The unacknowledged son of one of America's most popular talk show hosts works in the mailroom at Philadelphia magazine.
As a kid Vincent Pontius watched In Search of ... religiously, reveling in the show's mixture of myth and mystery. Did the lost city of Atlantis ever exist? How were the pyramids of Egypt built? Were growing reports of UFO-related abductions real? What about unknown animals, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster? What happens to us when we die?
Pontius ate it all up and asked for seconds. He read fantasy novels and later, as an adult, followed The X-Files right down to the final, almost universally unwatched episodes.
Exploring the fantastic offered refuge to a kid whose life was always overly complicated.
He and his younger sister grew up without knowing their birth father, a man who left when Pontius was just 3 years old. His mother remarried about two years later but that man left when Pontius was around 13.
Issues? Pontius had them. Trust issues. Abandonment issues. He always needed to be in a relationship. He just couldn't maintain one. Both he and his sister say they were sexually abused in the years after their birth father left. (The person they allege preyed upon them isn't named anywhere in this article because no criminal charges have been filed.) Only the last few years have brought him any peace.
Two years ago he discovered he had a 12-year-old daughter of his own. He's now 41, married, the father of a little girl he didn't know existed until recently, and he and his wife are expecting a child of their own in January. He supervises the mailroom at Philadelphia magazine, tucked away in a windowless office on the 36th floor of a sleek city office tower that boasts views stretching miles.
His interest in the paranormal continues unabated. In some ways that facet of his personality may seem more important now than it did when he was a child. Because about 10 years ago his sister made contact with their birth father, who was by then the king of the paranormal--radio talk show legend Art Bell.
Bell founded the Coast to Coast radio show, specializing in paranormal topics, in the '90s, tapping into an interest in UFOs and ghosts that few before knew existed on quite this scale. Though he's been in a kind of semiretirement for several years now, broadcasting mostly on the weekends, the Coast brand has continued on, hosted by George Noory and available in Philadelphia on 1210 WPHT-AM from 2 to 5 a.m. weekdays. The show's website lists roughly 520 affiliates, literally extending from coast to coast, uniting millions of listeners around the subject of the paranormal, and potentially casting some light on Pontius' paranormal fixation.
"I don't know," says Pontius. "Does it explain anything?"
He finds it hard to believe his father's interests could've been passed on to him--by nature or nurture. Strangely enough, his sister harbors the same interests, saying she "got used to being the only girl in the science-fiction aisle at the bookstore."
"I have no memory of him whatsoever," says Vincent Pontius. "The first time I ever saw him was on the Larry King show, after my sister had found him."
|When Lisa Minei contacted Bell a second time, he sent a letter along with a copy of his autobiography.|
According to Pontius' mother Sachiko Toguchi, when they married she was 22 and Bell was 20. They met in Japan, where Bell served in the Air Force, and moved back to the States after marrying. Vincent Michael Bell was born in 1965, in Newark, N.J., but the trio moved back to Okinawa when Toguchi grew homesick.
The marriage lasted only a few years. Toguchi says that after she gave birth to Vincent's sister Lisa, Bell told her he was leaving.
"He told me he thought he could [be a husband and father], but he couldn't do it," says Sachiko Toguchi during a phone interview from Camp Hill, Pa. "Having two kids, a wife, he was not up to it. It was too much for him. I think he was [caught between] being a boy and a man."
Bell, for his part, acknowledges fathering both Vincent, whom he calls "Michael," and Lisa during a phone interview with PW. He declines to talk about why the relationship ended. "That was 40 years ago," he says. "I'm not sure what purpose it serves."
Toguchi was left to take care of two small children on her own. When she remarried about two years later, her new husband adopted the kids, freeing Bell from any legal obligations. Bell started living the life that made him famous.
His online bio says he was a licensed FCC technician by age 13, and that as a DJ in Okinawa he landed in the Guinness Book of Records for a 116-hour-15-minute solo broadcast marathon. (The bio makes no mention of a wife or children at that time.)