What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about The Mothman Prophecies? Is it a deep nostalgia for the early-2000’s? Is it the disappointment you felt after the lights came back on in the theater? Was it the anger you have always held in your heart because you were hoping for something much scarier? For me, now that I have immersed myself into the truth behind the Richard Gere, I will think of The Mothman Prophecies as a mind-blowing descent into the madness that surrounds us. Don’t believe me? Try this little thought experiment with me:
Imagine that you’re lying down in a sun-drenched meadow. The soft native grasses are more comfortable than any mattress you’ve ever owned. You have your eyes closed, feeling the warmth on your face. There’s a soft buzzing in your ear as the bumblebees dance across the carpet of bluebells. You’ve never been so happy or relaxed. Now, imagine that the space around you, just beyond the limits of our perception, is filled with monsters. Monsters who are hungry. Monsters with sharp teeth that can see you and that will stop at nothing to inhabit our world.
This might seem extreme, but it really isn’t. The central thesis to the book and the film focus on the ultra-natural. After digging into the story, I have come to believe that 2002’s The Mothman Prophecies, and Keel’s book, are the most fascinating sources of media regarding the true nature of our reality that we’ve ever been given. They might tell very different stories about what happened in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, but they both open the door to the most mysterious question in the history of mankind: Are we alone in this universe?
Starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney, The Mothman Prophecies is loosely based on the 1975 book from John A. Keel. Set in modern-day West Virginia, the film tells the story of how a widowed Washington Post journalist (Gere, playing a phantom version of Keel named John Klein) mysteriously found himself in the middle of the supernatural phenomena plaguing the small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. He meets people there who have seen an 8-foot tall flying humanoid they call ‘The Mothman’. They are also receiving strange phone calls from someone who calls himself Indrid Cold and are being told of future events and tragedies.
Klein, having become completely obsessed with what is going on in the town, sets up shop in a seedy motel and spends his nights listening to the strange noises being left on his answering machine. He believes that his wife saw the Mothman before she died two years earlier, so he is determined to understand what exactly is happening. When he is told of a “great tragedy on the Ohio River”, Klein sets out on a quest to stop it and save the people of Point Pleasant.
One criticism the film has received is that, for a movie called The Mothman Prophecies, there is little actual Mothman-ism in its 119-minute runtime. This is completely valid. We see only a few glimpses of the being, and the rest of the film focuses on Indrid Cold and his supernatural abilities. Cold, while he’s driving local farmers crazy and making obscene-sounding calls to old ladies, seems to insinuate that he is the Mothman, or at least some people see him in that form. We never get to see him either. He is a voice on a phone, a shadowy figure stalking the streets of Point Pleasant.
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“If there is a universal mind, must it be sane?” -Damon Knight
As the film reaches its disastrous climax, an expert named Albert Leek tells Klein that the Mothman, and Cold, and the other supernatural things going on have always been a part of humanity’s reality. They have popped up from time to time since mankind was painting on cave walls. They are omens of disasters to come, having been seen at Chernobyl before the meltdown in 1986 and in Galveston, Texas, in 1900 (Leek says ‘1969’ in the film, but he is obviously alluding to the 1900 event) before being hit by a hurricane that killed 8,000 people. Klein, acting quickly, returns to Point Pleasant and is able to save Laura Linney’s Connie Mills as the Silver bridge collapses into the Ohio River, killing thirty-six people.
It’s a fascinating movie that makes us question the world around us. Who was Indrid Cold, and how was he able to know so much about what was going to happen in the future? Why did he end every conversation with “See you in time”? Was he really the Mothman? While the film never really answers any of these questions, it did lead millions to the book by John Keel and the subsequent realization that what actually happened in Point Pleasant was much weirder, and ultimately much more enlightening.
Much like the movie, Keel’s book has very little to do with the actual Mothman. The main thing he wanted to focus on wasn’t the existence of this potential cryptid, but rather all of the strange occurrences surrounding its arrival. There is no one better to tell the story, really, because Keel spent months in Point Pleasant in 1967. He bounced back-and-forth from West Virginia to New York, spending the whole time recording the strange occurrences that the citizens were experiencing.
You see, the majority of the events preceding the collapse of the Silver Bridge were actually UFO sightings. People all over the county there in West Virginia were reporting strange lights in the sky, bouncing orbs outside of their windows, or inquisitive prism-like objects who were fascinated with their bodies. Some people told Keel that they were contacted by the entities flying these UFO, others said that they were taken aboard the crafts and shipped off to far-away planets.
Then there was what came after the UFO sightings. Oddly shaped men, wearing black, would visit these people and ask them very personal questions about themselves and their families. They spoke very peculiarly, either sounding like English was a foreign tongue to them or that their voices were sped up like a record playing too fast. They did very weird things while in the houses, too. One asked for salt so they could take “a pill”. Another had a green tube emerging from his sock and implanting itself into his leg. It almost seemed like these visitors (sometimes going by names like Indrid Cold) were androids, or biological vessels used to make us think that they are human.
“Oh, the games these non-people loved to play.” -John A. Keel
These ‘Men in Black’ (Keel was actually the first to use the term) were far from the lovable duos we saw in the franchise films. They were ominous, threatening, mysterious, and sneaky. They would tap phone lines, places tracking devices on vehicles, follow you around town, and make threats against you if you wouldn’t stop talking about the UFO you witnessed. If you combine these strangers with the lights, the Mothman, the premonitions, and the hallucinations experienced in Point Pleasant that year, you get a textbook example of what researchers call “High Strangeness”.
High Strangeness is a confluence of events that seem impossible but happen to be true. Small synchronicities that connect you to the world around you in ways you never thought of before. Visions of the unknown, sounds in the night, and strange visitors on your doorsteps create a maddening effect on the people experiencing them, forcing them to question their own sanity. So, what does this have to do with the Silver Bridge, and what does Keel say is really going on in our reality?
At the beginning of the article, I asked you to imagine yourself in a meadow. Take yourself back to that peaceful place for a moment. Now, look around you. This is your reality. You are on planet Earth, and you are a being inhabiting a physical body. According to Keel and others who prescribe to this theory, however, this is not the only reality there is. With both time and space being infinite, there are an infinite number of dimensions, or realities, coexisting simultaneously all around us. In other words, all of time and all of space, is happening in a non-linear fashion around us as we experience it in a linear fashion.
We cannot normally see or experience these realities. They are either in another time or they occupy a different space on the continuum. Sometimes, they are simply vibrating at a different wavelength than we are in this reality. We can catch glimpses, however, like we are watching a television through a curtain. If you go to certain places in the world, like Point Pleasant, West Virginia, or the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, the curtain we are looking through is very thin. For a moment, you can see and interact with these alternate beings in fascinating ways. Some people see them as ghosts, some people see them as demons. Others see them as 8-foot-tall humanoid flying creatures with red eyes.
“Our entire planet is occupied by things we only see by accident.” -John A. Keel
This idea of ultraterrestrialism encompasses the entirety of the cryptid, supernatural, and ufological fields of research. Any time we, as humans in this reality, experience something strange like Bigfoot or a goblin, it is actually this dimension wavering. This unsteady place in reality allows us a peek at the other side. The things we see in the sky, or the ‘angels’ that greet us when we are dying, are not extraterrestrial or heavenly. They are merely inhabitants of another dimension, made visible by our transforming energies.
What does this all have to do with Point Pleasant? Maybe nothing at all. Something there caused the curtain between worlds to rip. Through that rip came a flying monster, strange lights, men in black, and hallucinations of other worlds. After months of occupying this reality, something snapped them back and sewed the rip shut. Whatever the force was that righted the alignment of the dimensions on December 15th, 1967, may have caused the Silver Bridge to fail and collapse, killing 46 people. Maybe these beings were trying to warn us about the impending doom, but maybe they weren’t. Maybe they were just trying to learn more about our reality so they could stay here longer.
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“The things we see in the sky, or the ‘angels’ that greet us when we are dying, are not extraterrestrial or heavenly. They are merely inhabitants of another dimension, made visible by our transforming energies.”
Whatever it was that these things were is now gone, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there trying to find another place in the curtain that could rip. So, the next time you’re lying in a meadow, remember that just on the other side of your visual spectrum is something watching you. Something that is poking its terrible claws at the air around you, trying to find a way through.
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