In 1978, Art Bell created and hosted West Coast AM, a late-night political talk/call-in show on Las Vegas radio station KDWN. In 1988, Bell and Alan Corberth renamed the show Coast to Coast AM and moved its studios from the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas to Bell's home in Pahrump. After Bell's retirements, the show was hosted by various personalities, including Mike Siegel, George Noory, and others.
At its peak, Coast to Coast AM under Art Bell was syndicated by Premiere Radio Network, and aired on more than 500 radio stations and boasted a weekly listening audience in excess of 10 million listeners. Since 2013 the weekly listener numbers have declined to 2.5 million. According to estimates by Talkers Magazine, Coast to Coast AM has a cumulative weekly audience of around 2.75 million unique listeners listening for at least five minutes, making it the most listened-to program in its time slot.
Scholars have criticized Coast to Coast AM for promoting pseudohistoric and pseudoscientific ideas. Historian Ronald H. Fritze characterized the show as an "especially influential example" of the trend in modern media to disseminate false history and fake science.
According to State University of New York (SUNY) professor Paul Arras, early shows hosted by Art Bell featured guests that were frequently pseudoscientists, but "regardless of their reputation, all guests are presented as experts." According to Arras "Bell seems to believe much of what even his wildest guests say".Boston College professor Michael C. Keith noted a "characteristic of distrust and fear that is a part of the text of Coast to Coast —fear of the unknown, fear of invasion, fear of being taken over by some kind of evil force".
Religious Studies lecturer David G. Robertson observed that "sweeping conspiratorial revisionist histories and ancient alien narratives" are a frequent feature of the show. Nolan Higdon of California State University, East Bay speculated that programs like Coast to Coast AM that "propagate unsubstantiated claims" were "potentially dangerous".
According to The Atlantic senior editor Timothy Lavin, host George Noory "lets clearly delusional or pseudoscientific assertions slide by without challenge". Lavin wrote that "Coast to Coast AM, has perfected a charged and conspiratorial worldview that now pervades American media".
In 1998, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry awarded show host Art Bell their mocking "Snuffed Candle Award", citing his work "for encouraging credulity, presenting pseudoscience as genuine, and contributing to the public's lack of understanding of the methods of scientific inquiry".
CSI fellow Joe Nickell has appeared on the show occasionally as "a voice of skepticism", saying his goal was to explain and demystify the "bizarre topics 'Coast to Coast' deals with" such as Bigfoot and ghosts.
Bell was the original host of the show, starting in 1988. He announced his retirement in 2000, but would return as show host, retire, and return again a number of times. Bell died in April 2018.
Mike Siegel hosted the show from April 2000 until February 2001. He became a frequent substitute for Bell in late 1999, and when Bell announced his retirement in early 2000, he recommended Siegel to succeed him. Siegel maintained the format of the show that Bell had created, but his personal style was very different, and the show became less popular. Siegel hosted the show from Seattle, Washington, where he lived. Early in 2001, Bell decided to return, and Siegel left the show.
Ian Punnett hosted the show sporadically, as either guest host or main host, between 1998 and 2012.
John B. Wells
In January 2012, John B. Wells replaced Punnett as host of the Saturday evening and the second Sunday evening programs.
George Noory first took over show hosting duties in 2003 as a replacement for Bell, but was temporarily discontinued after Bell returned citing disagreements with Noory. After Bell's death in April 2018, Noory said that the two were "not that close" personally and that there were major differences in their approaches. Despite this, Noory said that Bell was "instrumental in me being where I am right now." Noory currently hosts the show on weeknights and on the first Sunday of every month.
George Knapp joined the show in 2007, and is currently hosting every third and fourth Sundays of every month.
Richard C. Hoagland, former museum curator who was a major figure in the show's history, discussing issues relating to NASA's activities, space anomalies and alleged extraterrestrial architecture (the Face on Mars and vast glass domes on the Moon). Hoagland was replaced as "science adviser" by Robert Zimmerman in June 2015 and developed digital radio chat-shows of his own.
Linda Moulton Howe, reporter and ufologist. Famous as pioneer in the study of cattle mutilations and crop circles.
UFO Phil (aka Phil Hill), a comedic singer, songwriter, and claimed alien abductee. He created the program's Friday end theme, "Listening to Coast to Coast". He has appeared in various media venues, including UFO Phil: The Movie (2008) and The Gong Show.
Peter Ward, paleontologist who specializes in mass extinctions who is famous for his Rare Earth hypothesis.
Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics who discusses his research with implants, artificial intelligence and robotics – especially cyborgs.
Gail Lynn, inventor of the Harmonic Egg and author of Unlocking the Ancient Secrets to Healing
Several shows associated with Coast to Coast AM have aired in the slot immediately preceding the late Saturday night edition of the program, from 6–10 p.m. Pacific Time.
Dreamland was another Art Bell creation, nearly identical to Coast to Coast AM but less caller driven. Bell recorded Dreamland on Friday afternoons where the show streamed live over the Internet and listeners could call in towards the end of the show. The show then aired at various times on different stations during the weekend, but doing eight shows a week got to be too much and he handed over control of the show to Whitley Strieber. Many affiliates aired the show before Coast to Coast AM on Sunday nights, but Premiere Radio pre-empted that time spot after it began to syndicate Matt Drudge, and then dropped the program entirely.
Coast to Coast Live
Upon Art Bell's January 2006 return, Ian Punnett hosted Coast to Coast Live on Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern Time. A spin-off of the original Coast to Coast AM, the show covered similar topics as its flagship program. With Bell's July 2007 retirement, Coast to Coast Live was discontinued, with Punnett returning to host the regular Saturday edition.
Art Bell, Somewhere in Time
Replacing Coast to Coast Live in the late Saturday time slot is a series of reruns of classic Art Bell episodes of Coast to Coast AM, airing under the title Somewhere in Time.
Midnight in the Desert
Midnight in the Desert is a live radio and podcast which Art Bell founded. The program was later hosted by Heather Wade and then by Dave Schrader.