Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Into the Lair of the Mothman - My Visit to Point Pleasant, WV

I've previously written a review of both the book and film The Mothman Prophecies, so I won't rehash the background here.

On a trip to Illinois to set up my new home, I took a side trip to Point Pleasant, WV, made infamous by the Mothman legend. The town has adopted some aspect of paranormal tourism, though not as full-blown as Roswell. The following are some images from that trip.

The Curse of Cornstalk has long been suggested as having something to do with Mothman and the Silver Bridge collapse. The Mothman has also been linked to "Indian burial grounds," that time honored source of American paranormal mayhem. Specifically, the TNT area (see below) is supposed to be such a site, and is one of the reasons why ghost hunters now visit it.

Part of a town historical exhibit of the Indian wars in the area, focusing on Cornstalk (on the left)

The town's shiny Mothman statue was inspired less by the descriptions than by some Frazetta cover art for one edition of Keel's book

I bought a homemade and expensive Mothman statue here. However, in doing so, I got the inside scoop on where to find some open bunkers at the TNT area, and was shown some pictures of "orbs" taken there by the proprietor. Speaking of which, several people asked me if my visit was in response to a recent episode of Paranormal State, which visited Point Pleasant. I've never seen the show.

While photographing the Mothman statue, I noticed the local Odd Fellows lodge, and no. 33 to boot (a number of interest to those interested in Masonic symbolism). Odd Fellows have always interested me, as their lodges regularly turn up a literal skeleton in the closet (apparently used in rituals symbolizing mortality) when demolished or abandoned.

The front of the Mothman Museum. I actually greatly enjoyed the museum, and it beats some other paranormal museums I've visited. In particular, I liked that it had many original artifacts, including clippings, eyewitness manuscripts, and items related to John Keel. It has been open for about five years.

About a third of the museum holds props and costumes from the movie The Mothman Prophecies. I didn't care about that (though I did notice the Chapstick). I was more interested in the rest of the museum. Note the MIB (Man in Black), an integral part of Mothman lore after Keel's book.

Point Pleasant hosts a Mothman Festival in September.

Cryptozoology is big in Japan, a country that loves its monsters. Below are Japanese toys of the Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster, an apparition associated with a UFO flap in West Virginia in 1952.

Here we have the stuff that interested me most. Original documents associated with the Mothman legend, and John Keel. Below is an early draft of what became Keel's book.

This letter by Keel captures much of the feel of the book. The letter is specifically about the Men in Black. They too were running around Point Pleasant and harassing Keel and friends. It appears at least some of the harassment was actually Gray Barker, making strange phone calls, unbeknownst to Keel. Note the inscription at the bottom. Keel was talking to numerous UFO contactees, and began to believe some disaster would take place tied to the sightings and prophecies.

Original early eyewitness report (possibly the first) of Mothman.

Original newspaper clippings give some idea of the scope of the sightings, and their association with UFO sightings. While Mothman is the most remembered part, it was part of a Point Pleasant UFO flap, which was in turn part of a national UFO wave.

The Mothman legend has become inextricably linked with the collapse of the Silver Bridge. After 13 months of Mothman sightings, the Silver Bridge in town collapsed, a major national tragedy. The Mothman has become famous, being interpreted as something akin to a banshee.

New bridge

Many of the Mothman sightings took place in an army ordinance storage area, the "TNT Area." After getting my hand drawn map and directions, I headed out there. After having minimal luck finding a crash site outside of Roswell, I was determined to get into a good part of the TNT area.

A rise in trash was a clue to finding some of the open bunkers. Guess that archaeology PhD comes in handy. This, and a lead I got in town allowed me to find some of the bunkers. A shopkeeper in town, who sells mothman statues, regularly goes in there and photographs "orbs" (a crossover from ghost hunting, which makes sense as local lore holds that the TNT is an "Indian Burial Ground"). I didn't buy a print of the orb photos, but I did buy one of the statues. In return he hand drew me a map to get me to this specific part of the depot site.

Once I got on the path, I ran into three teenagers. They warned me not to venture in alone, as something might "get me." I thanked them for the advice, and pressed on.

The nearby pond looked like the perfect home for some sort of swamp monster. Photo and video

One of the bunkers. I took some video too. Narration could be better and more courageous-sounding

Did my hunt meet with success? Well ...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Extraterrestrial UFO Hypothesis

I just saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While it makes a total mockery of Mesoamerican archaeology (my professional forte), it was an entertaining movie. I'd rate it higher than the second or third films, but not close to the original.

It is also an interesting movie from the perspective of UFOs. The following will spoil the movie in a large way, so I suggest you don't read if you don't want to be spoiled.


A fair amount of interest in alt/psuedo-archaeology and ufology was involved in the making of this movie. I'll note some of the highlights

1.) The title character (aka Henry Jones Jr., PhD) was involved with the Roswell UFO recovery. However, the film takes its cues not from the Roswell narratives, but from a mix of Area 51/Groom Lake stories about security, and some elements of UFO crash retrieval stories that started appearing in the 1950s. Jones says he was called out in the middle of the night by government agents, forced to board a bus with blacked-out windows along with other scientists with whom he was not allowed to talk. They were each shown some of the Roswell wreckage and remains, but not given any real idea of what they were looking at, and were then sworn to secrecy on pain of treason. The idea of specialists being brought in dates back to the early 1950s in crash stories, but the blacked-out bus is similar to a specific crash retrieval tale dating to 1973, and stories of some of the security at Groom Lake.

It should also be noted that an archaeologist or archaeological team has been part of some versions of the Roswell story for decades. In the Roswell narratives, the team stumbles across the wreckage, they are not brought in to consult.

2.) Groom Lake/Area 51 vaguely makes an appearance as "Hangar 51" in Nevada.

3.) The "aliens" (more on that in a minute) are classical Grays. At least the ones recovered from UFO crashes (more on that too). Later in the film, other "aliens" are met that look like Grays, but rather than being stereotypically short, tower over humans.

4.) By 1957, there have been at least two other UFO crashes from which the Soviet Union was able to retrieve bodies. The idea of multiple crashes dates back as far as 1950 and Frank Scully's Behind the Flying Saucers.

5.) Unlike most Roswell stories, the FBI is aware of the case and at least somewhat involved. By contrast, Hoover is on record complaining about lack of access to Roswell materials.

6.) Here's the biggie: The movie favors extradimensional or ultraterrestrial "aliens" to space-faring ETs. It is explicitly and repeatedly mentioned that the aliens are from another dimension, from the "space between spaces." They have a flying saucer, but it disappears through an extradimensional portal, and does not zoom into outer space.

This is a very interesting little fact. Spielberg, one of the most successful promoters of interest in UFOs through his movies, has given the most public support for extradimensional ideas over the ET hypothesis. This is not a surprise. In his movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. one of the main characters is a French ufologist based on Jacques Vallee. Vallee would go on to suspect human involvement in many UFO cases, but in the 1970s, was part of a small group that suggested extradimensional explanations for UFOs over space-faring ETs. Another proponent at that time was Dr. J. A. Hynek, the designer of the close encounter classification system. As a result of legal action, Hynek got a cameo in Close Encounters. Hynek was the scientific advisor to Project Blue Book and had a high profile regarding UFOs, but by the 1970s had left the mainstream views on the subject and became what some called a "demonologist."

I'm not saying this movie will sound the deathknell for the public's widely held equation of UFO = space-faring ET. But it will likely make the ultraterrestrial/extradimensional memes much more popular.

7.) Ancient astronaut ideas are the core of the film. Some reference von Daniken's main memes about the Nazca lines being involved with aliens, or ancient artwork showing spacesuits. The visitors teach the locals agriculture, irrigation, and other technologies. But other ideas are reminiscent of Zecharia Sitchin. In particular, the legend in the film is that the gods (aliens) ordered the people of South America to build a city of gold. This turns out to be a misunderstanding of pseudo-Maya translations of "treasure" but nonetheless the gold and ancient astronaut mix sounds familiar.

I'll be curious to see what effect this has on popular ideas about UFOs.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Charles Fort Files

A project to index the numerous anomaly reports of Charles Fort. His books are not organized easily as reference materials, but this site will attempt to mine the books for that purpose.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Visited Point Pleasant - Home of the Mothman

On a trip to establish myself at my new job posting, I took a little time to visit Point Pleasant, the infamous town haunted by, amongst other things, the legend of the Mothman. I'll be putting up photo, and maybe video, at some point in the near future. It was quite fun.