Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 8th, 2007
The image of Mothman has changed in the last forty years. Fiction from the film has shown up as fact in popular culture. Is this Mothman’s fate?
I’ve noticed that the drawings of Mothman have evolved, often negatively, from the early days of what the witnesses said they saw to the elaborate fictions we see on the cover of Fate this month. Good art does not equal historical representations or forensic drawings.
Mothmen didn’t have hands with four fingers, toes with claws, well-defined rib cages, or leathery wings. Most of those details were not even seen or were described differently. The diffuse imagery of Mothman has drifted into something with a head, arms, and limbs, although few described it that way in the 1960s. In fact, the first reports were that it “looked like an angel” and then almost immediately by most people, it appeared to be “like a big bird.”
The insect notion, the bat man appearance, and the creey demon look are fantastic imagined images for Mothman. I call it the Keelization of Mothman.
Then there’s the fact that some people believe everything they see in the film, The Mothman Prophecies is linked to reality. But the film The Mothman Prophecies was fiction based on a true story. In line with my new book the studio wanted to see rushed to publication when the movie was released, I worked with the studio. I spoke to them on the phone often, keep in touch via emails, and was flown out to Hollywood as I held a news conference on their behalf, at their Los Angeles studio.
As you may know, I appeared, along with John Keel and Mothman eyewitnesses, in the documentary, In Search of the Mothman (2002), directed by David Grabias. The documentary was shown on the Sci-Fi Channel before the movie appeared and then later bundled with the film in the special deluxe DVD. I had open access with the LA folks from June 1001 through March 2002, during post-production and after release.
This situation occurred as Sony/Screen Gems found John Keel was not able, physically, to do all the radio interviews and news conferences they needed done. In my role, I was able to ask various “origins” questions, suggest edits in what I was shown of the draft footage for the documentary, and, for example, able to ask about the “Mothman-like” sketches shown the Debra Messing character in the hospital.
The general consensus was they were completely made up and created by the art design department based on their nonspecific reading of the Keel book. They were not done to duplicate any one specific sighting, and were diffuse on purpose to give the shadowy sense of a Mothman-type creature. Director Mark Pellington’s whole idea was to never show the shape, exactly, of Mothman, but he went with the feeling of the red eyes and a nonspecific winged weirdie.
The hospital drawings, therefore, are as fictionalized as many things in the movie. I’ll say it again, the film is narrative fiction, based on actual events. It contains many elaborately fictionalized situations, such as Gordon Smallwood’s character, and contains little tidbits to support the storyline, such as the “factoids” that Mothman appeared before the Chernobyl meltdown and the Galveston hurricane. But there are no records of Mothman at Chernobyl or Galveston or before any earthquakes. Since Mothman encounters did not happen in those locations, such unfortunate tales are ones that both Keel and I have been trying to remove from people’s mental “databases” since the movie and documentary repeated them in 2002.
The Mothman Prophecies movie was based on fact, yes, and you can certainly see the essence of the real incidents in there from 1966-1967, but elements such as the “hospital drawings” are created drawings and not based on any archival images.
For more on the original events, the film, and more, see: Mothman and Other Curious Encounters.
For the film’s replay of the collapse of the Silver Bridge, which took place 40 years ago on December 15, 1967, see below: