On October 13th, 1998, at 2:55 AM, radio talk show host Art Bell announced to his listening audience that he was quitting his own program.
"You may recall about a year ago," Bell's exit statement began, "I told you that there was an event, a threatening, terrible event, that occurred to my family, which I could not tell you about. Because of that event, and a succession of other events, what you're listening to right now is my final broadcast on the air. This is it, folks. I'm going off the air and will not return."
Bell also said that when the time comes, he would inform his audience of his reasons for leaving through the press and the media.
"Until it is otherwise revealed," he said, "I can't discuss it. I won't discuss it. And if you were in my position, you would do exactly the same thing."
But there have already been other people in that position! Bell is not the first radio talk show host to be forced to capitulate to the superior muscle of those who would ban the frank, public discussion of paranormal phenomena such as UFOs.
Timothy Green Beckley, my editor at UFO Universe and its sister publications, reminisced about a similar event that took place more than thirty years ago.
"Back in the 1960s, the dean of the all-night talks show hosts was Long John Nebble," Tim said, "who broadcast every night from a studio on Broadway in New York City over station WOR. He had millions of listeners, and his popularity was derived from his interviews with people who claimed that they'd made trips to other planets and had had encounters with UFOs. And he was probably the only talk show host at the time to discuss these subjects in a legitimate way."
Tim said that on a particular night in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Long John's guest was Gray Barker, a well-known early researcher of UFOs who had just written a book called The Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. The book told the story of the silencing of another researcher, Albert K. Bender, by the notorious Men-In-Black.
Long John was seated in front of the microphone quizzing Barker about the Bender/MIB mystery when his engineer started motioning for him to come inside the glass booth.
"Apparently, the private telephone that was connected to the home of one of the officials of the station," Tim said, "a number that was known by only a few individuals who were higher up in the corporate structure of the radio station, started flashing. Long John picked up the phone. There was a voice on the other end of the telephone who he recognized as being someone in command at the station. He was told to cut the mikes immediately and discontinue the discussion about the Men-In-Black.
"Recognizing the voice as being someone in authority," Tim said, "he shut the microphones down and the radio station went off the air for several minutes, which is something that's virtually unheard of in broadcasting. The next day, the New York newspapers carried front page articles about how Long John had been silenced and cut off the air because of the discussion with Barker."
So there have been previous instances in which threats have been levied by figures unknown to dissuade the media from presenting information on the subject of UFOs. Art Bell is just the newest name to be added to the list of others who had gone before.
"It could well be that because of the nature of what Art was discussing every night," Tim said, "that this constant paranoia finally got to him, obviously."
Whatever happens next in the Art Bell saga, it will unavoidably be viewed in the light of his resignation-under-duress, which may be part of his strategy. His enemies, whoever they may be, are probably less inclined now to hurt him or his family because of the obvious implications such a move would have to a bewildered public.
Is Bell's move some sort of ploy to manipulate his audience and increase his ratings? Or is it instead a sincere attempt to deal with a genuine threat?
"It's up to each individual to decide what they think about that," Tim said. "Only time will tell."