Keel, John A(lva) (1930– )
Conjuring magician and writer on the subjects of magic,
mysteries, and UFOs. Keel was born in Hornell, New York, on
March 25, 1930, the son of Harry Eli Kiehle, a musician. From
an early age he was interested in magic tricks and idolized the
great Houdini. After the divorce of his parents he lived with his
grandparents until age ten, then returned to his mother and
stepfather, working on their farm near Perry, New York. At
Perry High School he edited a mimeographed one-sheet journal
called The Jester. At age 14 he edited a column in the local
weekly paper, the Perry Herald, using the name John A. Keel.
Meanwhile he studied at Perry Public Library and planned to
be a professional writer.
In 1947 he left home, hitchhiking to New York, where he
earned a meager living as a writer in Greenwich Village for four
years before being drafted during the Korean War. Later, while
quartered in West Germany, Keel contributed to the Armed
Forces Network and was responsible for a Halloween broadcast
from Frankenstein Castle, which started a monster scare similar
to the scare caused by Orson Welles’s famous radio broadcast
about a Martian invasion in 1938.
Several years later he produced another Halloween broadcast
from the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Attracted by the
mystery of the East, he resigned from the Armed Forces Network
and, at age 24, started a series of adventurous world travels,
hoping to write his way around the world, earning a living
as a journalist.
Keel’s travels in search of mysteries took him from Egypt to
India and Tibet, searching out mystics, fakirs, lamas, and magicians.
In India he discovered the secrets of snake charming,
being buried alive, walking on water, the basket trick, and the
Indian rope trick, as well as other feats of Jadoo, or conjuring
However, he also admitted there were mysteries that were
not tricks. In Darjeeling he met Sherpa Tensing Norgay, hero
of the Everest expeditions, who talked about the Yeti, or Abominable
Snowman. Keel went on to Sikkim, where he saw what he
believed to be the Yeti’s footprints and heard the creature’s
strange cry. All these adventures are recounted in his entertaining
book Jadoo (1957).
Keel came out of obscurity at the beginning of the 1970s
when his series of books on UFOs and Forteana (see Fort,
Charles) began to appear. He wrote articles both for UFO periodicals
and the popular men’s magazines of the period, such
as Saga and True. He considered as source material many stories
that were generally dismissed because they were so strange.
After a flurry of writing, Keel faded from the scene in the
late 1970s but reappeared with a new book in 1988 and also became
a columnist for Fate magazine.
Keel, John A. Disneyland of the Gods. New York Amok Press,
Kat, Willem Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
———. The Eighth Tower. New York New American Library,
———. The Mothman Prophecies. New York Saturday Review
Press, 1975.
———. Our Haunted Planet. Greenwich, Conn. Fawcett
Gold Medal, 1977.
———. UFOs Operation Trojan Horse. New York G. P. Putnam’s
Sons, 1970.
———. Why UFOs New York Manor Books, 1978.

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