In the small of the night, when the mind is open and the defenses are eased, mysteries blossom and conspiracies run wild. In the darkest of hours, Art Bell was a light left on for the lonely, the insomniacs, the Americans searching for answers in a society they believed was spinning out of control.
For more than two decades, Bell, who died Friday in Nevada at 72, stayed up all night talking to those people on the radio, patiently encouraging them to tell their stories about alien abductions, crop circles, anthrax scares and, as he put it, all things “seen at the edge of vision.”
At Bell's peak in the 1990s, his show, “Coast to Coast AM,” was on more than 400 radio stations including Fort Wayne's WOWO AM 1190, which still airs the program weeknights from 1 to 5 a.m. He took calls all night long, alone in the studio he built on his isolated homestead in Pahrump, in the Nevada desert. He punched up the callers himself, unscreened, keeping one line just for those who wanted to talk about what really happened at Area 51, the U.S. government reserve that has been a locus of UFO sightings and purported encounters with alien beings.
His “Coast to Coast” show ran from 1989 to 2003, when he was replaced by current host George Noory.
Long before fake news became a political topic, Bell made a good living encouraging Americans to accept the most fantastic and unlikely tales, to believe that we are not alone, to accept that in a world where the pace of life seemed to quicken with every passing year, there were forces from beyond that were trying to tell us something.
In about 40 cities around the country, and in London and Tokyo, Art Bell Chat Clubs met regularly to hear talks by ufologists and by ordinary people who described their near-death and past-life experiences. He also had more prominent guests on the show – singers, comedians, actors, scientists.