John A. Keel: Demonologist?

Artist John Frick (below) of Cumberland, Maryland, stands under his creation, a Mothman replica that hangs from the ceiling of the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

Mothman Museum

The belief system that underlies the sidetracking of 1966′s Mothman sightings from cryptozoology into the “dark side” has a lot to do with John A. Keel’s apparent framing of the case. But some folks still don’t get it. Good guy John Frick, a list moderator on the Mothman Lives email list, innocently writes:

As far as Keel being a demonologist. He really isn’t as far as I know. Keel has mentioned that the UFO and MIB phenomena is tied into demonology, but I’ve never read him claim to be an actual demonologist. From all the reading I have done on Keel he seemed to think demons came from the same source as ghosts and UFOs.

Of course, a person’s sense of self is often defined privately, but surely Frick has missed what has been mentioned overtly in the Mothman literature about how Keel has spoken of his belief foundations and how others have written of him, for a long time. Here are a couple things I’ve penned about this question:

“Ufology is just another name for demonology,” John Keel told me, a week before the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, which occurred just a couple of miles from where he lives.

…as noted in Mothman and Other Curious Encounters, page 114, (NY: Paraview, 2002).

John Keel

John A. Keel, in 2002.

And this, related to the notion of Keel’s mental constructs:

Jerome Clark has noted that Keel’s speculations placed him closer to being an occultist, and has written that Keel is “nothing so much as a demonologist.” Clark goes on: “Whereas traditional ufologists took a relatively conservative approach, seeking testimony from trained observers and putting a premium on radar/visual and multiply-witnessed sightings, and viewed exotic claims with suspicion, Keel vigorously championed everything from Mothman to contactees. Many ufologists doubted that the former—a monstrous birdlike entity reported over a several month period by persons living along the Ohio River —had anything to do with UFOs, and they had long ranked the latter (individuals who claimed ongoing communications with friendly extraterrestrials) among the crooked and the crazy. Keel, however, argued that ‘ultraterrestrials’ —supernatural ‘transmogrifications’ of paranormal energy from an unimaginable other reality — have been pestering, frightening, manipulating, and even destroying human beings from the beginning of mankind’s history.”

…as noted in Mothman and Other Curious Encounters, pages 118-119, (NY: Paraview, 2002).

The quotations from Jerry Clark (whose birthday happens to be today, November 27th) are to be found in these sources:

Clark, Jerome. “Mothman.” Encyclopedia of Strange and Unexplained Physical Phenomena. Detroit: Gale, 1993, pp. 228–231.
—— “Keel, John Alva.” The UFO Encyclopedia 2nd Edition: The Phenomenon from the Beginning, Volume 1. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1998, pp. 550–552.

Today, Mothman is portrayed in demonological terms, with a sinister intent, as having arms, claws, an insect-like head, self-illuminating red eyes, scary teeth, and moth-like wings – all untruths, all mythical additions, as shown vividly in the statute (below) and mostly in the ceiling Museum Mothman (above), which both haunt Point Pleasant today. Should we be surprised? Mothman has become the spawn of Hell, thanks in large part to the Keelian reworking of the story.

Sci Fi Investigates Mothman

So there will be no misunderstanding: John Keel is a nice guy I call a friend, even if he is a demonologist. This is not about his personality, so much as the way he views his writings and theories. We agree to disagree about how we separately view Mothman, that’s all.