Fifteen years ago this month, The Mothman Prophecies hit the theaters. Based on a 1975 book by John A. Keel, it is the story of strange events that took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in the late 1960s. Richard Gere plays John Klein, a newspaper reporter who ends up investigating reports of a man-sized, winged creature – Mothman.
Klein discovers his wife (who was killed in a car accident) had been sketching the same creature prior to her death. Working with a local police officer, Connie Mills (played by Laura Linney), and another Point Pleasant resident, Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton), Klein begins to understand that the appearance of the Mothman is a harbinger of some sort of disaster. In a chilling scene, Klein has a phone conversation with Indrid Cold (the Mothman?), who proves he is a supernatural entity by answering questions only Klein should know.
The movie ends with the collapse of the Silver Bridge, where Klein saves Mills from drowning, a premonition she had earlier in the film.
The movie, directed by Mark Pellington (Arlington Road, “Cold Case”), was billed as “based on true events”; but for some reason, few people realize just how close to the truth the movie was. The truth according to John Keel, anyway. The Richard Gere character is loosely based on Keel, who was actually in Point Pleasant to investigate UFO sightings and animal mutilations. The Laura Linney character is based on Mary Hyre, a journalist for The Athens Messenger who accompanied Keel on his investigations.
Most of the supernatural phenomena depicted in the movie are also based on events that Keel related in his book. Strange phone calls with static or beeping/clicking noises, people who reported seeing the Mothman also “lost time” – meaning they thought the experience lasted only a few minutes but realized hours had passed unaccounted for. Keel also described his phone conversation with Indrid Cold and the prophecy of the Silver Bridge collapse, but they were altered in the film.
The Mothman legend isn’t limited to the Point Pleasant incident. There have been reported sightings of a similar creature all over the world – always just preceding some sort of disaster. From Chernobyl to 9/11, reports were made of bizarre winged creatures spotted in the days leading to the disaster. In a strange twist, photographs were published last November of a winged creature believed to be the Mothman, flying over Point Pleasant! Skeptics claim it’s a photo of an owl with a snake in its talons; you be the judge.
The Mothman Prophecies, while not receiving critical acclaim, was a well-made film with some genuinely creepy scenes. Anyone who has not seen it, give it a shot. Like the film, the Mothman legend does not receive enough attention. It has the potential to be another Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, or Area 51 conspiracy. The town of Point Pleasant celebrates the Mothman every September, but other than that, the legend goes largely unnoticed. For more information on the real story behind the Mothman, check out the John A. Keel author page on Amazon.
Personally, I find the Mothman legend fascinating, and the internet is rampant with theories. Many of the sightings in the late 1960s occurred near old military ammunitions bunkers and a chemical plant, leading some folks to the conclusion that Mothman is a real creature, mutated by exposure to something man-made. Other locals believe Mothman is the embodiment of the “Curse of Chief Cornstalk,” a Shawnee chief murdered in Point Pleasant back in the 1700s.
Whatever it was, over 100 sightings were reported leading up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge; then all reports stopped. Until last November.
I’m currently reading Keel’s book on the subject… stay tuned!
Tom Deady was born and raised in Malden, Massachusetts, not far from the historic (and spooky) town of Salem. He has endured a career as an IT professional, but his dream has always been to be a writer. Deady is the author of several short stories as well as a non-fiction book on the Red Sox historic 2004 season. His debut novel was Haven; and his latest, Eternal Darkness, is available now. Tom has a Masters Degree in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University; he is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the New England Horror Writers.