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BOOK REVIEW: "Mothman: Evil Incarnate" by Loren Coleman

Cosimo Books
The new "Mothman" book from cryptozoologist Loren Coleman.
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BOOK REVIEW: Mothman: Evil Incarnate by Loren Coleman (Cosimo Books) 2017

Sometimes I get on these reading “tangents” where I read absolutely everything on a particular subject. Is it an obsessive compulsive aspect of my personality? Perhaps.

That said, for the past three months or so I have been reading pretty much everything the late John A. Keel has written, beginning with his most famous book – The Mothman Prophecies, released in 1975 and covering all of the Mothman sightings that occurred over a 13-month period, leading up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge, at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, over the Ohio River on Dec. 15, 1967.

So, having read multiple accounts of Keel’s investigative look at the Mothman phenomenon, which seemed to end after the bridge collapsed, killing 46 people, I read Loren Coleman’s 2002 Mothman book (read review here) and subsequently devoured his follow-up book – Mothman: Evil Incarnate – over the course of a day or two.

Methinks, Mr. Keel - a onetime friend of Coleman's - would give a hearty thumbs-up to a 100-plus-page book Coleman refers to as "the unauthorized companion" to Keel's The Mothman Prophecies. I agree with that distinction.

What is interesting (and disturbing at the same time) is that 50 years after the Silver Bridge disaster, the city of Chicago, Illinois has been experiencing its own spate of dramatic Mothman sightings. Of course this is concerning because Mothman is believed to be a portent of doom, and Coleman – America’s leading cryptozoologist and one-time friend of Keel – thinks that the Chicago sightings are worth taking seriously.

Chapter One mentions how alleged Mothman sightings around the Second City were enough to get the attention of the Chicago Tribune, noting reports going back to March 2017.

The descriptions are chilling. In June, in the Lincoln Park area, witnesses saw “a 7-8 ft. solid black humanoid with wide membrane wings that resembled those of a huge bat.” The man, Lon Strickler, taking down the report is noted in Coleman’s book as saying that the eyewitnesses had a “sense of foreboding” and were “terrified” even an hour after the encounter.

What is interesting is that in Keel’s accounts, going back to ’66-’67, he was in an area in Point Pleasant where “something” was watching him and when he would walk past a certain point, he was hit with a wave of fear. When he walked out of the immediate area, the “fear” sensation subsided. Do these entities send out waves of “fear” to people in their vicinity?

Coleman addresses the 2002 film, The Mothman Prophecies, and notes how Hollywood screenwriter Richard Hatem was led to Keel's book by synchronistic events in a used bookstore in early 1997 that seemed to be overseen by a "library angel." Hatem was previously unfamiliar with Keel and his "para-gonzo" Mothman coverage, but after reading The Mothman Prophecies, quickly realized that "true paranormal writing had its own Hunter S. Thompson, and that person was John Keel." Hatem worked on securing the rights to the story and ended up working with Mark Pellington (Arlington Road) on the film, loosely based on the events in West Virginia, but instead based in present times and with a Washington Post reporter (Richard Gere) getting caught up in the disquieting Mothman mystery there along the Ohio River, with co-stars Laura Linney and Debra Messing.

What is synchromystic for me (and I consider myself a friend of Mr. Coleman) was how the film alleged that a Mothman was seen prior to a devastating hurricane in 1969 along the Texas Gulf Coast. Oddly, Hurricane Camille did strike the Gulf Coast and would swing up into the Ohio River Valley and cause significant damage in West Virginia, in the area where Mothman was being reported more than two years prior. 

And one other thing - Coleman thinks the filmmakers confused the Great Storm of 1900, that killed thousands upon thousands of people in Galveston - as a major, Mothman-involved natural disaster. I just happen to be working on a book related to supernatural entities warning Arthur Stilwell not to build his railroad to Galveston in the late 1890's - and he listened to them. They were right. The aforementioned storm would have wiped out his railway in that area Texas. But we will have more on that at a later time ...

... back to the book ...

So, in relation to the film, is there a "curse" connected to it? Like with Rebel Without a Cause, Rosemary's Baby and Poltergeist? Well, check the appendix in the back of the book and make up your own mind. For instance, Ted Tanennbaum, the executive producer of The Mothman Prophecies, died right after the film came out, at age 68 of cancer. 

For readers here in Oklahoma, Coleman notes the 2002 Interstate 40 collapse into the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls - not too far from my "Stilwell Enigma" line of 94 degrees west longitude. It happened just a few months after The Mothman Prophecies film came out and involved a bridge collapse. Eerie similiarities. But no known Mothman sightings prior to the disaster.

So, is Mothman "evil incarnate"? Or is Mothman more of an "ultraterrestrial" sent to warn human beings of bad things that will likely happen? If that's true, and they follow the 13-month rule, folks in Chicago should be keeping an eye on the skies, it would seem.

And it is true that Shawnee Chief Cornstalk was killed in the Point Pleasant area -at Fort Randolph - in 1777 by American militiamen, seeking revenge. But is it true that Cornstalk also cursed the land for many years into the future? Perhaps. It is true that Point Pleasant isn't always, well, that pleasant of a place to be. But, ironically, interest in the Mothman mystery has given Point Pleasant a healthy boost of tourism over the past decade or more, due to the Hollywood film.

And speaking of "films," Coleman lays out his thoughts on various documentaries created about the Mothman. The best, hands down (I watched it just the other day) was Seth Breedlove's smart and informative The Mothman of Point Pleasant. For those wanting a visual depiction and words directly from surviving eyewitnesses who experienced Mothman back in '66 and '67 - that is the film to watch.

And while many of the "paranormal" books of both the recent and distant past - including Keel's - failed to include references, notes, appendices and so forth, Coleman has a journalistic approach that I certainly appreciate. You sense with Coleman that he appreciates his readers and doesn't talk down to them.  

For those interested in learning more about Loren Coleman, who is also the founder and director of the International Cryptozoological Museum in Portland, Maine, check out his website at www.cryptozoonews.com.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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