Art Bell’s radio show was a guilty pleasure of mine. The paranormal themed overnight show housed an abundance of fascinating topics that, while mostly derived of absolute nonsense, made for some great radio.
With that said, I was sad when I found out over the weekend that he had passed away on Friday, of all days, the 13th. While my expectations long ago faded that he would ever return to the air for an extended run, his death now cements that his voice is indeed permanently silent.
While I wouldn’t tout myself as an active skeptic, I have grown to appreciate skepticism over the last five-plus years. In a world filled with an abundance of false claims and pseudoscience, I normally am against such forums or individuals who enable such nonsense. I admit that Art Bell is one exception, even though he was one of the most prominent enablers.
As a night owl back in my teenage years, I took a liking to the off-kilt nature of Bell’s “Coast to Coast AM” program. I enjoyed listening to his show at odd hours of the night during summer vacation while on the computer talking to other people on AIM, tinkering with graphics or webpages while also illegally downloading music off Napster or Limewire (if it wasn’t Art Bell I was listening to, then it was Les Grobstein’s “Score Overnight” show on 670 The Score). The sound of Bell’s voice, his unique way with words, his use of bumper music going to and from commercial breaks and the over-the-top discussion made for the most fascinating radio theater.
My appreciation for Art Bell also ties into my father because it was he who first introduced me to him. My dad was so intrigued with how different the subject matter was and suggested I sample the show — then “Dreamland” which aired locally each Sunday night on WLS. It’s important to note that while my dad did find Bell’s program to be interesting, he was quick to make sure that I understood the subject matter was pure theater and to only enjoy it as such.
Once Bell stopped doing his Sunday night show, my dad never got to listen to him live again since he normally was not awake during Bell’s regular “Coast to Coast AM” show. Over the years, I sensed that my dad would enjoy the occasional conversation when I would share with him something crazy I heard on Bell’s program. A fond memory I have to this day is when we both listened to a podcast of Bell’s then shortly-lived SiriusXM show “Dark Matter” while on the way home from a weekend in Wisconsin.
For my dad’s birthday last year, I bought him an Amazon Echo Dot so that he could easily stream any radio station he wanted while in bed without having to bother with radio dials or static interference, the latter, which had become an issue with his clock radio. As I was helping him setup the Echo Dot device, I was explaining to him how he could also listen to Internet only streams beyond terrestrial radio, when I thought of TuneIn Radio. I had come across years ago various streams on TuneIn that (illegally) played Bell’s older shows. To my surprise, those channels still existed. I wrote them down and taught him how to play those streams on the Echo.
Today, it is my father who now shares with me some of the crazy things he hears while listening to those old Art Bell shows. Even though we both are well aware that the subject matter is silly nonsense, we do enjoy partaking on the ride.
Thank you, Art. May you rest in peace.