The Weird Profundity of John Keel

John Klein: Why don’t they just come right out and tell us what’s on their minds?

Alexander Leek You’re more advanced than a cockroach, have you ever tried explaining yourself to one of them?

If you both read and watched The Mothman Prophecies, you’ll recall that one of the biggest ways the movie breaks from the paperback is with the splitting of John Keel’s character into two distinct persons: journalist John Klein and Chicago-dwelling Alexander Leek (note that ‘Leek’ is ‘Keel’ backwards). Leek is the scholar to Klein’s gumshoe, organizing the smorgasbord of weird hauntings and dark prophecies that Klein finds so bewildering into a palatable paranormal theory. Leek provides an explanation that is as simple as it is hard to swallow: Klein has contacted advanced entities with “inhuman” motives, who are as different from us as we are from coach roaches. That’s why Klein’s interactions with the beings make such little sense. The conversation ends with Leek warning Klein to back off and “stay away” from Point Pleasant, saying “In the end it all came down to just one simple question. Which was more important – having proof, or being alive? Trust me. I turned away years ago, and I’ve never looked back.”

When my adolescent-self first lurched through the works of John Keel, like a 20th-century flying saucer fanatic desperate to be at the center of the next flap, I failed to realize the extent to which the movie was coloring my own interpretation of Keel’s corpus. I correctly took away from the movie that whatever was behind the ol’ mothman, it wasn’t good for humans to engage with it. However, I also became mistakenly stuck on the idea that the thing behind the mothman (and other so-called “Ultra-terrestrials”) was some kind of sentient, thinking, thing. I always read Keel as hinting at some malevolent space poltergeist was in charge of the dogmen, bigfeet, UFOs, etc.

It was only more recently, re-reading The Eighth Tower, and having a conversation with Ted from The Gaslight Hour podcast, that I realized the degree to which I was getting it wrong. There’s a whole metaphysics in The Eighth Tower, which was supposed to be part of the Mothman Prophecies book, but which Keel was forced to cleave off and turn into a separate tome. There, Keel develops several ideas: the idea of a ‘superspectrum’ through which ultra-terrestrial manifestations originate and/or are controlled, as well as the ideas that the superspectrum has a kind of ebb and flow to it that explains UFO/cryptid flaps, and that some people are more sensitive to the phenomena than others just as some people can see a little bit into the infrared, etc. Perhaps even more importantly, Keel develops the idea that the ultra-terrestrials may be backed/generated by/sustained by some kind of controlling influencer. A cryptic entity or meta-entity he calls “The Eighth Tower.”

The Yezidis had the idea that the evil in the world is caused by demons who live on top of towers. Imagine something like the eye of Sauron, but there are seven of them. Well, Keel tacked onto this old religious notion the thought that the towers themselves are something like thermostats. Their job is to regulate human civilization at some very abstract level. The mechanism by which they exert controlling influence?  Cryptids, hauntings, spiritual epiphanies. It’s a weirdly pro-enlightenment type of paranormal enthusiasm: all religion and superstition is bunk, because it’s disinformation from another dimension! The superspectrum has reach and influence that Putin’s cronies can only dream of!

And finally, Keel added the thought that the growing absurdity behind UFO and cryptic encounters, might be the result of an old control system aging out. Like a laptop that begins to get buggy and unreliable after five years, the “tower” that rules this eon is breaking down. And the time has come to replace it, to build the Eighth Tower.

This final thought, lets us tie Keel’s ideas into “dead internet theory” – is it possible the INTERNET is the Eighth Tower? Some sources – like Diana Pasulka’s recent study on UFO belief as a kind of religiosity – hint that talented people receive creative inspiration for their machines and inventions from an external source. Is it possible that the controlling influence behind ultra-terrestrials is preparing to replace itself, with…the internet?

That’s the thought in the nutshell. John Keel’s works were much more imaginative and creatively weird than I appreciated when I read them as an adolescent. So I missed a lot of nuance, but was happy to get that back from talking to Ted. Both parts of our conversation are available by audio here:

And here:

I’d appreciate any feedback you might have on this. Are we missing out on plumbing the true depth of Keels work because we all tend to see his work through the lense of the film? Is there independent evidence for the Eighth Tower hypothesis? Is there more to Keel’s superspectrum than I’ve captured here? What about Gary Nolan’s research finding that some people ARE more sensitive to UFOs and Skinwalker Ranch-type phenomena, does THAT tie in as well? Could Reddit be part of the Eighth Tower? What do people think?

One reply on “The Weird Profundity of John Keel”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *