Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Mothman: Two Legends

If you read the book "The Mothman Prophecies: A True Story" by John Keel or the movie "The Mothman Prophecies" with Richard Gere, you probably think you know about the Mothman, but the story has become nearly 75% urban legend and 25% original story. Let's try and sort the story out that began in 1966.

Starting in 1966 in the small riverside town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the northern part of the state, a series of witness accounts of an unusual cryptid began to unsettle a quiet and beautiful community.

The first reported sighting of the creature (described as man-sized with wings, and red eyes), was in 1966 when five men digging a grave saw it fly overhead. Just a few days later, two couples riding in a car at night stated a large white flying creature with glowing red eyes chased their car and had a 10-foot wingspan. They reported it flew off toward the old WWII munitions area, referred to by locals as the TNT Area.

The following few days, more people reported seeing it including some firemen. It was explained away as a large heron bird. 

One local claimed he shined a light on it and it's huge red eyes glowed. Later, he said that other occurrences around his place were blamed on the creature including his missing dog. 

The Sandhill Crane was the explanation (above). Understandably, at night it might appear white, the wingspan is impressive and might be estimated at 10 feet, and the eye area is red. 

Barn owls have also been used as an explanation that could fit. I'm not sure how anyone could misinterpret a barn owl as a man with wings, but at least they are making attempts to find a real world explanation. 

People in later years have been quick to dismiss the entire incident because of later reports that came out by supposed witnesses long after the original incidents. They were brushed aside as hoaxes, misinterpretations, and blarney. 

One year later, in 1967, the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant collapsed. Forty-six people died. In a mid 1970s book written by John Keel, the story of the Mothman takes a turn toward the concept of a harbinger of the coming disaster. The Mothman showed up in the town before the disaster and encounters increased, supposedly including the passage of information of a prophetic nature. 

This is very similar to the legend of the Bunnyman in Virginia. It began with a story of a man in a bunny suit killing people on lover's lane, morphed into an escaped mental patient hanging children from a bridge and eating rabbits in the woods as he lived in a feral manner. Over time, legends take on new interpretations and tellings. 

I have received reports from some people in West Virginia, in another area, that they had run into something that fits the description of the Mothman. There are still sightings reported today all over the world before incidents of significant occur, making even more believers in the concept Keel made popular in his book, that the Mothman was a prophet or harbinger. Here are just some sightings reported -

Huntington, West Virginia 

Supposed sighting during Japan Tsunami

There are Native legends that tell of odd creatures including the Piasa Bird of Illinois. 

Sometimes, Native legends tell us of things they have encountered. The Cherokee of that region have many amazing legends including the Thunderbird.

Source: The legend of the “Tlanuwa,” or the “Great Mythic Hawk,” is a Cherokee variation of the Thunderbird and Piasa Bird myths found in other Native American cultures. Tlanuwa were a pair of immense raptors said to live in the caves of a high cliff just below the mouth of Citco Creek on the north bank of the Little Tennessee River in Blount County. According to legend, they flew up and down the river in search of prey, even coming into villages and carrying off dogs and small children. In one famous incident, Daniel Boone claimed to have seen a giant raptor on the Tennessee River near where the Cherokee claimed the Tlanuwa made its home.

The Thunderbird is one of the most dominant icons in Native American art. Descriptions of them have been faithfully recorded for centuries in totems, carvings, pottery, cave art, and in the ancient stories of Native Americans.

The running bird-man themes run through many Native legends and makes one wonder if they had encountered such beings and how they might have interpreted these interactions. 

Julie Ferguson and I took a trek to Point Pleasant in 2013, curious about the location and as a psychic, a bit curious to feel it. 

I expected to find some tourist shops and a statue, but not much more. Neither of us expected that, as we drove over the bridge, at the same exact moment, both our cameras died.

The town was utterly charming. In fact, we got distracted driving up and down streets imagining which home we would want to live in. It is an isolated little slice of heaven. 

We got into the touristy main street and the statue to do the usual posing - 

When talking with a shop owner, we got a better sense of the continuing excitement about the Mothman. He gave us a map to the TNT bunker area and we trekked out there, but as we started to hike in, the police found us.

It was probably just as well, parked along a very isolated roadway, we stood out like a sore thumb. 

What we did experience, however, was something we didn't expect. We stood around taking pictures of the pond and enjoying the woods, but they were utterly silent. Not even a cricket or bird. We looked at each other with big eyes as a shadow flew over us, blotting out the ground as it moved. It was silent, but it was like a plane blocking out the sun. I looked up, but nothing. My sense of being watched from a tree top was an odd perspective. I was not expecting to feel such intense feelings, but the land feels very ancient. I am not surprised it is unsettled.

Although we left without inspecting the bunkers, we did both feel that the place had some interesting elements that seem to make for odd happenings. Was the Mothman still there if he had ever existed? Doubtful at this point. But, we never regretted seeing the town of Point Pleasant. The people were pleasant and the town was charming. 

*Tomorrow's post is 1950: Critical UFO Year for California?

Avian Humanoids in Native Cultures

*Tomorrow's post - 1950: Critical UFO Year for California? 

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