Legendary radio host Art Bell, whose paranormal-themed show “Coast to Coast AM” was once one of the most popular shows in the United States, died on Friday the 13th at his Nevada home, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 72.
Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly confirmed in a brief statement that Bell was found dead on Friday at his home in Pahrump, which is a large town about 47 miles west of Las Vegas.
“He’s scheduled for an autopsy later this week to determine the cause of death,” Sheriff Wehrly said. Other details about Bell’s death were not immediately released.
Bell created the paranormal and conspiracy theory-themed radio show “Coast to Coast AM” in 1984 and hosted it for nearly 20 years. The 5-hour show was syndicated across the U.S. and Canada, receiving up to 10 million listeners a week.
The show was particularly popular among people working the night shift and those with an interest in UFOs and other paranormal beliefs. Bell’s proximity to Area 51 – the top-secret Air Force facility which is the subject of scores of conspiracy theories – added to his mystique.
Bell caused a scare among his listeners in 1998 when he abruptly announced his departure, telling the audience at the end of a show that his family had been affected by a “threatening, terrible event.” It prompted calls to police and wild speculation, ranging from a hoax to government threats or an alien abduction.
“I don’t want to sound too far-fetched, but what’s weird is that he always talked about government conspiracies and stuff, about high-tech secret stuff,” one listener told the Seattle Times in 1998. “I wondered if some of those secret organizations really do exist, and that Art was bringing up too many things on the air, and they told him to shut down or else.”
Bell’s show was broadcast on approximately 500 North American radio stations during its peak in the 1990s. Bell’s program aired from his hometown of Pahrump before he left the late-night show in 2002. He had a brief stint on SiriusXM satellite radio in 2013, the Review-Journal reported.
Bell was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on June 17, 1945. He was a medic during the Vietnam War. He retired several times in his career, which included a short-lived show on SiriusXM satellite radio in 2013.
Returning to terrestrial radio afterward was not a difficult decision, he told the Pahrump Valley Times in August 2013.
“That’s easy, because I love it,” he said at the time. “It’s my life, and that’s all I have ever done. I went through a lot of family problems, so that interrupted things, and I was overseas for four years, and that certainly interrupted things. I went back into radio because I love it.”
Fans took to Twitter to pay tribute to the much loved radio host.