Radio Host Art Bell's Vault Now Online Before conspiracy theories ran amok on the Internet, there was AM and talk radio host Art Bell. Scott Simon talks with Andrew Paul, who wrote about the newly launched Art Bell Vault for AV Club.
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Radio Host Art Bell's Vault Now Online

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Radio Host Art Bell's Vault Now Online

Radio Host Art Bell's Vault Now Online

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Remember the olden days before the Internet? How did people keep up with news about UFOs, time travelers and the paranormal? Art Bell and the late-night AM radio airwaves.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "COAST TO COAST AM")

ART BELL: Well, folks, you're not going to believe this, (laughter) but I have, on the phone, the author of "The Facts About Bigfoot" (ph).

SIMON: And now you can spend hours and hours hearing all kinds of news of the weird. The Art Bell Vault is now online, curated by "Coast To Coast AM." Andrew Paul writes about this treasure trove in an article on A.V. Club, and he joins us from the studios of member station WJSU in Jackson, Miss. Mr. Paul, thanks so much for being with us.

ANDREW PAUL: Yeah, thanks for having me.

SIMON: This is NPR, so we have to pretend people - NPR listeners never heard of Art Bell. So could you go along with that and tell us what his radio show was like?

PAUL: Sure. Yeah, just in case no one had - was aware of who he was, Art Bell was a longtime radio personality who got his start, I believe, the late '70s and kept going through. And then about '88 or so - mid-'80s - he started "Coast To Coast AM," which was a late-night showcase. Anybody could call in at any time, and he would listen to them and let them talk about whatever topics of the - was the episode, be it UFOs over their backyards, or I believe there was an episode about a man claiming to have shot a Bigfoot at one point.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "COAST TO COAST AM")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The organs - everything - it was just like a human body with hair on it.

BELL: Oh, that was going to be my question. It was covered with hair?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right, had a kind of a brownish-red hair.

SIMON: I mean, someone - it would not be uncommon for someone to say, hi, Art, I'm just back from Mars and thought I'd tell you about it.

PAUL: Yeah, or Mars - not necessarily geographic, either. This could be different dimensions, different time periods. I believe there was at least one time travel. I would assume more.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "COAST TO COAST AM")

BELL: Hello.

ROBERT: Yes. My name is Robert. And I am not quite a time traveler. I'm from a little bit different dimension than yours.

SIMON: It should be said there were people who passionately believed in this nonsense.

PAUL: Absolutely, yeah. And I'd say even maybe Art Bell would take umbrage with nonsense, at least in some sense - no pun intended there. But he was definitely a skeptical mind. He - it wasn't that he was, you know, fully on board with anything, but he definitely was open to hearing people's stories and their opinions on various phenomena that were unexplainable or unreal, depending on how you want to view it.

SIMON: And I gather Mr. Bell left us last year.

PAUL: He did. He passed away, in keeping with his legacy, on a Friday the 13th of April.

SIMON: (Laughter).

PAUL: So, yeah, true to the end, I would say.

SIMON: Can you - so what's the difference between the Art Bell show and conspiracy theories in broadcasting and online today, like Alex Jones?

PAUL: Yeah, that's the main thing that I find interesting about it is that the time period Art Bell was doing his thing was - I wouldn't go so far as to say it was innocuous, but it was a much - it was still relatively relegated to the fringe of American culture. The difference was that I believe he, in some ways, applied a more classic journalistic edge to it.

So it's unlike today, when you have things like Alex Jones and stuff that are not only pushing things actively that are dangerous and disseminated at much larger scales, there's also that sense of profiteering that I don't think Art Bell necessarily had. He wasn't in - he, in no way, probably made the same amount of money that Alex Jones got through licensing his...

SIMON: Yeah.

PAUL: ...Brain Force pills or whatever he was pedaling that week.

SIMON: Andrew Paul speaking to us about the Art Bell Vault now available on coasttocoastam.com.

(SOUNDBITE OF PINK FLOYD SONG, "TIME")

SIMON: Thanks so much, and keep watching the skies.

PAUL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF PINK FLOYD SONG, "TIME")

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