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The Mothman Cometh
Unless it's the Chinese tunnels of the Central Valley, Native wolf spirits or fake Merced lights, there just aren't that many local urban legends.
But thank goodness Mothman, the red-eyed, winged creature of mid-1960s West Virginia lore doesn't often pack his bags for Fresno or Bakersfield.
I don't hear of him popping into living rooms or standing in the middle of vineyards, spooking farm workers as some ominous foreshadowing of pesticide gloom. As far as I can tell, there have been no mushroom clouds in the nearby desert with images of the creature flapping his wings merrily in apocalyptic fashion.
Yet, while researching Mothman for the mysterious places section of Random Obsessions, I have to admit I got freaked out. I peeked out windows late at night. Creeking doors got me out of bed and windstorms made me think at least once: "What if Mothman can howl?"
After all, it's just an urban legend, right?
When writer Christopher Knowles (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths, and the Movies, Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes) told me about Andrew Colvin, I didn't know what to think. I was just looking for people connected to Mothman, who might talk about past sightings or strange beliefs in the creature.
Already, my own publisher, Viva Editions, was strangely connected to the ordeal. Brenda Knight's uncle saw the creature in 1966 at an old TNT factory where young couples drove to make out. Brenda was six years old at the time. Just a few month later she almost died in the Silver Bridge collapse of 1967.
Her mother was driving in the next car that was going to drive onto the bridge that suddenly fell beneath Christmas shoppers on Dec. 15. Thirty-seven cars plunged into the Ohio River. Strange connections.
Colvin and I spoke late one night early this year. When I started talking to him, he said his life was in turmoil. He was out in Cincinnati with an investigator searching out local legends. His conversation was jumpy. He seemed spooked that Brenda was linked to the creature. He kept saying "synchronicities." I imagined him looking over his shoulder as he spoke strangely, even about the investigator: "His sister saw something she thinks was Mothman right after hurricane Ike," he said. "She had other things go on at her house."
Possibly the most bizarre twist on the Mothman legend comes from Colvin, author of The Mothman's Photographer: The Work of an Artist Touched by the Prophecies of the Infamous Mothman and The Mothman's Photographer II: Meetings With Remarkable Witnesses Touched by Paranormal Phenomena, UFOs, and the Prophecies of West Virginia's Infamous Mothman.
Colvin is a photographer of what he calls "normal life" and is also a videographer. He also claimed to be a Mothman witness who once saw the creature in 1973 masquerading as a tree in the same area where others witnessed lights and strange MIB.
Colvin called it an area of synchronicities and also said there was a car bombing and a suitcase filled with heroin later found at that tree. There is also an infamous photo of Mothman allegedly peering into Colvin's bedroom. It looks oddly like a tribal birdman mask propped outside his window.
Colvin, who defines Mothman as a spooky supernatural creature, wrote in his blog on Dec. 26, 2008, "Mothman definitely seems to be trying to expose an internationalist, globalist, fascist, military-industrial elite spiderweb."
What? So Mothman isn't a mutant stork, or a prop in a cheesy Richard Gere movie, but a creature of conspiracy warnings and of the supernatural? It was hard to peg Colvin to one simple description of what the creature signifies.
On the Amazon.com product description for his works, Colvin strays from any scary perception of Mothman. He instead describes the rash of ongoing sightings as that of an avenging angel, "an archetypal protector deity sending dreams, visions, and prophecies to psychically enhanced experiences."
Colvin definitely believes Mothman is an embodiment of the Hindu Garuda or Thunderbird, a birdman creature from the supernatural world that brings warnings to those who see it. "Some people are traumatized by it and they don't have a context for seeing it in a wider sense," he said. "Seeing things that are supernatural can have a positive effect, because Native Americans certainly see it that way. If you see a thunderbird you're put in a sort of medicine man society. You're revered by the culture," he said.
So then how come so many people connected to Mothman die, or go insane? I didn't ask. After all, I didn't want to curse myself.
Colvin said the birdman version of Mothman doesn't get out.
"They've really paired down the story," Colvin said of whoever controls the Wikipedia site on Mothman. He was quite disturbed by a lack of information on the Web. He even claimed that when he has tried to add to the legend, the information disappears.
Colvin said the real problem is that some people who see the creature aren't seeing it in a wider, more supernatural aspect. Claiming that many witnesses have made the connection that Mothman is a mythical being making psychic warnings, Colvin goes on to tie the creature to Union Carbide, the Philadelphia Experiment, UFOs, MLK and Robert Kennedy assassination prophecies and 9/11. He also says there is a tie-in to Mound, West Virginia, where some of those who saw Mothman are from. This is the same neighborhood where Charles Manson and other notorious killers are from, including perpetrators of the Jonestown Massacre. Colvin also grew up in that same neighborhood.
In fact one of his strangest stories is of a friend who he claims is now cut off from him, and is a genius son of a NASA worker. "She [mother] flat out doesn't want anybody to know who he is," he said. He claimed his old friend works for NASA now too. He said when he was young, his 7-year-old friend who was ridiculed by classmates to the point where he almost had to leave school "was contacting Mothman a lot" in a bedroom. He claimed in 1967 his old friend was shown his entire life by the creature, including 9/11.
Colvin also said his father worked on the Philadelphia Experiment, worked for Union Carbide and died from a rare form of cancer that only Union Carbide workers contracted. He stated on his blog, "…my life is still undergoing big changes, all which seem to have been presaged, or perhaps mirrored by, the powerful paranormal forces I engaged when I began to look back at all that happened in WV [West Virginia] during the Mothman days."
According to Colvin, he is still making discoveries about Mothman, most of which have come after 1993. He also connects the sighting of a giant being in Flatwoods, West Virginia to Mothman. Mothman and the Flatwoods spaceman were seen in the same area. In his blog, Colvin claimed the U.S. government was behind any watering down of the Mothman stories and that sightings have continued well past 1967 and the Silver Bridge collapse.
"Well as far as in general, I don't think people are tagging onto the story. I don't think people are faking Mothman sightings. They trickle in now and then. There's usually some that are pretty believable. I think there are a lot of people who probably don't say anything."
In recent non-public conversations on Twitter, people in southern Ohio, which borders where Mothman sightings took place in the 1960s, told me that many Mothman stories do exist and that people simply won't talk about them. One woman claimed her grandfather had several related stories. But he refused to speak to the media.
Colvin said he has experienced Mothman phenomenon other than his first sighting. "We were back at this site where people and others saw this creature. We felt like we were seeing three beings that were shimmering. There was a fourth figure sort of shuttering about in the trees. It took me years to realize the fourth thing was observing the process and watching us react. I had two credible different reports of people seeing a big one and 3 subsidiary ones."
Colvin spends a lot of time interviewing witnesses. Early this year, he traveled back to Point Pleasant with Dave Scott of Passing Lane Investigations to do more filming for his series. "Four of these creatures are being seen within the last year," Colvin said. He said now that his story is out he occasionally hears from others. "I'm just here and stuff trickles in. I don't have an agenda," he claimed.
One man who was going through a divorce possibly saw the Mothman creature in his bedroom in 2005. Colvin said the man emailed him.
One theory he has is that people's likelihood of seeing a Mothman creature is when they're more of a novice to the whole situation. "These things are linked to psychic and personal development," he said. "Synchronicities increase during such breakthroughs."
What's most important about the Mothman legend is for people to talk about synchronicities in their life. "Follow and pay attention to them," he said. "They're unexplainable because they're so random they defy explanation. But they can be a really helpful thing."
I have to admit that talking to Colvin was difficult at times. As his conversation jumped between strange related topics, I found my own mind wandering. Outside, the wind was blowing. Here in the southern Central Valley there are no monstrous urban legends. It's more likely that a mutant black widow will grow to the size of a house before locals start seeing shimmering Mothmen. I was suddenly craving writing some really good crime news. You know the stories: gang shootings on Central California streets.
I started listening to Colvin again. "Now that I have the basic story out, I'm not obsessed," he said. I suddenly felt like I was talking to the strangest guy in the U.S. You know, if he were in the Central Valley, he would be driving up and down Highway 99 every night just looking for anything weird. "I don't have an agenda," he said. "I just fly back [to West Virginia] and stuff happens."
Editor's Note: This is an exclusive story from author/blogger/journalist Nick Belardes, who will be in town this weekend promoting his book, Random Obsessions. You can hear him speak at 11:30 a.m. Oct 3 on the lawn at the Fresno Met, or catch him at his book signing 2 p.m. at Barnes and Nobles in Riverpark. The story didn't make the book's final edit. It was just too weird. But it's a great way to start off October.