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Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 07:11 PM

The Mothman Festival!
Point Pleasant, WV is one of those places that would be right at home in a David Lynch/Stephen King collaboration. The place doesn't just feel cursed, it feels like it's been fucked-with on a demonic and supernatural level. Not only is the area blanketed by a legendary Shawnee curse, terrorized by some sort of pissed-off mutant bird alien and pollution-raped within an inch of its life, but it's also a toxic government munitions dump and the site of the Silver Bridge collapse, one of the worst bridge disasters in American history, which abruptly dropped 46 people to their deaths ten days before Christmas.

When you put all of this together, you get a band of shellshocked citizens in a landscape that looks like the inspiration for Silent Hill, doing the best they can with what they've got left. And that's how the Mothman Festival came to be.

The Mothman is a hard one to explain. He was first sighted by gravediggers in 1966, chased some teenagers in November of that year, may or may not have murdered a dog and appeared randomly to scare the shit out of people, running alongside cars and chasing small aircraft. Most reports have him at about 7 feet tall, with a 10 foot wingspan, grayish in color, and most importantly with glowing, mesmerizing red eyes. There's not anything particularly mothlike about him, but "Batman" was taken and "The Tick" hadn't happened yet.

A scientific panel opined that he might be some sort of mutant sandhill crane, or maybe a leftover pterodactyl. Some people said he was an alien, others some sort of supernatural harbinger of disaster, and when Mothman sightings were at their peak the town was overridden with men dressed in black suits who intimidated the townsfolk and told them they never saw anything.

Whatever he was and wherever he came from, he caused one hell of a ruckus in the months leading up to the Silver Bridge collapse, and even then people reported seeing him perched atop it before it fell. The Silver Bridge disaster brought the 200-year "Curse of Cornstalk" handily to a close, and gave everyone something bigger to worry about than a red-eyed cryptid snacking on housepets.

I have family who live just north of this whole situation, and I'd been simultaneously wanting and not wanting to visit Point Pleasant's Mothman Festival for years. Family was fuzzy on the Mothman issue when quizzed. My uncle reported that he'd been over the Silver Bridge in 1965, which I guess means he cleared the course with two years left on the clock. Everyone vaguely remembered something about a giant bird scaring people. My grandparents had worked with a man who was tailed by a notorious mystery man-in-black named "Indrid Cold" at about the same time. The Indrid Cold thing is creepy as all fuck, but that's a different post.

Anyway, this year was the year I finally made it happen. I got to the Mothman Festival, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I went to the Mothman Museum, I attended the Miss Mothman Pageant (yes, there is actually a Miss Mothman pageant), I ate Mothman Pancakes, and I paid homage to the inexplicable giant chrome statue of Mothman that someone erected downtown. So now that I've given you the background, I can get on with the show.

Tacobot Oct 23rd, 2011 07:49 PM

Nice post. sounds interesting and i cant wait to see more.

Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 08:30 PM

One of the first things you notice about the place is the atmosphere of general doom. It's like crossing from normalcy into soul-crushing depression. The Point Pleasant area is flanked by two enormous coal-fed power plants. One of them managed to clear out an entire town with toxic gases; the other looks like a screencap from Portal. These big smokestacks...some of the tallest in the world...are just constantly churning poisonous crap into the atmosphere. It really sets the stage.

You have to cross two bridges to get there, one of which is the replacement bridge for the one that collapsed, and the main view is of these big cooling towers and the clouds of pollution. No matter where you are, you seem to have either big poison chimneys of doom or the remnants of a huge bridge disaster somewhere in the background. Add that to the general decrepit and run-down state of the town, and you have a recipe for depression.

The grave of Cornstalk, the betrayed and murdered Shawnee chief who cursed Point Pleasant, is in a park right downtown. In a curse-ending attempt you usually only see in movies, his remains (bone shards and a tooth, I believe) were unearthed and ceremonially sealed inside the monument. Didn't work.

Right in the center of the downtown area is an unexpectedly badass chrome statue of the Mothman. I can't imagine all of the townsfolk being on board with this, but there it is.

We got there on the opening night of the Festival, and the big attraction was the Miss Mothman pageant. From the moment I learned that it existed, I knew I had to be there, and it did not disappoint. The Pageant took place on a black-draped stage, with swags of green tulle that could have represented either swamp gas or alien tractor beams, I don't know. It kicked off with a big, choreographed opening number that must be seen to be believed. I think I will have those lyrics in my head till the day the Mothman chases me off this mortal coil.

("Mothman, he's not from Japan, he's gen-u-ine, A-mer-i-caaan...")

Other than "Mothwear", a bewildering competition where contestants had to interpret the Mothman concept in fashion, it was a fairly standard beauty pageant, but Mothwear alone was worth attending. One contestant had sewn green flaps from her wrists to her waist, producing a look similar to that of a radioactive flying squirrel:

This one was a crowd favorite:

Here's Miss Mothman 2010 talking about her whirlwind year. It looks like that column has nefarious intentions.

The Pageant was fun, but we wanted to avoid the crowds so we crept away to poke around town. Next stop: the "World's Only Mothman Museum".

Pentegarn Oct 23rd, 2011 08:36 PM

That reminded me of the fact that pretty much all of State Route 7 is littered with coal and nuclear plants usually adjacent to corn fields.

Since corn is in pretty much everything these days enjoy eating your irradiated pretty much everything

Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 08:55 PM

Welcome to "The World's Only Mothman Museum", which is exactly what it says on all of the signs, so it must be true:

It's essentially a long room that is plastered floor to ceiling with newspaper articles, the original draft of The Mothman Prophecies, clothing and other small things from the bridge disaster and associated rescue personnel, assorted Mothman stuff like this...

And, seemingly most importantly, anything and everything that ever came anywhere near Richard Gere and/or Debra Messing during the making of the film version of The Mothman Prophecies. I'm serious.

There's all kinds of prop stuff...breakaway glass, chunks of fake styrofoam bridge asphalt, cake plates and napkin dispensers, stuff like that. The movie wasn't filmed here, but it was loosely about here and somehow they got hold of the stuff.

The movie wasn't the only claim to fame, though. Televisions around the room played "Unsolved Mysteries" and other shows that went over the Mothman story on loops. There was an "AV Room" where people could watch documentaries, a TV playing "rare footage" of the Silver Bridge Collapse, and props from MonsterQuest here and there:

There was also this giant quilt that seems to be based on the same version of Mothman the chrome statue depicts:

Most importantly, though, was what I'm going to call "Mothmerchandise". If you could picture it with two red eyes, it was for sale. I'll throw a few examples on here in the next post.

Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 09:19 PM

The World's Only Mothman Museum had what I'm pretty sure was the World's Only Search for Mothman Claw Machine.

Mothman water bottles, magnets, you name it.

I can't really begrudge them, because the area's so economically depressed, but it was amazing how far they ran with it.

Mothman for President!

One store sold the "Mothman Frappachino". In case you can't make it out from the sign, that's a blended coffee drink with a blob of chocolate on top and two maraschino cherries. If I remember correctly it was like $6.75.

Two women selling at a booth near the Mothman statue. Note the itty bitty statue on the table.

Even the antique store got in on the action. These paper-maiche Mothmen with bike reflector eyes were marked at $65 apiece.

There was even a guy with a card table set up on the sidewalk...he was literally sticking red rhinestone eyes on just about anything and people were grabbing it up. If you can put red eyes on things, I highly advise you to truck it to Point Pleasant next September, you'll clean up.

On to the festival!

k0k0 Oct 23rd, 2011 09:28 PM

This mothman thing is really interesting shit. Man, I wish I could travel to all kinds of fucked up places. Thanks for sharing it.

That's no mothman, that's shirtless Chojin wearing a halloween mask.


I would really wear those two mothman shirts. The one for president and the one with mothman guiding the sleigh. Those are awesome.

Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 09:30 PM

I bought two mothman shirts, but not those. I'm still getting stuff together here.

Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 09:51 PM

The Festival kicked off with the Miss Mothman pageant on Friday night. Once Miss Mothman 2011 was crowned, they loaded her in the back of a pickup truck with the stage mascot and paraded her through town so the festivities could begin in earnest.

As a prank, someone had scattered mothballs all over the downtown area. I mean, boxes upon boxes of them, and most were smashed. The smell of mothballs was overwhelming. I guess it was somewhat funny, but it must have really done in the food booths. Nothing is appetizing when all you can smell is mothballs.

They didn't really do a hell of a lot to pretty up the downtown area, but it sort of worked, given the dark and ominous theme. This theater screened Mothman Prophecies and also Eyes of the Mothman, which is an excellent and thorough (but very, very long) documentary about everything that happened. It's available on Netflix instant, if you're so inclined.

There were guys dressed as Ghostbusters for no discernible reason.

There were Men in Black around town, but their out-of-character high school girlfriends usually ruined the effect.

There was a Men in Black dunk tank, letting locals score one against the terrifying government agents who once stalked them. My personal favorite thing about this picture is the lady on the right hand side.

Anyone in costume was an instant celebrity, so people flocked to these guys when they showed up.

Check out the sweet homemade puffy-paint jacket on this guy admiring the Cornstalk statue. They really seem to love chrome statues in Point Pleasant.

The Mothman Tram hauled tourists around. This one stopped to take a picture of me holding a must-have...the Mothman Pancake.

Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 10:05 PM

The Mothman Pancakes are something I'd heard about and had to try. I mean, look at this logo. You're like, what Mystery Machine?

When I saw they had t-shirts of that logo, you better believe I bought one. Unfortunately, I missed the Mothman Pancake eating contest, and I really would have loved to have gotten pictures of that. But here is the notorious Mothman Pancake booth, the purveyors of the most coveted item at the Mothman Festival. Note smashed mothballs in the foreground.

I was sure that a Mothman Pancake would have two red cherries for eyes, and I was surprised that it didn't. It was a Mothman-shaped pancake, possibly made on a special griddle, with a T-shaped squirt of whipped cream. The eyes were banana chips, with small slices of twizzler. I didn't realize one of the twizzlers slipped when I took the picture, but you get the idea.

It's a design that would translate well to men's novelty briefs, don't you think?

k0k0 Oct 23rd, 2011 10:14 PM

Was the pancake good? I couldn't imagine eating a twizzler/banana chip on a pancake, but other than that it looks tasty.

Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 10:17 PM

I discarded the eyes (my teeth break too easily to take on banana chips) and ate the rest. The pancake tasted like a pretty standard Aunt Jemima pancake, you know, box mix. The syrup was really good, though. I ate about half of it before the general mothball smell got to me and I gave up.

Edit: forgot to mention that there were several varieties of the pancake, with fruit and chocolate and so forth. I got the original mainly for the picture, and when I bought it I had people swarming me (and the aforementioned entire tram stopping) to get a photo of it, so it must be like the classic thing.

10,000 Volt Ghost Oct 23rd, 2011 10:25 PM

10,000 Volt Ghost Oct 23rd, 2011 10:27 PM


Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 10:29 PM

The movie has just the slightest passing brush with reality, but it's a big claim to fame for the town so the prop discards are everywhere.

Kitsa Oct 23rd, 2011 11:03 PM

Of course, after eating the Mothman Pancake, it's all downhill from there. We went to the Little Miss Mothman pageant, but that wasn't nearly as well-attended:

Took in some more sights, including this long-rotted squash arrangement that had assumed a vaguely mothman-like shape:

And did a final pass by the creepiest house we've seen in a while.

Weirdly enough, the guy next door to this place had an immaculately manicured lawn and a sign that said POINT PLEASANT LAWN OF THE MONTH. Well, sure, by comparison. I really wanted to get a shot of the two houses together, but the guy spotted my camera and came out talking, trying to distract me by chatting about the festival, so that was a no-go.

A little of the ominous Point Pleasant atmosphere tried to hitch a ride back with us...when we had the car door open, a completely black cat tried to jump in.

So it was back over the Silver Memorial Bridge, past the gloomy cooling towers and through the ghost town of Cheshire, Ohio, toward home.

Never did see the actual Mothman. At least, I don't think I did.

Supafly345 Oct 24th, 2011 02:58 AM

I remember a big thread of local folklore a while back that had a little bit of mothman posted in it, its good to learn a little bit more about how crazy people go for these things.

Kitsa Oct 24th, 2011 08:12 AM

Yeah, there are a lot of layers to the Mothman thing. I don't know if anyone will ever figure out what actually happened. I think the people saw something, because they are legitimately scared out of their minds. I just don't know what that something was. There are still people there who refuse to talk about the Mothman because they think it will summon him back. There are photos of people who were "visited", for lack of a better term, and they have big red rings around their eyes from staring, and unexplained radiation burns on their bodies.

I also believe that the townspeople were stalked by government agents, because there are actual photos of that and reports of attempted kidnappings where they attempted to bundle old church ladies off in unmarked vans. I have no idea why they'd find the need to do that, though.

West Virginia is one of those places that is just completely exploited by richer areas, sapped of all resources, polluted all to hell and just sort of left to die. The "TNT area", the government munitions dump, was originally a wildlife preserve. They drained some of the swampland, built "igloos" to hide a wartime arsenal, and made a factory that produced TNT. After the war was over, TNT and other chemicals were stored in the locked underground igloos. Pretty soon, there were reports of red liquid seeping into the local ponds and of weird, deformed fish being caught there. Turned out it was pure liquid TNT seeping out, among other things, and the ground itself was so carcinogenic it was scraped off and removed. So, could there be a giant mutant bird calling the TNT area home? Possibly. There were definitely mutant fish.

The conspiracy theorists were out in force at this thing, and you could hear it loudly discussed by folded-arm beerbellies on every streetcorner. The government was covering up alien visits. Someone knew someone who knew someone who saw a UFO crash in the nearby river. The Mothman was warning everyone of the bridge collapse. The Mothman caused the bridge collapse. The CIA was after Grandma. And so on.

At the core of it, though, you still had the older townspeople, most of whom still have clippings of the bridge disaster story in their downtown businesses (it's a tiny community, so nearly everyone lost a friend or loved one in the collapse) who were terrorized in the sixties and are still afraid to say a word about it. The Mothman thing is mostly the younger generation, and outsiders, trying to turn tragedy into profit and give the area a claim to fame.

Aaarg Oct 24th, 2011 10:11 AM

Oh the movie is so awful. The book's entertaining enough. When I lived in WV, I always wanted to make my way to Point Pleasant, but never did.

Though I'm glad. I figured there would be local merchants playing up the Mothman thing in an attempt to sell tacky stuff, but man, they take it to a pretty incredible level.

"One of the first things you notice about the place is the atmosphere of general doom. It's like crossing from normalcy into soul-crushing depression."

That's par for the course for West Virginia towns, though!

GIVE PICKLES (good thread)

Fathom Zero Oct 24th, 2011 10:33 AM

If they had a decent enough internet provider, I'd totally buy a house there someday. I'm probably not to far off from being able to right now, given the look of things.

Tacobot Oct 24th, 2011 02:39 PM

Great thread thanks for sharing. I wish i could make it out to something like this, i really like that chrome statue looks like something outta Ultraman.

k0k0 Oct 24th, 2011 03:15 PM

I like how the statues have abs of jesus-like proportion. Obviously this mothman was lifting cars to work out. Or maybe lifting other, lesser creatures.

dextire Oct 24th, 2011 05:48 PM

Wow, that place looks amazing. Thanks, Kitsa!
Now I want to try to make my own Mothman Pancake.
Maybe I'll use cherries for the eyes, and blackberry syrup to make it nice and dark (though it'd be more reddish-purple than black).

Kitsa Oct 24th, 2011 07:49 PM

The abs are a strange development with the Mothman thing. If you look at the original sketches (including the one I put in the first post), the silhouette is hunched and birdlike. Later sketches show the Mothman like he's something right out of a comic book, with killer abs and an abundance of chest hair. Not really sure.

I think they did have a version with the cherries and the blackberry syrup, dextire. If I ever go back, I'll try that one and see what it looks like.

Kitsa Oct 24th, 2011 09:55 PM

Found this Mothman Pancakes menu from last year.

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