Monday, February 1, 2016

Page 196: Mothman

The Mothman is a cryptid which, according to Deborah Dixon, is “one of Forteana’s key figures” (195–6). One night in November 1966, two couples driving through a remote area north of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, spotted what appeared to be a man with wings hobbling along the road. Although they drove off frightened, the thing flew after them and chased the car down Route 66 at speeds topping 100 miles per hour.

Over the course of the next year, local residents reported UFOs and more sightings of the mysterious figure, which the media dubbed “The Mothman.” John Keel, a researcher of the unexplained, visited the town and conducted interviews with the eye-witnesses. The results of his investigation—along with his own theories about UFOs, Men in Black, etc.—became the basis of his book The Mothman Prophecies (1975), which was turned into a movie in 2002. By this point, the film bore little resemblance to the original sighting, with the Mothman transformed into an omen portending death. As Dixon notes, the character of the Mothman changed and deviated further with each step of its legend, from the original eyewitness accounts, to the police, to the media representations of the story, to Keel’s interpretation via his theoretical perspective, to the motion picture.
Not The Mothman Prophecies (1975), but The Eighth Tower (1975) is my favorite of John Keel's books.
The release of the movie coincided with the first annual Mothman festival in Point Pleasant. The following year, a twelve-foot tall metallic statue was installed in town.

The Mothman statue in Point Pleasant, WV
[photo by Jimmy Emerson  under Creative Commons]./td>
As with the other legends in the book, I had a lot of fun re-imagining this venerable character for The Billionth Monkey. Making the character female also struck me as a fun and unexpected twist on the gender presumed by the name “Mothman.” And The Billionth Monkey is all about fun.

FOR FURTHER READING

Deborah Dixon. “A Benevolent and Sceptical Inquiry: Exploring ‘Fortean Geographies’ with the Mothman.” Cultural Geographies 2007, 14(2): 189–210.

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