You can freely entertain any idea without accepting it. You can contemplate absurd notions while still remaining grounded and It can be of value to think over these ideas. That is, in a sense, what fiction is. Hypothetical thinking without buying into it as true.
John Keel was an interesting person with fascinating ideas and perspectives. You don't have to agree him to be entertained by the ideas he put forth. John Keel is the author of the Mothman Prophecies as well as other books such as The Eighth Tower and The Complete Guide To Mysterious Beings.
In his books, he would cover strange stories that people had reported and tell of his experiences looking into them. He embraced the absurdity of it all instead of shying away from it. His commentary was often humorous and thought provoking. Keel puzzled over many of the same questions that people still puzzle over today and seek to understand. So in effort to comprehend his unique perspectives, allow us to journey - into the mind - of John Keel.
There are categories of study when it comes to the weird things that people report to see. Among these fields there are different prevailing conclusions.
UFOlogy is the study of Unidentified Flying Objects and the prevailing conclusion among them seems to be the ET hypothesis which states being from other planets are the explanation. John Keel heavily disagreed with this. He stated: "I have come to reject outright the popular extraterrestrial hypothesis ... The UFO phenomenon itself is only one trivial fragment of a much larger phenomenon". (The Mothman Prophecies 1975, Page 54, Chapter 4)
When it comes to monsters, there's Cryptozoology which is known as the study of unknown animals. Their leading explanation for monster reports is that these things are undiscovered animals from our own biology.
Urban Legends and Folklore can also be a study of strange reports but tends to be more of a secular passing down of stories, often with the understanding that they are very unlikely to be true.
Demons, Angels and spirits have fields such as Demonology as well as paranormal investigators who focus on hauntings. A leading interpretation among them is that these things are dead people or beings from an afterlife.
John Keel was a Fortean, he was inspired by the work of Charles Fort who collected strange reports from newspapers. Instead of focusing on one thing in particular, Charles Fort assembled all kinds of reports of anomalous phenomenon. John Keel later did much the same in a newsletter he edited called Anomaly.
Fortean was the word which Keel most often used to describe himself. A Fortean can study UFOs, Monsters, Demons, Ghosts, Angels, literally anything strange and this is basically how John Keel studied. Charles Fort said "One measures a circle, beginning anywhere" and John Keel seems to have really taken that to heart.
He felt that it was necessarily to study the entirety of these strange reports, beginning wherever you want, but measuring the entirety of these various fields of study.
In 1966, John Keel first began studying reports of Unidentified Flying Objects in hopes of understanding what was going on. He began taking it a step further by doing investigative journalism and traveling around the country interviewing people who claim to have seen strange lights in the sky. He was attempting to write an article on the subject but eventually his efforts grew into an entire book titled Operation Trojan Horse which was released in 1970. He made the conscious effort to not have preconceived notions going into it. He did not begin with a foregone conclusion but instead tried to remain objective and figure out why people were reporting such things. Keel's personal motto that he lived by was: "Belief is the enemy". (Mothman Prophecies, Page 62 Chapter 4)
Keel was extremely against beliefs and adjusted his way of doing things to avoid forming them. This contributed to him expanding his study from not just UFOs but to any and all types of strangeness. Hes quoted as saying: "Separating and studying any single element is not only a waste of time but also will automatically lead to the development of a belief." (The Mothman Prophecies 1975, Page 22, Chapter 1)
If there was a "John Keel Method" it would be probably be something along the lines of this: Investigate any and all anomalous reports to the best of your ability but never form a belief.
Keel began studying reports of Monsters, Spirits, Angels, Demons and other anomalies along with UFOs. He began to notice commonality and universal trends among all these things. One similarity in the narrative of these reports that he noticed was that all of the beings seemed to mess with electricity. People would report that their radios and TVs would blank out or have strange interference during their sightings of anything from Monsters to UFOs. Another similarity was these beings were often reported to glow or have glowing attributes. Over time he began to think that it wasn't different phenomenons he was dealing with but a singular phenomenon.
Keel said: "All of these manifestations clearly share a common source or cause" (Mothman Prophecies P58 C4)
When you think about the Mothman which is the subject of Keel's most popular and well known book, you'll notice that the legend is pretty much a perfect example of what John Keel is talking about. The Mothman legend of West Virginia features UFOs, Men In Black, poltergeist activity in the homes of the witnesses and of course a monster. All these things are reported in the same small town over a span of time. It illustrates what he's saying about these things all seeming to be connected.
The legend falls in line with his way of thinking because it's one of the reasons for his way of thinking. It informed his thought process. His conclusions are drawn from personal experience. He picked Point Pleasant, West Virginia as a research point because it was "a place where the many strange manifestations were occurring simultaneously" (Mothman Prophecies, P23 C1) but it seems that through his experience there he began to think of the manifestations as connected in some way.
Keel also incorporates world mythology as something that is a part of the phenomenon. He said these things "have been present since the dawn of man" and that "When you review the ancient references you are obliged to conclude that the presence of these objects and beings is a normal condition for this planet"(Mothman Prophecies P21 C1). His basic idea is that these things have always been interacting with mankind and the ancient cultures simply interrupted it in a different way. He compares ancient myth with contemporary reports of strange things. He was basically stating that different cultures have different names for what is perhaps the same thing.
He goes on to say: "They have always been here. Perhaps they were here long before we started bashing each other over the head with clubs. If so, they will undoubtedly still be here long after we have incinerated our cities, polluted all the waters, and rendered the very atmosphere unbreathable." (Mothman Prophecies P21 C1)
Certain religious beings and imagery are also included in Keel's perspective as part of the phenomenon. He considered the religious witnesses to simply be interpreting their strange encounters in the way that they understand the world.
Religion and world mythology both usually consist of stories from various cultures of a god, gods or supernatural beings. Keel seems to consider certain aspects of these stories to be similar to modern reports. He referred to earth as the "Disneyland Of The Gods" in one of his book titles. He liked to point out the parallels between religious stories or anicent mythology and UFO or monster reports, as if to say; it's nothing new.
So John Keel had united all these forms of study in his mind, he threw away the various interruptions given by their fields and allowed the categories to melt away into a single solitary phenomenon. Obviously the other people who studied these things didn't seem to appreciate his method, they preferred to specialize their efforts and would much rather go along with the prevailing model of their chosen study field. Also, the difference in opinion among these varying groups seemed much too wide a gap to bridge. Doing so, however, would have more than tripled their sample size of reports making it at least harder to ignore. Collaborating may have been more fruitful but the study of the unknown was just too fragmented to be mended into a collaborative effort.
Keel became an outcast among outcasts but perhaps it made him all the more unique and visionary in his thinking. He didn't subscribe to any of the established interruptions of what the phenomenon is and where these manifestations come from and so instead he had his own personal conclusions. He thought that these entities, ranging from UFOs, Monsters, demons, angels, spirits, religious beings, mythological beings, ect. were all simply manifestations of the phenomenon. Even though they have visual variety and differences, he thought of them as the same type of thing; a manifestation.
He determined through his own reasoning that these manifested beings seemed to be electromagnetic in origin because they messed with electricity and because of the glowing attributes as well as how they interacted with certain metals and so on. He basically thought that cultures throughout history had interacted with them, each interpretating them and calling them different things. So it wouldn't really matter what you called them. Every culture on the planet seems to have this universal idea of mysterious beings or non-humans from somewhere else. Each culture has it's own interpretation.
An example of this line of thinking is that his original title for the "Mothman Prophecies" was "The Year of the Garuda". He didn't consider these things to be separate but basically the same, just different cultural interpretations. So when it comes to John Keel's idea on what to call them, he created an umbrella term, to summarize all these beings under. He coined the term "Ultraterrestrial". Keel was very into radiology and even had a job as a radiology consultant at one point. Ultraviolet rays exist outside of our visible color spectrum. Perhaps this is why he chose that name, for the beings he considered to be just out of reach.
Keel said: "Once you have established a belief, the phenomenon adjusts its manifestations to support that belief and thereby escalate it." (Mothman Prophecies P22 C1)
John Keel described common characteristics of these manifestations. He said that they were trickster beings, or cosmic pranksters, playing mischievous games with mankind since its dawn. Keel described earth as their version of Disneyland, implying that they tricked us and played their games for pure entertainment. Although, he also thought that they sometimes went too far in their jokes and games by engaging in second-hand harm to the people who they encountered as well as a morbid dark sense of humor or irony.
He noted how human-centric the manifestations seemed to be. At first he thought, why would spacemen follow state roads? and why would dead people come back from beyond the grave just to knock books off a shelf? Most people would follow these questions up by stating that the reports are therefore false. John Keel however found that these strange activities made more sense as a narrative if they were instead done by tricksters that are messing with us. Keel posited these characteristics to be more accurate to the reports and to what he'd experienced personally. He found this Ultraterrestrial idea to be a much better description of the phenomenon.
So, from where does Keel think these Ultraterrestrials arrive? What does he think the common origin is? John Keel hypothesized that these beings come from another dimension which is a spectrum of energy he called the "Superspectrum". In his book, The Eight Tower he stated: "This superspectrum is the source of all paranormal manifestations ... it is extradimensional, meaning that it exists outside our own space-time continuum yet influences every thing within our reality." (The Eighth Tower, 1975, Page 71, Chapter 7)
Any theory involving visitation of this kind would require an entry point. John Keel described areas of high strangeness that he called Window Areas. These are the places where he thought that the Ultraterrestrials would enter our world from the Superspectrum. He said that the "inhabitants of the other world climb through the curtain in the areas we call 'windows'". That of course includes any kind of Monster, spirit or UFO. Keel wrote: "These creatures and strange events tend to recur in the same areas year after year, even century after century." (The Complete Guide To Mysterious Beings, 1994, Page 9, Chapter 1)
The UFO field seemed to have been lacking this kind of point to explain why certain areas have more UFO reports than others. It's very similar to the concept of a haunted area except Keel is viewing it as a form of entryway for all sorts of weird entities. Cryptozoology often theorizes about reclusive animals inhabiting or hiding out in certain zones for a variety of biological reasons.
Keel commented on this by stating: "The 'hide out' theory [is] untenable. Posses, experienced hunters and even helicopters have searched for these monsters immediately after some of these events and have failed to find any trace of a hiding place. So where did they go?" (The Complete Guide To Mysterious Beings 1994, P9 C1)
He continues: "We have to stretch our minds a bit and extend our imaginations into the paranormal. The sudden appearances and disappearances of these wild, unknown creatures all over the world, even in densely populated area, suggests that they have some means of transportation". John Keel thought that manifestations could possibly enter and exit our world from hypothetical doors or passageways in these places. He considered these weird zones to be a part of the natural environment. He once again implied that this might be related to electromagnetic energy and that it could be detectable by the human perception of fear.
So, to summarize, it seems that in Keel's personal view: UFOs and the associated entities are not aliens from another planet. Spirits, Demons, and Angels are not dead people or beings from an afterlife. Monsters are not undiscovered animals from our biology. He classified all of these things in a different way than most researchers of his time. He seems to have considered them all to be Ultraterrestrials from the Superspectrum. Meaning, manifested beings or entitties coming from a dimension outside of our own.
This seems to be how John Keel categorized the subject matter of these strange reports. He was definitely a big picture sort of guy. He stated: "It is not my intention to attack any ... frame of reference. Rather, I have tried to demonstrate how all of these things blend together into a larger whole." (Operation Trojan Horse, Page 3)
He had a very unique perspective to say the least which is why even to this day we still try to ponder some of his ideas, some people do it for a form of understanding and some people do it for simple escapism or entertainment. Whatever your reason for interest might be, you can always pick up a book and journey - into the mind - of John Keel.