Rest in peace to Art Bell, the man who made the paranormal normal
It does not seem like hyperbole to say that Art Bell was an American institution. As the host of the late-night radio show Coast to Coast A.M., he brought together millions of loners, insomniacs, and weirdos for a nightly deep dive into the fringe. He conducted interviews with self-professed experts in aliens and the Illuminati, time travelers and madmen. Every Halloween, he’d rename his show Ghost to Ghost A.M. and have listeners call in to tell “real” ghost stories. Broadcasting mostly from his compound in the High Desert of Nevada, Bell approached in the battiest conspiracy theories with an open mind and steady demeanor, good-naturedly probing his guests with his signature mix of bemusement and credulity.
Coast to Coast debuted in the late 1980s, just as talk radio began to take hold of the A.M. dial. But where Bell’s daytime counterparts stirred working-class conservative rage, Coast to Coast and its sister show Dreamland were genuine countercultural texts, explorations into the bizarre humans who share this planet with us.
If Art Bell was going to die at all, it’s only appropriate that he made his ascent to the afterlife on Friday the 13th.
Whitley Strieber, who took over Dreamland from Bell in 1999, posted the following message on the show’s website:
At 10:30 on the morning of Friday, April 13, Art Bell died. He passed away peacefully in his sleep, and there is at this time no known cause of death. The family had hoped to delay an announcement of his death, but the story was released by the Nye County Sheriff's Office against their wishes.
Art was beloved of many millions of listeners and fans. He revolutionized late night radio with his famed show, Coast to Coast AM, which remains a popular feature on stations around the country, hosted by George Noory. He was also a dear friend of mine. We were born just three days apart in 1945 and over our 30 years of friendship we shared many wonderful hours together on the air and as friends in our private lives.
[The Dreamland] website will publish a more complete obituary shortly, but as the news has unexpectedly been released, I wanted to make this announcement at once, reminding his fans that his family has received a profound shock and is in need of privacy at this time.
The Outline reached out to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office in an attempt to verify Strieber’s claim that they had announced Bell’s death against the wishes of his family. Speaking over the phone, a representative of the Nye County Sheriff explained that it's standard policy to issue releases whenever notable events occur in the county (watch their video announcing Bell’s death here). The representative added that they were unaware of any requests from Bell’s family to withhold the news of his death.
Correction: This article has been amended to correct the date of Art Bell’s death. It was April 13, not May 13.