Art Bell

Last updated

Art Bell
Art Bell portrait.jpg
Arthur William Bell III

(1945-06-17)June 17, 1945
DiedApril 13, 2018(2018-04-13) (aged 72)
Occupation(s) Broadcaster, author
Sachiko Toguchi Pontius
(m. 1965;div. 1968)

Vickie L. Baker
(m. 1981;div. 1991)

Ramona Lee Hayes
(m. 1991;died 2006)

Airyn Ruiz
(m. 2006)
Call signW6OBB (U.S.)
4F1AB (Philippines)

Arthur William Bell III (June 17, 1945 – April 13, 2018) was an American broadcaster and author. He was the founder and the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM , which is syndicated on hundreds of radio stations in the United States and Canada. [2] He also created and hosted its companion show Dreamland. Coast to Coast still airs nightly.


In 2003, Bell semi-retired from Coast to Coast AM. During the following four years, he hosted the show for many weekends on Premiere Networks. He announced his retirement from weekend hosting in 2007, but occasionally served as a guest host through to 2010. Classic episodes of Coast to Coast AM can be heard in some radio markets on Saturday nights under the name Somewhere in Time hosted by Bell. He started a new nightly show, Art Bell's Dark Matter , on Sirius XM Radio, that aired for six weeks in 2013. [3] [4]

In 2015, he returned to radio with a new show Midnight in the Desert, which was available online via TuneIn as well as some terrestrial radio stations. He retired on December 11, 2015, citing security concerns at his home.

Bell was the founder and original owner of Pahrump-based radio station KNYE 95.1 FM. His broadcast studio and transmitter were located near his home in Pahrump, where he also hosted Coast to Coast AM.

Early life

Arthur William Bell III was born in North Carolina on June 17, 1945. Sources differ on whether he was born in Jacksonville or Camp Lejeune. [5] [6] He had a Lutheran background. [7]

Bell was always interested in radio; at the age of 13, he became a licensed amateur radio operator. Bell held an Amateur Extra Class license, which is in the top U.S. Federal Communications Commission license class. His call sign was W6OBB.

In the 1960s Bell served in the U.S. Air Force for four years and was a medic during the Vietnam War. Although not involved in combat, Bell was stationed for a short time at a hospital in Da Nang, Vietnam. At this hospital and others, such as Clark Air Base in the Philippines, Bell witnessed the effects of the war first-hand, something that he did not like to recall or talk about even decades later. [8]

While in the military, Bell, along with a few friends on base, operated a pirate radio station at Amarillo Air Force Base. After receiving support from the base commander, they expanded the operation, playing music for the entire base and the signal was powerful enough to be picked up in the city of Amarillo. Eventually when the local commercial radio stations caught wind of the pirate station's popularity (when it showed up in the Arbitron ratings), it was forced to shut down, but only after being on the air for a full year. This was the start of Bell's career in radio. [9]

After leaving military service in 1966, Bell started working at a few different radio stations in the States for a short time before moving to the Japanese island of Okinawa, where he worked as a disc jockey for 6 years at KSBK. This was the only non-military English-language station in Japan. While there, he set a Guinness World Record by staying on the air without sleeping for 5 days and nights (115 hours and 15 minutes). Bell would later write that this extreme sleep deprivation was a strange experience and something that he would never do again. He said that as he would go about his normal routine, such as walking to the refrigerator during a break, it was as if he was floating around in a different world, and things seemed unreal. [10]

When Bell left Okinawa for the States, he had a career in rock music radio for the next 20 years. [11]

While working at a rock music station in Anchorage, Bell learned about Amerasian children stranded in Saigon in the final days before the U.S. pullout from Vietnam in 1975. Bell spoke about it on air and listeners in Alaska started to send in donations. The money raised allowed the chartering of a Douglas DC-8 to fly to Vietnam and rescue around 120 orphans. They were brought to the United States and eventually adopted by American families. [12]

Bell studied engineering[ when? ] at the University of Maryland [ citation needed ]. He dropped out and returned to radio as a board operator and chief engineer, and had the opportunity to be on the air a few times. For several years, he worked behind and in front of the microphone. After a period of working in cable television, in 1986 the 50,000-watt KDWN in Las Vegas, Nevada, offered Bell a five-hour time slot in the middle of the night. Syndication of his program to other radio stations began in 1993.

Broadcasting career

Bell was a rock music disc jockey before he moved into talk radio. His original 1978 late-night Las Vegas program on KDWN was a political call-in show under the name West Coast AM. [5] In 1988, Bell and Alan Corbeth renamed the show Coast to Coast AM and moved its broadcast from the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas to Bell's home in Pahrump. [5]

Broadcast facilities of KNYE in Pahrump, Nevada KNYE Radio.JPG
Broadcast facilities of KNYE in Pahrump, Nevada

Bell abandoned conventional political talk in favor of topics such as gun control and conspiracy theories, leading to a significant bump in his overnight ratings. The show's focus again shifted significantly after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Many in the media did not want to be blamed for inciting anti-government or militia actions like the bombing. Subsequently, Bell discussed off-beat topics such as the paranormal, the occult, UFOs, protoscience and pseudoscience. During his tenure at KDWN Bell met and married his third wife, Ramona, who later handled production and management duties for the program.

An article in the February 23, 1997, edition of The Washington Post said that Bell was currently America's highest-rated late-night radio talk show host, broadcast on 328 stations. According to The Oregonian in its June 22, 1997, edition, Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell was on 460 stations. At its initial peak in popularity, Coast to Coast AM was syndicated on more than 500 radio stations and claimed 15 million listeners nightly. Bell's studios were located in his home in the town of Pahrump, located in Nye County, Nevada; hence, the voice-over catchphrase, "from the Kingdom of Nye".

Critical reputation

Fans regarded Bell as a master showman, noting that he called his show "absolute entertainment" [13] and expressly said he did not necessarily accept every guest or caller's claims, but only offered a forum where they would not be openly ridiculed. Bell was one of only a few talk show hosts who did not screen incoming calls, but this changed in 2006.

Bell has earned praise from those who declare that the paranormal deserves a mature outlet of discussion in the media as well as the approval of those simply amused by the nightly parade of bizarre, typically fringe topics. Ed Dames, Richard C. Hoagland, Terence McKenna, Dannion Brinkley, David John Oates, and Robert Bigelow were all regular guests. Some of Bell's regular guests continue to appear on Coast to Coast AM now hosted by George Noory.

Bell's own interests, however, extended beyond the paranormal. He interviewed singers Crystal Gayle, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Eric Burdon and Gordon Lightfoot, comedian George Carlin, writer Dean Koontz, hard science fiction writer Greg Bear, X-Files writer/creator Chris Carter, TV talk host Regis Philbin, Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, actor Dan Aykroyd, former Luftwaffe pilot Bruno Stolle, actress Jane Seymour, actress Ellen Muth, actor and TV host Robert Stack, human rights lawyer John Loftus, legendary disc jockey Casey Kasem, UFC commentator Joe Rogan and frequent guests physicist Michio Kaku and SETI astronomers Seth Shostak and H. Paul Shuch.

Beginning in late 1996, Bell was criticized for reporting rumors that Comet Hale–Bopp was being trailed by a UFO. Some speculated that members of the Heaven's Gate group committed mass suicide based on rumors Bell aired, but others dismissed the idea, noting that the Heaven's Gate website stated: "Whether Hale-Bopp has a 'companion' or not is irrelevant from our perspective." [14] Susan Wright reported that later, Bell was also "one of the first to publicize expert opinions refuting the 'alien' companion" said to have been shadowing Hale-Bopp, [15] such as that published in 1998 from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggesting that "the satellite's main diameter is ~30 km," (20 miles) and accordingly natural rather than artificial. [16]

Callers and guests

Retirements and comebacks

Bell retired and returned to Coast to Coast AM several times.

On October 13, 1998, Bell announced his first retirement, which was highly unexpected by his listeners. He spoke of "an event, a threatening terrible event occurred to my family, which I could not tell you about. Because of that event, and a succession of other events, what you're listening to right now is my final broadcast on the air." [23] Hilly Rose filled in after Bell's departure. Bell returned on October 28, 1998, asserting that the brief departure was brought on by threats made against his family. On May 29, 1999, Bell explained that this retirement was due to an allegation made by hosts of WWCR shortwave radio that Bell had paid to cover up a criminal indictment. [24] The facts of the matter became public knowledge in 2000, when the media revealed that an actual criminal indictment was filed against a person who had assaulted a member of Bell's family. Because of the nature of the crime, Bell had wanted to keep the matter private. Ted Gunderson, the former head of the Los Angeles FBI and the hosts at WWCR shortwave radio had accused Bell of the crime. Bell responded by taking legal action against Gunderson, as well as the hosts and stations. The action was resolved in a settlement in 2000. [25]

On April 1, 2000, Bell again announced his retirement. He said that the event would occur on April 26, 2000, [26] but offered no details other than expressing intentions to "resolve a family crisis." On April 11, 2000, Mike Siegel was introduced as the new host of Coast to Coast AM, taking over on April 27, to an estimated audience of 22 million listeners. [27] The media later explained that Bell had left to deal with the aftermath of the kidnap and sexual assault of his son. [28] Brian Lepley, a substitute teacher, was convicted of sexual assault and attempted transmission of HIV and was sentenced to 10 to 25 years. [29] Bell returned to Coast to Coast AM in February 2001. Bell noted that since his departure the show had lost a number of affiliates, commercial content had risen to an unbearable level, and Siegel had taken the program in a "different direction" of which Bell disapproved. Bell retained some authority over the program as its creator and felt his return was necessary.

On October 23, 2002, Bell announced that he would retire due to recurring back pain, which was the result of a fall from a telephone pole during his youth. Bell was replaced by George Noory as weekday host of Coast to Coast AM on January 1, 2003. Those close to the matter also said that Barbara Simpson would host weekends and that Bell planned to be an occasional guest host for Noory. [30] Bell returned in September 2003 as a weekend host, replacing Barbara Simpson and Ian Punnett as host of the Saturday and Sunday evening broadcasts. In June 2005, he scaled this schedule back, calling it a "semiretirement," and hosted only the last two Sundays of every month. Bell went back to hosting every weekend show as his schedule permitted after his wife Ramona's death a few months later.

On July 1, 2007, Bell announced his retirement, stating that he wished to spend more time with his new wife and daughter. He made it explicitly clear that, unlike the circumstances surrounding previous retirements, this decision was an entirely positive and joyful one and that he would not disappear completely, announcing an intention to occasionally substitute for other hosts and host "special" shows.

On December 11, 2015, Bell posted what would be his final retirement message via his Facebook page. He cited safety concerns for his family by saying "if one of them were harmed because of what I love doing my life would be over." Throughout the fall, Bell reported several incidents where an unknown number of armed trespassers came onto his property, sometimes firing gunshots. These events have been said to occur during or around the time of his broadcasting. This announcement came a mere five months after the start of his most recent show, Midnight in the Desert. [31]

Events of 2006

Death of Ramona Bell

On January 5, 2006, Ramona Bell, his wife of 15 years, died unexpectedly [32] at the age of 47 of what appeared to be an acute asthma attack in Laughlin, Nevada, where the couple had been taking a short vacation.

During the January 22 broadcast of Coast to Coast AM, Bell described in great detail the events surrounding his wife's death. For weeks thereafter, callers to the station would speak to George Noory and express their sadness and sympathy for Bell; Noory had taken Bell's place on weekdays beginning in 2002. [33]

Change in schedule

On January 21, 2006, 16 days after the unexpected death of his wife Ramona, Bell announced he would host Coast to Coast AM every Saturday and Sunday evening, and that former weekend host Ian Punnett would work a new live prefeed program for the four hours preceding Bell's slot on Saturday nights (9:00 pm – 1:00 am ET).[ citation needed ]

New marriage

By the end of January, Bell began hinting that he was making a significant life decision, but that he would keep it a secret for at least one year, asking listeners to remind him in 2007 to let them in on it. By March, he was saying that he would soon take a "huge risk" and "do something rash". On April 15, 2006, he ended the mystery and, to the mild surprise of listeners, revealed that, after several weeks of mourning, he had recently gone to the Philippines and married Airyn Ruiz.[ citation needed ]

Return to "the High Desert and the Great American Southwest"

Bell opened his December 28, 2006, program by disclosing that he had just relocated back to Pahrump, Nevada, with Ruiz, who had obtained the necessary paperwork for immigrating to the United States.[ citation needed ]

Events of 2008

On May 29, 2008, Bell sold KNYE to Station Manager Karen Jackson. [34]

On September 8, 2008, Noory stated that he would be hosting the annual Ghost to Ghost AM Halloween call-in show rather than Bell, who normally returns to the Coast to Coast to host it (along with the New Year's prediction shows).[ citation needed ]

On November 30, 2008, Bell hosted Coast to Coast AM. Michio Kaku was the guest. This was the first time Bell had hosted the show since May 23, 2008. [35]

Bell was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2008. [36]

Events of 2009

Bell was scheduled to return to Coast to Coast AM on April 24, 2009, to host an evening of open lines, but because of engineering problems in Manila, Bell was rescheduled to a later date. [37]

On May 17, 2009, Bell returned to host Coast to Coast AM live from Manila. His guest was professor Peter Ward. Topics of discussion were mass extinctions, Earth's "self-destructive" phenomena, and life beyond planet Earth. While on the air, Bell answered an email question from a listener who asked why he was in the Philippines again and how long he would be there. Bell replied that he would address it on "Friday" and hinted that his move might be permanent.[ citation needed ]

As of May 20, 2009, the Coast to Coast website listed that Bell would be filling in for George Noory on Friday, May 22, 2009, to interview Bob Koontz. However, Bell did not do that show. The Coast to Coast website, again, cited technical difficulties in Manila and that his interview would be postponed. Bell interviewed Koontz on Saturday, June 6, 2009.[ citation needed ]

Friday June 26, 2009, Bell hosted Coast to Coast AM from Manila with guest Dean Radin. He also commented on the death of Michael Jackson and how he had lived in Pahrump, Nevada, not too far away from where Bell lived.[ citation needed ]

Friday November 20, 2009, Bell hosted Coast to Coast AM from Manila with guest Starfire Tor, psi researcher and experiencer who discussed time shifts and time slips, and other strange occurrences of time. During the first 90 minutes, they were joined by Whitley Strieber, who shared his take on Tor's research. [38]

On Wednesday, December 30, and Thursday, December 31, 2009, Bell once again hosted his annual New Year's predictions special of Coast to Coast, noting that a number of the predictions this year were of an unusual and interesting nature and not mere repeats of many that had come before, though he also took several callers to task for seemingly veiling their obvious political agendas or wishes in the form of predictions, rather than offering up something from their "psychic center," which is what he repeatedly asks for during the prediction show. He also suggested that perhaps Coast to Coast AM should institute some sort of prize or acknowledgment for listeners whose predictions are particularly accurate or astute.[ citation needed ]

Immigration controversy

In late 2008, Bell and his wife filed an I-751 petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of her marriage-based green card process. In early 2009 the USCIS responded that they would need additional evidence to prove that Bell's marriage to a Philippine national and subsequent green card application was in good faith. Bell responded with evidence including their marriage license, their daughter's birth certificate, Bell's last will and testament, bank records, family photos, and Social Security forms. Bell sent the package to the USCIS by return receipt mail, and he subsequently received the return receipt stamped "USCIS RECEIVED JAN-15-09." [39]

On March 10, 2009, Bell and his wife and daughter left Nevada for Manila to deal with some family business including the disposition of a condo they owned. Shortly thereafter, the USCIS denied the application on the grounds that the documentary evidence was never received, and further stipulated that Airyn Bell is not permitted to re-enter the United States, which is why Bell remained in the Philippines. Moreover, since the Bells were out of the country when the application was denied, they were required to start the process all over again. [40]

On his June 6 broadcast, Bell explained the situation and asked his listeners to send emails on his behalf to the White House.[ citation needed ]

Events of 2010–15

Bell hosted ten episodes in 2010, five short of his publicly announced, contractually specified quota of 15 shows per year. His last hosting gig was his annual Ghost to Ghost show on Halloween night (this was the first show ever wherein Bell used call screeners).

As of December 2010, Bell was no longer listed as a host on the Coast to Coast website, his shows were no longer searchable under his name, and the only references to Bell on the site were of an historical/archival nature. However, the weekly Somewhere in Time with Art Bell broadcasts of classic Bell-hosted episodes (which have aired before the live show on Saturday nights since 2006) were not discontinued.

In email interactions with fans who have written in to inquire about Bell's absence, Coast personnel confirmed that Bell had retired. According to Coast webmaster Lex Lonehood: "Art Bell decided he no longer wished to do live C2C shows, and asked that his name be removed from the host listings accordingly. Classics and Somewhere in Time shows will continue as is." [41]

Despite the above remarks from Punnett, Noory, Lyon, Lonehood, and Bell, as of January 6, 2011, an official public statement formally confirming Bell's departure from Coast to Coast AM has yet to be made via press release, website announcement or on-air, by any party with the authority to do so—the show's producers, Premier Radio Networks, Clear Channel Communications, or Bell himself. This lack of information has led to rampant speculation among Bell's fanbase as to the motivations and circumstances behind Bell's sudden absence, whether he had given his last live broadcast, and what—if anything—he might decide to do next.

On July 20, 2011, Bell announced via his Facebook page that he had relocated with his family to Pahrump, Nevada. On November 1, 2012, Bell updated his Facebook status with the following: "I wish my name was no longer associated with what Coast has become!" [42]

Return to radio in 2013

Bell returned to the airwaves on September 16, 2013. His new show Art Bell's Dark Matter was broadcast on SiriusXM satellite radio's Indie Talk channel (channel #104), Monday through Thursday from 7 PM to 11 PM PT with repeats during the remainder of the night and "best of" shows airing on Fridays. [43] On November 4, 2013, Bell left Dark Matter after only six weeks. [44] [4]

Midnight in the Desert radio show

On July 20, 2015, Bell returned with his new show Midnight in the Desert. The show aired on the internet Dark Matter Digital network and on 45 stations (20 of which signed on before the show started) from 9 PM to midnight PT. He also started transmitting on shortwave radio on WTWW at 5.085 MHz as well.[ citation needed ]

On December 11, 2015, Bell permanently stepped down as host of Midnight in the Desert due to concerns about his family's safety. [45] Bell had reported multiple instances of someone shooting firearms at and near his property in the fall of 2015. [46] The show Midnight in the Desert continued with new host Heather Wade, with Bell making the occasional guest host appearance. [47] Shortly after Art's death Dave Schrader became the host.


Bell posted on his website in July 2016 that he was hospitalized for pneumonia and revealed that he suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. [48]

Art Bell died April 13, 2018, at age 72 at his home in Pahrump, Nevada. [49] On August 1, 2018, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the Clark County coroner's office findings. The coroner's office stated that Bell died of an accidental overdose from a cocktail of prescription drugs. The coroner's office determined he had four prescription medications in his system: the opioids oxycodone or Roxicet and hydrocodone or Vicodin, diazepam or Valium, and carisoprodol or Soma, a muscle-relaxant. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypertension also contributed to his death. [50]

George Noory, current host of Coast To Coast AM , announced Bell's death and while struggling to keep his composure stated, "Art and I were not that close. We had our differences, but he was one of those instrumental in me being where I am right now." [51]

Amateur radio

Bell became a licensed amateur radio operator at the age of 13. His first call sign was KN3JOX, first listed in the Winter 1959 edition of the Radio Amateur Callbook. He soon upgraded to K3JOX, and he later held W2CKS, first listed in the Spring 1967 Callbook. Bell held an Amateur Extra Class license, which is the highest U.S. Federal Communications Commission amateur license class. His call sign was W6OBB.

Bell passed the Philippines amateur radio exams and became a Philippine Class A amateur radio operator with the call sign of 4F1AB. [52] While in the Philippines, Bell was active on 40-10 Meters, as well as 144.600 MHz simplex in Manila.


In August 2006 Art was inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. He did not attend the presentation. [53]

On March 10, 2007, Bell would be honored with the News/Talk Radio Lifetime Achievement Award from the trade publication Radio & Records in Los Angeles. [54] [55]

Bell was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2008. [56]



Bell wrote, or co-wrote, several books, including The Quickening: Today's Trends, Tomorrow's World; The Art of Talk (an autobiography); The Source: Journey Through the Unexplained; The Edge: Man's Mysterious Past & Incredible Future; and The Coming Global Superstorm (co-authored with Whitley Strieber), which became the basis for the popular movie, The Day After Tomorrow .[ citation needed ]

Other work

In 1996, Bell appeared in an episode of the NBC science fiction series Dark Skies as William S. Paley, head of CBS.[ citation needed ]

On September 30, 1998, NBC's Today Show aired a taped segment of reporter Fred Francis interviewing Bell. Francis questioned Bell about Hale-Bopp, Area 51, eccentric callers claiming to be "six-fingered alien hybrids", as well as the UFO sighting experienced by Bell and his wife Ramona.[ citation needed ]

In 1999, Bell appeared as himself on the series Millennium . The episode called "Collateral Damage" aired in the third season and dealt with a former U.S. soldier who claimed the government he fought for was indeed responsible for horrendous tests on soldiers and Iraqi civilians. (This episode was broadcast on January 22, 1999. The Washington Post, January 22, 1999.)[ not specific enough to verify ] In 1999 Bell was interviewed on Larry King Live . (This was broadcast on March 5, 1999. The Washington Post, March 5, 1999.)[ not specific enough to verify ]

Progressive rock band Tool's 2001 album, Lateralus , featured a track entitled "Faaip de Oiad" (Enochian for "The Voice of God"), which includes a clip of the "distraught and terrified" Area 51 employee call from September 11, 1997.[ citation needed ]

In 2005, Bell and then-wife Ramona were featured on the ABC News special: Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs – Seeing Is Believing, which reported on the entire scope of the UFO experience, from the first sighting by Kenneth Arnold in 1947 to the present day. (This was broadcast on February 24, 2005. The Washington Post, 2-20-05.)[ not specific enough to verify ]

In 2005, snippets of Bell and callers to his show were featured on the song "Conspiracy Radio" on Sean Hogan's album Catalina Sunrise: Bell is credited for "voice-overs" on this track.[ citation needed ]

In 2006, Bell was featured in the video game Prey and played himself. He hosts, as in real life, Coast to Coast AM, and the player is able to listen to the broadcast at several terminals throughout the game. The broadcasts describe what is happening on Earth as the game unfolds. The game plot centers around a massive spaceship and alien abductions. Bell receives a number of calls about people who have seen smaller craft as they abduct people.[ citation needed ]

In 2007, Bell appeared as himself in the movie I Know Who Killed Me .[ citation needed ]

Bell appeared alongside Mark Arnold in the 2016 film titled Abduct, directed by Ilyas Kaduji and produced by Mafalda Sa. Bell plays himself as he and a group of friends try to help protect a young woman from an alien threat. [58]


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