I’m sad to have to report the death of a longtime radio icon. Art Bell has died at 72. His fans were not surprised to hear that he died on Friday the 13th of so-far undisclosed reasons, although some might suspect that’s just a cover story and he was really taken into the sky by aliens. For years, Art Bell’s deep-night syndicated show, “Coast to Coast,” broadcast from the “high desert of Nevada,” served as the radio equivalent of a campfire ghost story or watching an “X-Files” marathon in the dark.
His guests offered scary testimonies of UFOs, ghosts, secret conspiracies, weird creatures and other spooky mysteries that might have seemed silly in the light of day, but they could raise goosebumps and give you the willies if you were driving a truck alone through the desert at night while listening. Bell might have been skeptical of some of the wilder tales himself, but his innate sense for great radio and storytelling (and his ability to keep a straight face) kept listeners glued to the show. It was a throwback to the days when people could hear Orson Welles tell of Martians invading, and for just a few minutes at least, let the power of radio to stir the imagination convince them that maybe...just maybe...it might be true.