Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 24th, 2007
Anniversaries are those logical points on the calendar when we all naturally think about events that may have been too overwhelming to have sink too deeply into our psyche at the time.
Three years ago the Mothman Death Curse, if there is such a thing, hit close to home.
On July 19, 2004, the first copies of the August 2004 issue of Fortean Times went on sale in London, with distribution to the USA, later in July. It contained the first publication of “The Mothman Death Curse” article that I had completed a few weeks earlier, after researching the subject for two years. I discussed how people have pondered dates, disasters, and deaths linked to Mothman from 1966 to the present.
Movies like the Poltergeist and The Exorcist had been tied to publicity and documentaries saying that people associated with those films had died strange deaths. But by actual count, only a handful of individuals, four in the case of the Poltergeists movies had died.
I began noticing that if one collected all the passing away of people associated with the actual events and filmmaking regarding Mothman, I easily, by 2004, had 80 people on the “Mothman Death List.” I decided to document the list in Fortean Times, to air the discussion, at least.
When the issue hit the stands, as expected, people scratched their heads as to why would I write this piece. One criticism was heard over and over again that all these people were old and they were going to die anyway. Yes, we all die, but everyone on the list was not elderly. Of course, the age criticism wasn’t true, but sometimes it is frustrating arguing with folks about such points of view. To paraphrase Charles Fort, I just gave everyone the data and then stood back. Most people didn’t know what to make of it.
The event that happened next shocked and surprised even me.
On July 30, 2004, Jennifer Barrett-Pellington, wife of The Mothman Prophecies director Mark Pellington, died suddenly, in Los Angeles, and was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. Ms. Barrett-Pellington was born December 18, 1961, and was only 42 years old. Hollywood was startled by the news, even though some said that a few had known Barrett-Pellington had been ill in recent weeks.
The Los Angeles Times reported on August 3, 2004: “Costume designer Jennifer Barrett-Pellington died after an ongoing illness at age 42. Ms. Barrett-Pellington began her career as a model, but switched to costume design. Her credits include Arlington Road and the short Jon Bon Jovi film Destination Anywhere. Ms. Barrett-Pellington was the wife of director Mark Pellington who directed Arlington Road. Her husband included a ‘Special Thanks’ credit in his film The Mothman Prophecies to his wife for her support of him on that film. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends, especially her young daughter.”
Mark Pellington directed The Mothman Prophecies.
Late in August 2004, Variety announced that Mark Pellington who had joined as the director of a new Harrison Ford movie in July 2004, was bowing out. The reason was Pellington’s wife’s death after what was called a “brief illness” by Variety.
“I am unfortunately stepping down from the job of directing the film The Wrong Element due to the recent tragic loss of my beloved wife Jennifer,” Pellington said in a statement to Variety. “It is a difficult time, and having suffered the loss of my life partner and mother to my child, I would not be able to commit the time and energy and focus at this point needed to truly successfully helm the film.”
The Wrong Element would become Firewall. Jennifer Barrett-Pellington’s name would join some eighty others on the “Mothman Death Curse” list. And suddenly, people decided not to talk about the Mothman Death List too much any longer.
For more on the original events, the film, and more, see: Mothman and Other Curious Encounters.
But people are not too scared to talk about Mothman. If you build it, they will come. People are not afraid. The Mothman Festival held in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, around the middle of September every year since 2003, is recording higher and higher numbers of visitors annually.
Today, people seem afraid to even talk about the “death list.” But folks are not too frightened to revisit the subject of Mothman itself, over and over again.