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Mothman Sightings Continue And Cryptotourism Soars

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 25th, 2011

The Mothman, as illustrated by artist Bill Rebsamen, was created for the cover of Mothman And Other Curious Encounters. This is the image that the late Linda Scarberry said looked the closest to any she had ever seen made.

September 16, 17, and 18, 2011, was the weekend of Point Pleasant’s Mothman Festival. The events celebrating the sightings of Mothman in 1966-1967, have created a new cryptotourism industry in that small West Virginia Ohio River community, which was dying before the movie came out in 2002.  Click here for their local page on the Mothman Festival.

As we move into the 10th year since the film appeared and the start of the 45th year since the modern-era Mothman sightings, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on comments I made in 2002 to USA Today.  It has come to my attention that a citation to this article was just added to Wikipedia’s entry for Mothman by some anonymous Wiki-editor. The news item was, in part, about how the sightings have already and will continue.  I further noted I felt Point Pleasant would become a mecca for travelers. Intriguingly, during all my recent visits to Point Pleasant (in 2001, 2002, and 2011), people there openly discussed the continuing sightings of Mothman.

Loren Coleman, with visitors and Ken Gerhard, at the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, March 2011.

I also want to take this opportunity to agree with author Andy Colvin about this one simple fact: The sightings are still taking place today and did not stop with the Silver Bridge collapse in 1967.

Here is a reprint of that old predictive article:

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01/23/2002 - USA Today

‘Mothman’ sightings will continue

By Stephen Schaefer, USA TODAY

Melissa Moseley, AP
Dan Callahan, left, and Richard Gere in The Mothman Prophecies, opening in theaters Friday.

Until now, the Mothman has been known only to a devoted, cultlike few. That’s certain to change with The Mothman Prophecies, out Friday and starring Richard Gere. The otherworldly 7-foot, red-eyed, winged apparition known as Mothman might even become a pop-culture totem, like Bigfoot.

John A. Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies is based on paranormal events the author experienced and studied in Point Pleasant, W.Va., in 1966-67, while writing about UFOs for Playboy. It’s not giving away too much to say the residents were hearing and seeing things, culminating in a bridge collapse that cost 46 lives.

Because the thriller is advertised as “based on true events,” Keel,Mothman director Mark Pellington and Mothman expert Loren Coleman (featured at 10 ET/PT Wednesday night on the FX channel documentary Searching for the Mothman) reveal the “truths” behind the film.

“Maybe we should have said ‘inspired by true events,’ ” a cheerful Pellington says.

Says Coleman, who has published a book on the “dark and sinister” subject: “Pellington’s made it a psychological thriller and not a monster movie. With this movie, Point Pleasant will become like Roswell and explode with tourism.”

In the film, Washington Post reporter John Klein, played by Gere, investigates the strange goings-on.

“That’s fiction,” Pellington says.

But a few truths are out there:

  • Frightened teens. “That came right out of the book,” Pellington says. “Keel describes two kids who had sex who felt this thing attack them.”
  • Says Coleman, who interviewed one of them: “A huge creature about 7 feet tall with huge wings and red eyes shuffled toward them, they ran to the car, and at 100 mph drove back to Point Pleasant. They could see the creature flapping right behind them.”

  • Sad sack. Will Patton (TV’s The Agency) plays a man going nuts from his encounters with the Mothman, who takes the form of Gere’s Klein. “He’s invented, a composite of two of the major witnesses who had intense Mothman manifestations,” Pellington says. “Like Alan Bates says to Klein in the film, ‘It’s perception, John. They appear differently to everybody. A man, a voice, a light, a monster.’ That I wrote.”
  • The scientist. Bates (Gosford Park) plays Alexander Leek, driven mad by his Mothman encounter. Leek is fictional, but the name is a clue: It’s Keel spelled backward.
  • Says Keel, 72: “The book tells what happened to me. Alan Bates gives a Keel speech, almost word for word, of what I’ve been saying for years.”

  • The tragedy. As for the Silver Bridge collapse, “that happened in 1967,” Pellington says. “It was explained as metal fatigue. Once the bridge came down, the phone calls and sightings stopped. That’s why it became legendary and why people blamed a force.”

Coleman says that is fiction. “Sightings continue.”

The real Keel, unlike Gere’s Klein, was nowhere near the bridge that day. “I knew the exact time it was going to happen, but you couldn’t warn anyone because it might cause a panic, and it might not be true.”

He knew because “I was getting these damned mysterious phone calls, just like in the movie.”

The film has 36 people dying, not 46, but the studio didn’t “want to kill too many,” Pellington says. “My father’s football number was 36, and 40 was too many.”

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About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


4 Responses to “Mothman Sightings Continue And Cryptotourism Soars”

  1. Zabo responds:

    don’t know about this mothman stuff. so all i will say is after 40years not one photo of this beast? not even a fake photo? but only time will tell!

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    Actually, fake Mothman photographs, ficitionalized images of Mothman, and alleged pictures of non-West Virginia Mothman-types are rather easy to find online. Type in “Mothman photographs” at Google Images, for example.

    A photograph of Mothman climbing on the upper supports of the Silver Bridge has made the rounds for years.

    One even reportedly was pushed forward of “Mothman” photographed near the Twin Towers during the 9/11 events. Most serious researchers, however, consider those “Mothmen” to be pigeons.

  3. Hapa responds:

    Very interesting that the Mothman sightings continue. I didn’t realize they were still being spotted in the Point Pleasant area. Do the sightings follow a pattern, i.e. are there periods where sightings suddenly spike and then fall? That would be interesting to know. Makes me also wonder if there is a connection somehow between it and the Jersey Devil.

  4. Oz responds:

    While I found the first part of the film (before the arrival in Point Pleasant) pretty boring, the rest was quite enjoyable. I did irritate my wife, who was watching with me, by constantly pointing out where the movie agreed with or deviated from the book.

    As for the book itself, regardless of the truth and/or accuracy of each event, I think it is one of the best embodiments of the zeitgeist of the 60s I have ever seen. We were all a little mad back then.



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