Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 19th, 2008
The Point Pleasant Register has published reporter Hope Roush’s profile of Jeff Wamsley (above), the organizer of the annual, successful Mothman Festival, which is upcoming with a hayride Friday night and then the festival itself all day Saturday and Sunday, September 20-21, 2008, this weekend.
The speakers this year are:
Saturday Sept. 20th
12 noon Chad Lambert (Mothman comic writer)
1pm Frank Feschino Jr. (Braxton County Monster author)
2pm Rosemary Guiley (New Age author)
3pm Susan Sheppard (author-ghost expert)
4pm Robin Peyatt Bellamy (author)
Sunday Sept. 21st
12 noon Neal Parks (author & paranormal researcher)
1pm Travis Short (Dark Wings documentary filmmaker)
2pm Jason Clyburn of Prodigy Group (Dayton, Ohio, ghost hunters)
3pm James Willis (coauthor Weird Ohio)
4pm Tom Moore (Parkersburg ghost hunter)
4:30 Bob Wilkinson (Gray Barker documentary filmmaker)
Here’s the story on Jeff Wamsley:
To the rest of the world, the City of Point Pleasant typically is identified as the home of the mysterious creature known as Mothman.
And whether you embrace or laugh at the Mothman phenomenon, no one can deny that the creature has lured several visitors to the area over the past several years, and feature films, such as “The Mothman Prophecies,” as well as television exposure have put Point Pleasant on the map for paranormal enthusiasts.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws for Mothman fans is the self-proclaimed “world’s only” Mothman Museum and the Mothman Festival. Jeff Wamsley, Mothman Festival organizer and museum creator, described the initial idea behind the festival as a way to draw area tourism.
“Carolin Harris and I started the festival back in November 2001 as a way to attract some visitors to downtown Point Pleasant. I think it worked,” Wamsley said. “The museum came about back in October 2005 when all of the movie props were donated by Butch Kane of Kittaning, Pa., where the Mothman Prophecies was filmed.”
He added that the people are his favorite aspect of the Mothman Festival.
“I really enjoy seeing the people. Most of them are return visitors. I get a kick out of seeing downtown filled with people coming to Point Pleasant,” Wamsley said. “Most of them come from bigger cities and love the small town atmosphere they find here.”
While Wamsley has formed several memories during his involvement with the festival, he attributed his fondest memory as “Mothman Prophecies” author John Keel’s appearance at the 2003 festival.
“I have to laugh when I think back to the 2003 festival when (Keel) came to unveil the Mothman statue in Gunn Park. The time came for him to do the official unveiling and he was nowhere to be found. They finally located him eating breakfast at Harris Steakhouse,” he said. “When I told him we were ready for him to kick things off, he looks me straight in the eye and says ‘they’ll just have to wait until I finish my breakfast.’ He finally made his way out to the statue, and the rest is history.”
In fact it was Keel who started Wamsley’s interest in the Mothman. According to Wamsley, he read “The Mothman Prophecies” in junior high and developed an interest when he realized that the paranormal events in the book occurred in his hometown.
“I looked into the legend much deeper and began searching for archives and pieces of the puzzle. Two books later I am still finding stuff. I present it and the readers can decide for themselves, no fiction or additions to the stories from my end,” Wamsley said.
Although the Mothman Festival appeals to Wamsley’s interest, there is still a large amount of technical work needed to make the festival a reality each year. Wamsley described organizing the festival and operating the museum as a business.
“I ran Criminal Records for 15 years, and that was an opportunity for me to learn how to make connections and have some vision when it came to operating things. Jeremy Pitchford ran my Jackson, Ohio, store back then and now he runs the museum when I am out, so nothing has really changed,” he said. “E-mails, phone calls and lots of meetings and radio and television interviews are all part of my schedule as far as setting up vendors and entertainment.”
According to Wamsley, the hardest part of organizing the festival is sticking to plans.
“There are always unexpected things that creep up and you can never be 100 percent ready. There are many people who donate their time and talents to get this show off the ground,” he said.
Despite the difficult aspects, Wamsley has enjoyed the success and growth of the Mothman Festival. According to Wamsley, the festival took place in a vacated building along Main Street its first year. He described the event as now attracting a regular crowd each year as well as newcomers.
“It is exciting to see the growth of the festival and to see many of these people keep returning to Point Pleasant,” Wamsley said.
He added that examples of festival growth include the Miss Mothman Festival pageant and expanding the hayride tours to Friday and Saturday. According to Wamsley, Friday hayrides will be 8 p.m. at the West Virginia State Farm Museum, with rides being offered on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets will still be sold for Saturday’s hayride.
Wamsley described hopes for even more festival growth in the future.
“We want to take the festival up a notch each year. We are excited about the future of the Mothman Festival and realize just how important it is to all of these people who attend. The budget has to be bigger in order to keep up the pace,” he said.
As Wamsley has significantly aided in attracting area tourists through his contributions to both the Mothman Festival and Mothman Museum, he encouraged others to take opportunities when they come along.
“Seize the moment. If an opportunity comes along, take it. Never take things for granted — family, friends, careers, (because) it could all end tomorrow,” Wamsley said.
It is this piece of advice that Wamsley has applied to his own life as he continues to bring visitors to the area through the growth and success of the Mothman Festival.