Jim Keith’s 1994 book Casebook on Alternative 3: UFOs, Secret Societies, and World Control (hereafter CoA3) is a book I’d been meaning to pick up for a long time. I first encountered Jim Keith on some old radios shows from back in the 1990s including Sightings on the Radio, Paranet Continuum, and Coast to Coast AM. These interviews largely revolved around his Casebook on the Men in Black. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the far more interesting work Keith was doing on more down-to-Earth conspiracy theories.
That’s where Alternative 3 comes in. I’ve long been fascinated by this story. On June 20, 1977, an episode of Anglia TV’s Science Report aired on ITV stations in the UK. This episode discussed plans for the wealthy and powerful to evacuate the planet to escape the effects of climate change and other catastrophes. It featured interviews with family members of missing scientists, people who had been hushed up, and an American astronaut who had seen things in space that he shouldn’t have.
The closing credits make clear that this was a hoax—it was intended to be broadcast on April 1 (mentioned in the credits) but network difficulties pushed it back to the summer. Despite the unreal nature of the film, it has a thin patina of credibility. It has made its way on to YouTube so you can see it for yourself.
A book based on the film followed soon afterward. One of the authors was reported to have claimed that Alternative 3 was fiction based on fact. This sparked the thing that me the most about Alternative 3. It persists in the conspiracy and paranormal literature as a source of fact. I’m currently working on a conference paper (which might turn in to something larger, stay tuned…) about the interplay between conspiracy culture and rhetoric and the media based on these theories in the 1990s. Basically, to what degree did The X-Files play off of posts on the Usenet group alt.alien.visitors and vice versa. Alternative 3 seemed like an interesting jumping off point.
I was thrilled to find a copy of ConA3 on half.com ( in decent shape and—bonus!–t with extensive and paranoid margin omments from the previous owner), since I enjoyed the other Jim Keith books I’d read and was interested in his take on this televisual hoax.
I was a bit surprised that Keith readily accepts the April Fools’ Day nature of the show. He sums up his angle of approach early on: “While perfectly secure in my knowledge that the TV show and the book are basically yellow journalism using scare tactics to makes a pound, I am a little shocked to realize that, at most levels anyway, the revelations of Alternative 3 are also true” (13). Keith, in total, spends remarkably little time on the core text of Alternative 3. Rather, he uses the themes of the show/book as a launching pad for discussing a variety of conspiratorial themes including mind control, Project Paperclip and Nazi influence on the American intelligence community, government sponsored drug trafficking, the use of the “UFO” phenomenon as a cover for various types of conspiratorial skullduggery, and so on.
Keith’s book, then, is much more of a hodgepodge than I would have liked, although it was very well written and fairly well sourced (certainly as well-sourced as conspiracy texts usually are). I was a bit disappointed by the book’s reiteration of well-worn themes (part of this is my fault—I’d read Keith’s Mind Control World Control and other books previously) but some of the themes he addresses were addressed in his previously published books Secret and Suppressed and Black Helicopters over America. The inclusion of Alternative 3 is limited to the point of feeling a bit gimmicky—more of a selling point than a true and solid focus.
This is not to say that CoA3 isn’t worth reading. On one level, there is some good information about government coverups, corporate misdealings, and the like. As a primary source for understanding approaches to conspiarcy theory in the 1990s it is excellent. I’m still in the process of doing up some of the research for this conference paper but I’m increasingly intrigued by the adoption of Alternative 3 as a sub rosa disclosure of a wide variety of hidden truths. One of the things I’m interested in is the place of Keith’s book in this strand of thought. He does relate some of the writing of conspiracy personality Mae Brussell, who believed Alternative 3 to contain truth. Keith quotes her saying the following on her radio program in 1977:
Now the thing about …Alternative 3 is that I’ve received many manuscripts and books from listeners throughout the years… but I can’t remember in 15 years of ever having a (physical) reaction…
This book made me nauseous and I wanted to vomit, and I wanted to faint. I wanted to cry, I wanted to bang the walls down, I literally had the shakes for about a week. It was so scary because it just could be the bottom line of these conspiracies.’
I believe it probably is the most important book I’ve read in many, many years…’
I don’t have any doubt in my mind that this is a very dangerous document to have, probably the most dangerous thing which I possess in my library at this point, and the only thing that will relieve the danger is to share it and disseminate the information…
‘It’s the one book that puts into focus all the books and articles which I have received for the last fifteen years (Ibid).
Jim Keith’s considerable audience and reach would seem to indicate that CoA3 would have been an important link in this chain of incorporating the Alternative 3 text into the broader canon of conspiracy theory.