UNIDENTIFIED FLYING BOOGEYMAN
by John M. Floyd
This past Tuesday my wife and I returned from a week-long road trip to visit our oldest son and his family in Parkersburg, West Virginia. It’s a friendly city with an interesting history, set in a beautiful part of the country—and it’s located about fifty miles northeast of a place that I’d heard about long ago, a place known for what some would say are the wrong reasons.
I’m referring to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a small town on the bank of the Ohio River. Point Pleasant gained national attention in the 1960s, when a number of its residents reported sightings of a winged creature (UFB?) later dubbed the Mothman. Described as a human-like, seven-foot-tall monster with glowing red eyes, it was said to live in an abandoned munitions factory nearby, and appeared only at night. As some of you might already know, it became the subject of a 1975 book, a 2002 feature film, and a 2011 documentary.
The book is The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, which I’ve not read, and the documentary is Matthew J. Pellowski’s Eyes of the Mothman, which I thought was fascinating and well done. But the real reason I chose this for my column today is the movie, also called The Mothman Prophecies. It features Richard Gere and Laura Linney, and does an impressive job of fictionalizing the sightings and the legend, as well as the events that preceded one of the worst disasters in our nation’s history: the December 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge between Point Pleasant and Kanauga, Ohio. Almost fifty people died in that tragedy, which happened during rush-hour traffic, and to this day some believe it was connected to the Mothman himself. (There are two reasons for this. One is that there were no more reports of sightings after that date; the other is that witnesses claim to have seen the strange creature perched on the bridge’s railing moments before its collapse into the Ohio River.)
Be advised, I wouldn’t say TMP is an outstanding film—it seems a little haphazard and disjointed at times—but overall it’s a good horror story, sort of a paranormal mystery, and contains the kind of eerie tension and anticipation that, besides being entertaining to viewers, can be instructive to writers of suspense fiction. These are characters that you come to care about, and there’s a satisfying surprise ending.
So that’s the lowdown. For more than four decades now, the Mothman sightings have remained unexplained—but they have also remained disproven. Besides, the people who say they saw the creature actually believe they saw it, and that alone makes the legend interesting. Watch the documentary and you’ll see what I mean.
Do I like this kind of story? You bet I do. Do I think the Mothman is real? Well, no. I don’t believe in the Mothman any more than I believe in the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot.
But I also made sure our recent travels through that area took place during daylight hours.
Just in case . . .