By Sean Casteel
Timothy Green Beckley has been in the trenches of the paranormal and psychic wars since the 1960s. He is truly a seasoned veteran when it comes to exploring and speaking out on the strange, the weird, the real-life “Twilight Zones” of human coexistence alongside otherworldly ultra-terrestrials that continue to elude understanding and even definition.
Along with his many years of writing and publishing in the field, Tim has also darkened the door of many a radio program in order to spread his unorthodox views to a world that seems forever poised between awe and simple disbelief.
“You know,” Tim said in an interview with me, “I always jokingly say that I am the ‘King of All Unpaid Media.’ Going back to 1964 or so, I have probably been on a thousand or more radio and TV programs. Also, as a publicist, I frequently offer guests that I think are very good on a particular subject to other shows. The shows then book the author or authority on a given subject directly because I believe in sharing the information. If somebody has something important to say or something relevant, it should be passed on to as large an audience as possible. I’ve been helping guests and talk shows find each other for about 40 years.”
Along with his friend and fellow journalist, Harold Salkin of Washington, D.C., Beckley even ran his own public relations and promotion firm called Artists and Celebrities International. Among the duo’s paid clients were the pop artist Peter Max, legendary guitarist and recording artist Les Paul and various other musicians and entertainers.
“That was all long before, of course, there was an Internet or podcasts,” Beckley said. “But in those early days just about every major city did have a talk show host. The big one would have been Long John Nebel out of WOR in New York City.”
Nebel’s WOR was a 50,000 watt radio station that claimed to be heard in 32 states.
“I remember one time I actually picked it up in Arizona,” Tim said. “In those days, a lot of radio stations went off the air at 11 o’clock or midnight at the latest. So Long John had that whole period between midnight and 5:30 A.M. when there were virtually no other signals going out in that part of the country. Which meant he had a very strong signal and what would be for those days a very large audience.”
Long John went on the air in the mid-1950s, broadcasting from a transmitter in Carteret, New Jersey. Radio had been dealt a heavy blow by the advent of television and its increasing popularity and WOR was willing to give a show about UFOs and other oddball topics at least a chance to succeed. Long John’s nightly audio parade of flying saucer contactees and paranormal believers was a surprise hit and he stayed on the air well into the 1970s.
Long John was also an early pioneer of the call-in radio show that gave listeners the opportunity to ask their own questions.
“But in those days,” Tim explained, “you could only hear his side of the conversation. He would have to repeat the caller’s question. When they were finally able to broadcast a two-way conversation, they had to implement a seven-second delay mechanism in case the person who called in used a bit of vulgarity or foul language or said something that Long John didn’t particularly like.
“So Long John was actually one of the first – if not the first – talk show host to feature paranormal guests and telephone call-ins,” Tim continued. “He eventually moved from WOR to WNBC, where he got more money, but the signal was nowhere near as strong.”
Long John’s replacement at WOR was James Randi, better known as “The Amazing Randi,” a stage magician who later achieved fame as a scientific debunker of paranormal phenomena and occult beliefs.
“In those days,” Tim said with some amusement, “Randi was nowhere near as ‘skeptical’ as he is today or he would never have been able to get guests on. Today, who would do a program with Randi as the host unless you were a die-hard disbeliever in any of this? And there was a little bit of a feud between Long John and Randi. If you went on Randi’s show, you were not allowed to go on Long John’s. I don’t think there’s any such line in the sand today. I don’t think anyone has the clout to say that to a potential guest, that you can’t go on anyone else’s show, because you would just laugh in their face.”
Long John passed away in 1978 and his widow, Candy Jones, took over the program. Jones was a former model who claimed to have been a victim of government mind control experiments, which upped the ante of controversy for the program and helped to raise the show’s ratings.
“I was a guest on her program on a regular basis,” Tim said. “Usually on Sunday night.”
Which was only a small part of Tim’s long and rich history of being a radio talk show guest.
“I was doing this long before anyone else was,” he said. “I was traveling around the country appearing on radio and TV talk shows, traveling on my own pocket. But I paid my dues. I was on shows in San Diego and Pittsburg and Cleveland and Boston. Some of these shows had a fairly good audience and there were a select handful that liked the paranormal but in particular UFOs. This is where the contactees made their rounds. If they were in Cleveland, they knew there was a show they could easily get on. If they were in Chicago or St. Louis or Denver, there was always somebody in their little black book that they could call and get on a program.”
In those days, Beckley recalled, one was more likely to get a welcoming response from a given talk show host.
“It’s not like today,” he said, “where you’re competing with dozens of other authors and speakers and people who are trying to promote something. When George Adamski or George Van Tassel came to town, and you were into the subject, it was something that you would tell your friends about and they would listen to the show and perhaps come out over the weekend for a lecture.
“I did what they call in political parlance ‘stumping,’” he continued. “I went from place to place and paid my dues. It was interesting. I met a lot of people and got a lot of good firsthand experiences and stories, some of which I followed up on. It got me out of my home base and into the field.”
Although one is almost never paid for appearing as a radio or TV talk show guest, the cost of Tim’s traveling was partially covered by selling his books and his UFO newsletters.
“It was enough to keep the home fires burning,” he said, “and it did help getting your name in front of the public. At one point, I had a mailing list of about 100,000 names of people who bought books and so forth. So we were rocking and rolling.”
But in the summer of 1987, when the landmark books “Communion” – Whitley Strieber’s first-person account of being abducted by aliens he called “The Visitors” – and “Intruders” – by alien abduction researcher Budd Hopkins – both hit bestseller lists around the country, a new era of media coverage of the UFO phenomenon began.
“Then I decided it was time for me to give up the mantle,” Tim said, “and let somebody else do it for a while. Whitley and Budd went out and did the ‘stumping’ and got a little bit of notoriety. The subject was in the news for quite some time. The subject has its waves. It goes up in popularity and then down again for a couple of years.”
In the 1960s, when Tim first started making the rounds of talk shows, outside of Long John Nebel and one or two other shows around the country there were no specifically paranormal programs. Now the Internet is full of paranormal-themed podcasts, and Tim is on the other side of the microphone ASKING the questions, along with his solidly supportive co-host, Tim R. Swartz. Their program is called “Exploring the Bizarre” and is heard every Thursday night on the KCOR Digital Radio Network, beginning at 10 P.M. Eastern, 7 P.M. Pacific, providing two full hours of the latest and most interesting news about UFOs, aliens, ghosts – whatever strikes their supernatural fancy.
The programs are archived on the KCOR website within twelve hours if you miss hearing a show live. The recordings of the shows also are posted to YouTube under the moniker “Mr. UFO’s Secret Files,” along with about 80 other interviews, both audio and video.
And you can rest assured – as Tim’s warm and dulcet tones come out of the speakers on your home computer or mobile device – that you are listening to the voice of experience.
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