faster it goes. I hate to admit it, but she was right. I didn't think so at the time.

RIP Jim! You are missed. Hopefully now you possess the answers to the questions you had long sought answers to. If you can whisper some of those answers to me sometime, without getting into any major trouble with higher authority, I'm all ears my friend!


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