Boasting three names — Linda Moulton Howe, David John Oates, Tom Van Flandern, etc. — seemed a prerequisite for landing an appearance as a guest. A fellow listener pondered aloud to me about this shared characteristic with serial killers; methinks ridiculed people take themselves super seriously when nobody else does, hence the three-name defense mechanism. (…)
The host giving unscreened callers a forum, uncredentialled guests the floor (for hours!), and new life to Giorgio Moroder’s “Chase” and the entire Gordon Lightfoot catalogue all help explain his extraordinary success. More so does timing. Broadcasting in the wake of Waco and the Oklahoma City Bombing and contemporaneously with The X-Files, conspiracy theories found a massive audience. But even more than broadcasting in that time in history, broadcasting during a specific time of night — which witnesses our imaginations turn on when the lights turn off — catalyzed his popularity. (…)
Their fidelity did not mean a belief in the words said on the broadcast. They tuned in not for the truth but for a good story. Adults still want storytellers, preferably ones offering the most fantastical tales, to send them to sleep. Art Bell told them stories when parents and older siblings no longer would.