Cryptozoology: The study of "hidden animals," includes Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monsters, Yeti, Myakka Skunk Ape, and hundreds of other cryptids.

CONTACT the cryptozoologist


"I was not interested in making a 'creature' movie. I was not interested in making a sci-fi movie or even a supernatural movie. I describe it as a psychological mystery with naturally surreal overtones." -- Mark Pellington, director

The new motion picture, The Mothman Prophecies, based on John A. Keel's 1975 book of the same name, is due in theaters on January 25, 2002.  Keel's book was a spooky, scary tome, and following in that legacy, Pellington's movie is being called a Grade A Hollywood blockbuster, a real psychological thriller, not a 1950s Grade B monster flick. My new book, Mothman and Other Curious Encounters, pays homage to the reality of Mothman and its kin, discusses the movie, the companion documentary, and gives in-depth information on John A. Keel.

On the right, Richard Gere plays reporter "John Klein" based on John Keel, while, on the left, the investigator "Leek" (Keel spelled backwards) is played by Alan Bates.

Scene from The Mothman Prophesies

Other scenes show the young people (left) modeled on the reallife Scarberry couple who first saw the Mothman on November 15, 1966, and a composite character (right) who saw the entity "Indrid Cold."
Scene from The Mothman Prophesies Scene from The Mothman Prophesies

Richard Gere (in car with sheriff's deputy reflection on the window and at power plant) finds himself in situations that parallel John Keel's time in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Scene from The Mothman Prophesies

Scene from The Mothman Prophesies

from FilmForce

The Real Story of The Mothman Prophecies

IGN FilmForce talks with cryptozoologist Loren Coleman about the spooky true-life events that inspired the upcoming Richard Gere film.
by Scott B.

If you've been following news on films to be released in 2002, you have probably heard about a movie called The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney, and directed by Mark Pellington (Arlington Road). You might even have seen a poster or a trailer for the film, due out January 25, 2002, which comes with the ominous warning "Based on true events." But what are those true events? And what the heck is a "Mothman," anyway? IGN FilmForce recently had the opportunity to talk with Loren Coleman, famed "cryptozoologist" (literally "the study of unknown animals") and author of fifteen books, including the upcoming Mothman and Other Curious Encounters, about the whole Mothman story.

"On November 15, 1966, four individuals – two married couples – were at what was essentially a lovers lane in Point Pleasant, West Virginia," explains Coleman, who has been researching so-called "Fortean Phenomena" (from Charles Fort) since 1960. "These two couples saw two giant red eyes, and it very much scared them...they didn't know what to make of it."

This, then, was the first reported sighting of the "Mothman," which Coleman goes on to say "was described as 6-to-7 feet tall with red eyes and no head, as if the eyes were in the breast area, and with huge wings." The creature "came toward them. They took off and the creature followed them right up to the city limits of Point Pleasant." The incident was reported to the local sheriff, who went to the lovers lane and "searches around, sees a puff of smoke in a nearby area from possibly this creature taking off and landing again."

While Coleman reports that the account was "ridiculed in the local press," something very strange began to happen: "More and more people started seeing this creature. For the next thirteen months, over 200 individuals had some interaction with some strange phenomena – and about a hundred of those said they actually saw Mothman."

And why that bizarre name – Mothman? Apparently, it was the work of "some copyeditor at the local newspaper. At the time, the "Batman" series was on TV, so they didn't want to call it 'Batman,' but it did have wings, so the copyeditor called it 'Mothman.' We have no other information than that – I've been trying to track that copyeditor down for twenty years."

But the creepy events in Point Pleasant during 1966-67 weren't limited to appearances of the Mothman. "There were [also] mutilated dogs, UFO sightings, and other things going on," says Coleman. And that's where John Keel, a longtime friend of Coleman's and author of the book The Mothman Prophecies, came in.

"About a month after [the initial sightings], John Keel got an assignment to go there as a news reporter," explains Coleman. "He sort of showed up, had a very low kind of profile; John was on a contract to write a book about UFOs."

As Keel began to talk to people and gather information, the journalist found himself getting more deeply involved in the events, to the extent that "There were entities that communicated with John by phone." Coleman explains that as Keel analyzed the events, he found Point Pleasant to be "a vortex of phenomena, and couldn't really tell one from the other. It was a scary situation for John."

Whatever one thinks of the validity of Keel's claims, there's no arguing the horror of what happened next. Keel had begun to be given "prophecies" by the entities he was dealing with in Point Pleasant, one in particular that said that "when President Johnson turned on the Christmas lights at the White House, the whole northeast was going to go into a blackout." However, by that point, Coleman says that Keel had "started to get fooled by the phenomena.

"On December 15, John Keel is in his apartment in Manhattan," Coleman continues. "[Waiting for the blackout] with his bottled water and his batteries, and nothing happens. About six minutes later, on the TV set across the bottom: 'Bridge collapses across Ohio River.' And he just freaks out."

Keel "freaked out" because the bridge in question was the Silver Bridge, which crossed the Ohio River between Gallipolis, Ohio, and – you guessed it – Point Pleasant, West Virginia. "67 people fell into the river. 46 died. They found 44 bodies," says Coleman. "Several people who died were related to witnesses of Mothman."

The collapse of the Silver Bridge has been seen as the climax of Keel's Mothman experience, but Coleman is quick to say "I don't think it stopped. What I think is that it has continued on but people did not report it. It never got to the fever pitch of, say, a Roswell."
John Keel published his account of these events in 1975 – interestingly, until Coleman's upcoming book, "Keel's had been the only book. There have been chapters and mentions, but there's never been a movie or a documentary. Mothman is a case that has almost been too scary for people to get close to. At the time, everyone knew about Mothman but it was so bizarre no one could characterize it."

And, apparently, neither does the upcoming film version, of which Coleman has seen footage as well as consulting with the director. "My understanding is that Mothman is described and talked about but not seen in the movie," he says. "But I don't know – it's 95% done and they could always change their mind."

As discussion turns to the movie, a natural question comes up: Does this kind of exposure help or hurt the work done by Coleman, who considers himself "an investigative reporter" who "comes into these things very skeptically." After all, this relatively obscure story is about to become very famous due to the film. Does Coleman worry that the movie will encourage a rash of "Mothman" sightings or hoaxes? "I'm a professor of documentary film back in Portland, Maine, and a lot of my work deals with Behavior Contagion and the media effect, so that's a very interesting question to me," explains Coleman. "After Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out, everybody was predicting that we'd have this rush of fake UFO reports and all of that. It doesn't happen. What happens is that people get more interested in the subject, dig up old reports, or – if they have seen things – they talk about it."

For those interested in "Mothman" lore, the film's official website is up and running, presenting a detailed chronology of the events in Point Pleasant. Also, Coleman himself maintains the website The Cryptozoologist, which has information on his own research into the Mothman and other phenomena.

Mothman Sight-Seeing Map
from the Point Pleasant Chamber of Commerce
Published Jan. 15, 2002


Back one page         Back to top of page

What Is Cryptozoology?  |  The Cryptozoologist
Cryptozoology Museum  |  Cryptozoology Books  |  Archive  |  Contact  |  Home

Copyright 2003-2007   All rights reserved. Loren Coleman: The Cryptozoologist.\
Website hosting and design by
Innovative Software Design