Above: Arthur W. Bell III, Ringmaster of The Macabre, The Paranormal, and The Downright Ludicrous.
Being children of the digital age, we often take for granted the leaps and bounds that media has made in the past years and decades. Communication has not always been so simple, and humanity's journey from scratching on cave walls to interfacing through a series of tubes has been relatively fast and painless in the grand scale of planetary evolution. The conveyance of our ideas is as quick and simple as touching a key, although as recently as the 1990's society was confined, media-wise, to a single option: AM RADIO.
It's a tough concept to grasp, but it's also 100% true -- Up until the rise of the internet 10 years ago, civilization had only one way to communicate thoughts with each other: By calling in to AM radio talk shows. And during the Golden Age of AM Radio (1993-2003), only one name mattered: ART FUCKING BELL.
Above: A young Art Bell, ham and pirate radio enthusiast, pictured with his gear circa the early 60's.
Below: An older, wiser, and much better known Art Bell, pictured in his home studio in Pahrump, Nevada, 2005.
From his birth in 1945 to his early years in a military family (his father was a Marine Captain, his mother a drill instructor) to his time in the Air Force and his renowned radio career (best known as the host of Coast To Coast AM), Art has always remained as something of an enigma, a master entertainer and interviewer but also an expert on the unexplained, the interdimensional, and the supernatural.
Speaking to a national cult of insomniac paranoids (who broke down into four categories: "West of the Rockies", "East of the Rockies", "First Time Callers", and "Wild Cards") Bell built his empire where the American zeitgeist rarely tread before - The Unknown. Talented in electronics and engineering, he built his own studio, and at the height of his popularity was syndicated by over 500 stations. In 1997, Coast To Coast AM claimed 15 million nocturnal listeners, firmly placing Art Bell at the center of the American paranormal subconscious.
And he did it all from the comfort of his own home. How?
"The thirteen white poles above are 75 feet high. They support a two-wire loop antenna with a 1595-foot circumference. Because there are two vertically-spaced horizontal loops, the poles support 3190-feet of antenna wire. The tower at the rear on the right-hand side supports rotatable HF log-periodic and VHF antennas.
The large loop antenna supported by these poles helps give Art (W6OBB) his exceptionally strong signal on 160, 80 and 40 meters."
ART BELL FUN FACTS:
- After serving in Vietnam, Art became a DJ at KSBK in Okinawa, where he set the Guinness record by staying on the air for 116 hours and 15 minutes straight. By doing so, he raised enough money to charter a DC-8 aircraft which he took to back Vietnam to save 130 orphans stranded in Saigon. He then brought the orphans back to the United States to be adopted by American families. This is a true story. Art Bell is basically a superhero.
- 1998, Art received the Snuffed Candle Award from The Council for Media Integrity, for "for encouraging credulity, presenting pseudoscience as genuine, and contributing to the public's lack of understanding of the methods of scientific inquiry." 10 years later, he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.
- In recent years, Art Bell has begun to look more and more like Jerry Stiller.
Art's personal life has been a busy one as well. He was married twice while living in Japan after the war, and the two marriages produced three children. From 1981 to 1991, he was married to Vickie Baker, a union which brought another child. In 1991 he married Ramona Hayes, and the two were never apart for a single day until her sudden death in 2006. She passed away due to an asthma attack in the middle of the night, causing a distraught Bell to immediately retire (one of several "retirements" since 1998) and relocate to the Phillipines. To the surprise of many of his fans, he returned to Nevada re-married to Airyn Ruiz, a recent college graduate and Phillipine citizen, causing certain conspiracy theorists to speculate on Art's involvement in Ramona's death. The speculations were quickly debunked, and on May 30, 2007, Art and Airyn celebrated the birth of their first child, Asia.
Bell's professional career has become increasingly spotty in the last decade, with his retirements, guest appearances, comebacks, and substitutions increasing in both frequency and randomness. He is currently in a state of "semiretirement", returning occasionally to Coast To Coast AM (now hosted by George Noory) for special events and interviews.
For example, he came back in 2008 to host a call-in show in which viewers shared their predictions for 2009. Here are ALL of the predictions from said show, boiled down to under 10 minutes. Trippy stuff:
The subject matter on Coast To Coast AM during Bell's residency there was always guaranteed to be pretty insane. He discussed alien life with specialists from SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestial Intelligence). He repeatedly interviewed theoretical physicist Michio Kaku (one of my favorites) about string theory and the future of humanity. He contributed greatly to the field of cryptozoology and studied several reports of cryptids. He has been called the "mouthpiece of the Devil" and been at the center of countless controversies. Art Bell was the real-life X-Files.
But Bell always favored certain subjects. Later in his career, he began devoting more and more time to the topic of "shadow people", unexplained grey apparitions (often with glowing red eyes) which thousands of people worldwide report seeing in their peripheral vision on a daily basis. It might sound preposterous, but I'm sure that a visit to the official Shadow People website will put all of your doubts to rest.
Art Bell's most oft-discussed topic, though, was the whole alien abduction/Area 51/Roswell/Greys conundrum. Due to Art's close proximity to the actual Roswell crash site (Pahrump is only one state over from Area 51), this subject seemed to always be at the forefront of discussion on Coast To Coast AM, and countless callers shared their thoughts, suspicions, and even coveted "inside information" on the idea. In fact, at one point in 1996 a listener actually sent in a box of materials that they claimed came from the downed Roswell UFO, a box which eventually came to be known as "Art's Parts". Upon closer inspection, "Art's Parts" were revealed to be made of a strange Bismuth material, hardly (if ever) used in modern fabrication.
Side note: One of Art's better-known interviews was in 1998, with self-proclaimed time traveller John Titor. John arrived from the year 2036, and shared several apocalyptic prophecies and even vague instructions on how to build a time travel machine (hint: you need a '67 Corvette and an engine with a stationary mass, temporal displacement unit powered by two top-spin, dual positive singularities). If anyone has mp3s or other recordings of this interview, please submit them forthwith.
A COUPLE OF ART'S "GREATEST HITS":
Frequent Coast To Coast caller "Bugs", who claimed to have shot two Bigfoot (Bigfeet?) and even sent a map to Art, to be released only after his death, to where they were buried:
But without a doubt, the most notorious call Art ever received was on September 11, 1997. The subject was Area 51, and Art had a line open for former Area 51 employees. At about 11 pm, a frantic caller got through, claiming that "multi-dimensional" beings were planning the imminent demise of the global social structure. He said major population centers would be wiped out in the near future (note the date), and before long was sobbing and warning that the government would soon triangulate his call and disconnect him.
At that point, Coast To Coast AM went off the air unexplainably for 30 minutes. The FCC's explanation was that a radio satellite "lost Earth lock", meaning that the problem was from space. Fuck.
Hoax? Probably. But the audio is chilling nonetheless (it has been sampled by Tool and The Faceless, among others, in the musical realm). You can check out a clip HERE.
Thanks for fucking with our heads, Art.
Wherever you are.