There's no way around him: even if you're just mildly interested in unexplained events John Keel is one of the must read authors. His life's story is almost as fascinating as the subjects he so wittily tackles. The nomadic nature of journalism, a profession he chose from an early age, took him to the farthest corners of the world. It would be in places like India and Egypt that the appeal of Fortean phenomena would compel him to dedicate the following decades to the study of bizarre creatures, fleeting lights in the sky and elusive apparitions. The sheer width of Keel’s investigative work makes him one of the most insightful commentators on anomalous subjects, although his approach and subsequent theorizations would lead to an almost complete isolation both from academics and hardened believers.
This specific volume is an upgrade on the earlier “Strange Creatures from Time and Space”, first released in 1970, and constitutes a fine example of John Keel’s intelligent writing style. As always he manages to create a subtle blend of newspaper article objectivity with personal and often comedic interludes, characteristics that make him an unparalleled master on the popularization (in the best sense) of the paranormal. “The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings” works as an encyclopedia of anomalous beings that have been reported throughout human history, their appearances, physiology and, most relevantly, effects on the unsuspecting witnesses.
The author isn’t afraid to peer into events reported from distant centuries, for bizarre occurrences have always been with us as humans, a fact that allows us to see them in an historical, social and anthropological chain that conducts to what we are now and to how we see and interpret such incidents. It’s no surprise that the chapter dedicated to demon dogs and phantom cats also mentions themes like vampirism and lycanthropy, for the singularities of the outer world are undeniably linked to our cultural perception and behavior. From there we’re taken through the usual parade of classics such as hairy beasts, lake monsters and flying creatures (Mothman included), essential to prepare us for the Keel twist on the subject. So don’t be surprised if you’re reading about Bigfoot and, turning to the next chapter, you’re in the middle of a discussion about bedroom invading humanoids or brightly illuminated angelic visions. The strange creatures mentioned in the title come in all shapes and that’s what makes this book quite different from the “competition”.
Also relevant is the fact that many of the mentioned beings were sighted in association with other abnormal phenomenon like UFOs. This is a trademark of the author’s thinking, one that has garnered him despise and reverence. Unlike other investigators, Keel sees the paranormal as a whole, a gathering of various manifestations, with different appearances, but profound similarities on the way they affect the humans who are faced with them. He often concludes that, despite the form, the final purpose (if there is a consciously designed one) of this outlandish engagements with the occult is to confound and, most disturbingly, to manipulate the witnesses and, ultimately, our beliefs.
Keel’s very unique worldview is perfectly illustrated in the 2002 afterword he wrote for this book. After decades of uncountable millions of dollars launched into the extraterrestrial hypothesis scientific grinding machine, created by respected academics and fed by eccentric millionaires, the results are none. Our radio telescopes have captured the fascinating mumblings of distant galaxies, but never the intelligent message from an alien civilization. The SETI program and his siblings may have seemed the correct approach to the problem. However, time has disproven such vision and phenomena like UFO still baffle us as much as 50 years ago. It’s certainly the time to look back to our rich history and the powerful teachings of our ancestors, to learn with our mistakes and missteps and to try, just try, to look for answers elsewhere, for maybe they lie much closer to us than the inscrutable depths of space.
You may find more information on John Keel on the Wikipedia article about him (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Keel). Also you can check out another review, written by Rick Kleffel (http://trashotron.com/agony/reviews/keel-guide_myserious_being.htm).