Sunday, 7 September 2008

Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn't take Lorraine out then he'd melt my brain.

OK so imagine for a moment that Christopher Lloyd knocks on your door one night wearing an all in one reactor suit, his hair wild and white, while a smoking hot car cools in the background. And, because Christopher Lloyd is the greatest man to have ever lived, he gives you the opportunity to visit any time or place in history.

Where would you go? Maybe 27th Century Egypt to watch the first of the great pyramids built before your very own eyes? Or maybe Dallas, Texas, November 22 1963, to see what was really on the grassy knoll (Gee note: I mean outside of grass obviously). Or maybe go back and visit some wonderful moment of your own past? Your first kiss, or your child's first smile?

Me? I'd definitely hit the 60's. And definitely America. But not Dallas, Texas. Not Woodstock, New York in August 1969. Not even Kennedy Space Centre, July 16th 1969. Instead I'd head to West Virginia. Point Pleasant, on the night of November 15th 1966 to be exact. And head straight to West Virginia Ordnance Works and find the old abandoned TNT Factory.

And I'd also make sure to take a crowbar with me.

Because that very night something was lurking in the shadows outside that old factory. Something taller than an average man, powerfully built, with a set of vibrant blood red eyes and a pair of massive wings folded behind it's back.

Well that's according to David and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette. The two married couples were in a car, driving past the Ordnance works when they pulled over to investigate two red lights. It was then that they realised that those aren't pillows weren't exactly lights. Before you can say “we're going to need a bigger boat” they all scrambled back to the car, hit the peddle to the floor, and tore down Route 62 at 100 miles per hour where said beasty chased them for some time before soaring away in to the night sky.

Now by all accounts the Scarberry's and Mallette's weren't super crazy people. In fact so freaked out were they by the entire event that they, like any good citizens would, headed straight to Mason County courthouse to report what they saw. Deputy Millard Halstead is on record as saying "I've known these kids all their lives. They'd never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took them seriously.". So the very next night a posse was rounded up to search the area for a “giant bird man”.

Now bare in mind this was 1966. The Beatles had annoyed the world when John Lennon claimed they were more popular than Jesus. The Vietnam war raged on, and by the end of the year peace negotiations had started in the Philippines as America desperately and unsuccessfully tried to save face. That Christmas Boris Karloff narrated The Grinch That Stole Christmas on American television for the first time. And The Beatles redeemed themselves later in the year by releasing Revolver, wildly acclaimed as their best album.

My point is it was 1966. Elder folk complained about what the kids were listening to, and how society had been slowly falling apart ever since Elvis had shaken his hips on the Ed Sullivan show ten years previously. The younger generation had mop top haircuts, rode around on Vesta's, and smoked a lot of pot. The people in the middle did what the middle generation always do, tried to make a living for them and theirs as best as possible.

It wasn't however 1666. Mob's didn't round up every Friday armed with torches and pitchforks to hunt for witches and vampires (Gee note: Although it would be amazing if they did. “Hey Jim, how's the stock market?” “OK I guess Bob, the yen was down again.” “Damn, that's a shame. Say is that a new pitchfork?” “Yeah Margaret got it for me as a birthday gift. The Witchhunter 3000.” “Woah that's a nice piece of kit.”).

So it must have been a pretty damn good story if a posse got together to hunt for something that sounds so, well, unbelievable.

Sightings continued at an alarming rate throughout the next year. Reports of the monster's behaviour differed. Sometimes it walked on two legs. Sometimes it flew. Sometimes it howled. Sometimes it moved with silence. But one thing always remained the same. The glowing red eyes.

And then the sightings effectively stopped. Sure once in a while a local weirdo would pop out of the woodwork to claim that the Mothman had broken their windscreen or something. But Mothman mania lasted one year and then came to an abrupt halt. Because on December 15th 1967 the Silver Bridge over Ohio River that connected Point Pleasant and Gallipolis, Ohio collapsed without warning, killing 46 people. And in the aftermath Mothman was, by and large, never seen again.

So is it that the Mothman story simply captured the people of West Virginia's imagination until a terrible disaster brought their collective conciousness back to reality? Or is it all, in some massively complicated way, connected?

There is no hard evidence that Mothman is real. No physical evidence. No clear photographs. No videos. But for an entire year Point Pleasant lived in fear of something they couldn't quite quantify until one day a truly horrendous thing happened. And then the thing they feared simply went away. For me that's almost enough to make me believe.


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