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 ...


Macavity said...

Great post, you're a braver man than I!

duckvaudeville said...

What a great post! I love the videos.

crowmagnumman said...

That was awesome. I've always wanted to go there. Thanks for virtually taking me on a tour of the place.

Don Elswick said...

I was just a kid living in north east Ohio when the bridge fell. We have family in WV and traveled across that bridge all the time. We were to cross the bridge the day it fell.

Anonymous said...

Wow this is so crazy! I've actally seen the mothman right outside of fort lee in va. Scared me 2 death! I couldn't believe my eyes!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I believe you actually saw a Mothman. They do exist.

Anonymous said...

My firat love just died, and all these mothshave been hovering over and over his mother and sister mean anything?