For Whom the Bell Tolls: Art, the Antichrist, and Area 51
“West of the Rockies, you’re now on Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell.” The words have been immortalized in the minds of insomniacs and the paranoid seekers of strangeness out there ever since the former host of America’s most-listened to late night radio broadcast adopted the eponymous countrywide reference within the title and migrated the show (as well as its format) over to the “Kingdom” of Nye County, Nevada, where Bell would continue the show nightly from his home in Pahrump.
In addition to being the creator of the Coast to Coast AM program, which still broadcasts nightly under the helm of the highly acclaimed Mr. George Noory, Bell himself has managed to achieve an almost cult status over the years. Known for his quick, dry witticisms and his banter with callers that stood on the edge of what would amount to verbal sparring, Art managed to define himself as something of an anomaly, even when paired alongside the various sorts of oddities he discussed on his program. Over the years, this unique capacity for intrigue began to culminate in a variety of interesting circumstances pertaining to guests and callers–a few of which I’ve touched on briefly in the past here at MU–and even a few that remain questionable in terms of whether they were actually planned or not. Simply put, a few of these calls are absolutely hair-raising, too.
Indeed, though a host of weirdos were known to call in to Bell’s program frequently, perhaps some of the most unsettling were represented by the almost innumerable instances of people out there claiming to be the living Antichrist that would call in to the show. On a few occasions, Bell would literally designate a phone line solely for use with taking calls from self-proclaimed apocalypse bringers of this sort. Among the more memorable of these calls is the following dialogue from 1998, where an “Antichrist” called in claiming that a financial collapse would begin in the United States by the year 2006:
Was he right? Indeed, today we appear to be seeing an awful lot of economic turmoil, with similar urges for people to invest in gold and be wary of the dwindling dollar. And yet, despite the ominous nature of alleged “Antichrists” calling in from time to time, perhaps Bell’s most memorable caller claimed to be an “escapee” of sorts who, after taking leave from the infamous Area 51 base at Groom Lake, Nevada, had decided to call into the program with information about secret government involvement with aliens and their hope to reign supreme over humankind.
The weirdness didn’t end with the caller and his odd claims, however. Strangely, Bell was alleged to have lost his broadcast signal at the height of the caller’s apparent distress, and once he regained broadcast capability half an hour later, he described how “the transmitter went belly-up suddenly, for some unknown reason,” and that he’d “never seen it do this in all the years–all the years–we’ve been on the air.” Due to its popularity, this segment has been featured in a number of different places on the web, and below is the original audio from that broadcast:
Indeed, the recording is creepy, especially for all you late-night listeners out there, and it’s vaguely similar to the infamous “Bongo call” from a while back, featured on an Australian late-night radio program. However, unlike Bongo’s tale of being kidnapped by a long-leg collecting devil in 1978, there was a follow-up with Bell’s alleged caller, where an individual called in claiming to actually be the “Area 51 caller”:
Of course, not everyone was convinced after this character called in claiming he had, in fact, been the man who had seemed so terrified and paranoid sounding during a previous call (I must admit, the imitation of the “character” from the previous call is pretty good, though). What do you think? Was the second caller indeed the same individual that had sounded so terrified the first time around, and if so, what can account for the interesting (and convenient) transmitter issues that occurred right in the middle of the initial call? Was the entire thing merely an elaborate hoax, since Bell himself always referred to his program as “purely entertainment”? Or could there actually be more to the mystery here, involving something that was really just too sensitive to be broadcast to 15 million listeners around the world?