Charyl Says


Mothman… the Space Between the Spaces
September 23, 2012, 11:16 pm
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I’d heard mumblings of it in the past, but my first real exposure to the concept of the Mothman came like most others—the major motion picture “The Mothman Prophecies” released in 2002.  Watching the previews—and the fact that the plot had been based on a true story—intrigued me.  It just so happened one evening they were showing it at a small, discounted theater on the Air Force base in Central Florida, where I lived at the time.  I was 24 years old with two small children that had special needs and almost never had the chance to go to the movies (or anywhere fun really), but that night I decided to throw caution to the wind and take off on my own to see this mysterious film.

Though having a life-long interest in the paranormal, I admittedly was more excited about having a solo night out—a rarity for me back then.  But I left the theater that night with a mind that had been (unwittingly) ripped open wide.  I had never experienced the concept of a being like this before; odd, unexplained, almost omnipotent.  Was it good, evil, or somewhere in-between?  I drove back home alone on the dark roads of an Air Force base that seemed nearly deserted; yet, I felt was being watched.  I couldn’t say for certain if I truly did have eyes upon me, or if my imagination (and the vertigo from all the blurry, undulating, and off-tilt movie shots) were playing on my senses.

After that night, the Mothman and surrounding incidents only crossed my mind occasionally (for those unfamiliar with the story, take a look at this link: http://www.prairieghosts.com/moth.html).  I didn’t do much digging or spend much time analyzing the situation… until late in 2008.  A series of events unrelated to the Mothman led me to the Paranormal Research Society’s (or PRS’—formerly of “Paranormal State”) message forums.  I made several like-minded friends; and it just so happened the Society was planning a Field Trip (a weekend-long trip with fans to a paranormally-related site for seminars, hands-on investigations, and social time with the Society members) to the Point Pleasant, WV area—Ground Zero for the Mothman occurrences in the 1960’s (also the subject of one of their shows months earlier) and where part of the movie had been filmed.  I had moved to Ohio, by way of Wyoming, with my family the year before—and the timing and easy access of this trip almost felt destined.  I snagged a ticket right away, and because I had been socially-isolated for years, I prepared to travel on my own and meet my new friends.

I also decided to do a little more research beyond what the movie had to offer.  I researched online, but foremost, I read John Keel’s book “The Mothman Prophecies,” originally published in 1975.  Keel was a journalist who spent months investigating the occurrences in person.  Filled with paranormal events, Men in Black (or MIB’s), UFO sightings, and unusual incidents (including the bridge collapse into the Ohio River that killed 46 people in December of 1967).  I put the book down feeling even more of a sense of uneasiness as I had after viewing the movie years earlier.

Delving deeper into the history of the area, I learned the place had a significant connection with Native Americans.  In fact, they—led by a man named Chief Cornstalk—were defeated in battle by the white settlers in the Point Pleasant area in 1774.  I also began to learn that many of those who immersed themselves researching this topic (and similar other paranormal subjects) seemed to lose their minds and/or died questionable deaths; a fact that sat silently, ever-present in the back of my mind. The information swam in my head as I tried to fit the pieces together.

When February 2009 finally arrived I drove the straight stretch from Dayton to Gallipolis/Point Pleasant on Highway 35.  The weekend was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in my life.  I’ll spare the readers the minute trip details—but visiting the memorial sites, speaking with the locals, investigating purportedly haunted buildings, meeting interesting people, and making a chilly middle-of-the-night visit to the TNT area (the now defunct war bomb storage area outside of Point Pleasant where Mothman terrorized his first victims)—certainly left some of us deep in thought by the end.  I even went off exploring on my own and captured a photo of what appeared to be the shadow of a tall man peering from behind a tree in an old area cemetery!

Since that time, my own life has gone through a radical transformation (unfortunately, mostly for the worst).  Once again I’ll spare the reader the sordid details, but the ordeals have resulted in one good thing—spurring me to take (usually solo) historical and/or paranormally-related daytrips and research adventures.  Much of my historical research and visits involve pre-historic Native American sites across Ohio (home of the mound-building cultures of North America).  For the most part, I’ve had positive experiences in this venture.  But there was one disagreeable experience that coincidentally (or not?) had a connection with the Native Americans of the Point Pleasant battle—a visit to Chief Logan’s Elm Memorial near Circleville, Ohio.  I’ll share with you the story of this experience I recently wrote about for a class (though please keep in mind that this story has yet to be critiqued):

           “The sun had reached its pinnacle and was quickly falling down toward the horizon.  I had spent the last several hours just outside of Chillicothe Ohio, ambling among the Native American earthworks—a group of mounds aptly nicknamed “The City of the Dead.”

            Nature was in full splendor; the sky an exquisite blue, the vegetation full and green.  A cool breeze blew away any hint of the sun’s intense summer rays.  Despite the ever-present chattering of other visitors, the intermittent singing of the birds in the surrounding woods, and the muffled sound of prisoners enjoying their exercise at the neighboring prison—there was a quiet, protective calm that permeated the ancient burial grounds.

            I gingerly browsed the site’s museum, hovering gracefully over each artifact as if my very presence would awaken some long-forgotten soul, lingering around his precious stone ax-head or beloved effigy pipe.  The Hopewell Culture had created this site around 2,000 years ago, and though it had once been used as a World War I training camp, the open-air field bore no trace of ill-intent.  In fact, nearly every Native site I had visited over the years conveyed a sense of peace and left me with the impression that the former residents were more or less at rest; dissolved into the surroundings, just as the salty earth is dispersed and absorbed in the waters of the nearby Scioto River.  Any remaining Native energies that had happened to reach my senses over the years felt accepting and protective… or at the very least benign; perhaps sensing kinship in me or even just a gentle, respectful soul.  In any case, I always felt drawn to these areas, never questioning my safety.

            After one last trek around the hiking path that encircled the grounds, fatigue was setting in.  Knowing hunger was imminent and with the 1 ½-hour drive back home weighing on my mind, I hopped in my car and set off for Highway 35.  But as I approached the intersection that would start me on my way home, an idea crept into my mind; imperceptible at first, but more persistent by the second.  I couldn’t fight the urge to turn the steering wheel of my old Hyundai left—away from home.

            This insistence had actually taken root a couple of months earlier during a visit to another Native American site not too far away in Ohio.  I had stumbled upon an exhibit of a floor-to-ceiling reproduction of an aged photograph that dominated one of the rooms of their small museum—a grand old tree, surrounded by historical information, artifacts, and the gaunt faces of those long-forgotten.  It was Logan’s Elm—the tree (now a part of a small memorial park) where Chief Logan gave his concession speech to the white settlers who usurped his and his brethrens’ land.  The desire to visit this memorial etched itself on my brain. 

            It seemed that day had come.  As I turned left, my GPS gave quick confirmation that Chief Logan’s site indeed lay merely a few miles up the road.  Shrouded among rural pastures and farmland, the small plot of land was tucked in a secluded area several feet from the road.  Gravel crunching under my tires, I slowly drove the length of the turnout, almost anxiously noting the lack of other vehicles or visitors in the lot.  Parking the car, I sat there for a moment noticing that the blue sky had suddenly turned white with a layer of clouds.  The air felt cooler, yet completely still; the daylight somehow dimmer.  There were no sounds of civilization; an eerie quiet.   Even the birds were silent, leaving the dull roar of the blood pulsating inside my ears as my only proof against sudden deafness. 

           I stood staring out over the unkempt park.  Scattered memorial stones rose up out of the overgrown weeds.  Trees spray-painted with odd symbols lined the edges.  A pang of nervous energy welled up into my chest.  I was alone, and deep primal doubts began to gnaw at my gut.  But I had come a long way and my rational brain succeeded in convincing me that I was being ridiculous.  After all, it would only take a moment to walk around and view each stone—and my car would be visible at all times.  A short sprint would quickly take me out of harm’s way and just in case, my finger would be at-the-ready, poised over the button on my pepper spray keychain throughout the visit.

           Pushing aside the fear, I strode purposefully into the tall grass.  The first upright granite stone I encountered towered over me.  A quick scan of the time-worn engraved words revealed Chief Logan’s speech given in 1774 after the betrayal he experienced, and after the treaty that was drawn up following the Native defeat in Point Pleasant, West Virginia:

“I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed, and said, Logan is the friend of the white men. I have even thought to live with you but for the injuries of one man. Col. Cresap, the last spring, in cold blood, and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This has called on me for revenge. I have sought it: I have killed many: I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.”

             I took a deep breath.  This was clearly a scorned and bitter person.  Shame for my ancestors’ actions and sadness for the tragic circumstances that had befallen this man overcame my heart.  An expression of sympathy tumbled awkwardly out of my mouth.  I don’t know why I spoke out loud; perhaps to assuage the spirits, or maybe just to soothe my own overwhelming feelings of loneliness—but I spoke.

            After a silent pause, I pushed forward to the next memorial.  My blood suddenly surged with a new pulse of fear and adrenaline, but with curiosity getting the better of me I managed to suppress the urge to flee.  I was rewarded with the knowledge that interestingly, a small house with a large family by the name of “Boggs” once existed on this plot of land after the time of the Chief’s gathering. I wondered about this family; wondered if they had felt or experienced anything odd or unsettling on this property, all the while knowing their stories and secrets likely died with them decades ago. 

            Then my eyes caught sight of what I knew must be the reason I had braved this dismal visit in the first place.  There was no longer a gigantic elm like the one pictured in the museum’s photograph. I had a feeling there wouldn’t be; but a smaller, younger elm stood in its place.  As I drew closer to the spot, somehow even the air took on a dizzying, odd quality.  Slow motion… the sensation not of walking, but floating… until I stood before the legendary tree.  A sign jutting sharply from the ground confirmed what my instincts told me—the original tree had fallen in a storm decades ago and a new elm had been re-planted in its place.

            My heart jumped.  The hair on my arms stood erect in the summer air, and the entire front side of my body suddenly went numb.  I took a few steps back, as every sense I possessed became hyperaware.  Then, in an instant and seemingly without conscious control, my body turned sharply and my legs began to take me back in the direction of the parking lot.  For a brief moment I looked back over my shoulder at the tree, growing ever smaller in my sights.  In my mind’s eye it was as if a ferocious guard dog stood poised and snarling behind me—a caged predator, hoping that any morsel passing by might fall into his enclosure.  Every nerve in my body screamed, “RUN! Run for your life!”  But like a predator, I sensed this too thrived on the fear of the chase—its instincts kicking in the second I set off in a sprint.  No, I walked (albeit quickly) in the direction of the tiny lot, quietly singing a nervous little song to myself out loud in a desperate attempt to mask the fear.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed other small monuments; ones that I had come here to explore.  It was tempting, but I knew I could not stop.  I must not.

            Then, like a bad horror movie where the villain reaches out and grabs the unfortunate fleeing victim, I felt a touch… a pressure from behind.  There were no discernible hands; more like a force—a wall that pushed against the entire backside of my body, driving me forward involuntarily.  It was an unmistakable sense of being urged, “Get out! Get out NOW!”  At that moment, my personal resolve set in.  We are all told that while having a nightmare about being chased, the best way to rid oneself of the pursuer is to stop and turn to face it, thereby exposing it and stripping it of its power.  I did just that.  Obstinately stopping and whipping myself around, fists clenched, I was fully-prepared that I would see something behind me—whether a full-body apparition or just a thick black mass. I set a look of steely determination on my face and felt strong words forming in the back of my throat, ready to confront the unknown aggressor.  But upon turning, I discovered only the tree looming in the distance and a faint, barely-discernible disturbance hanging in the air.  Nothing I hadn’t seen before.  Yet I still felt it bearing down on me, perhaps a bit surprised at my boldness, but nevertheless intent on pushing me away—not unlike the mentally-ill train spirit in the movie Ghost.

             Finally, I reached the parking lot and my car.  I quickly hopped inside, not yet breathing a sigh of relief, as I prayed the old engine would turn over.  Thankfully, it did—and I drove quickly down the gravel pull-out, watching the unkempt park grow smaller in my rear-view mirror.  I took a breath and exhaled deeply as I crossed over the threshold of the park’s entrance/exit.

             It wasn’t until I reached the nearby town of Circleville and was seated by myself in a restaurant eating supper that I truly allowed my brain to ruminate on that afternoon’s events.  Was the force that pushed me back to my car a malicious one, protecting its territory—or a guardian, trying to shield me from whatever I happened upon while viewing the elm?  

             To this day, I am unsure of what presence (or presences) resides in Chief Logan’s Elm Memorial Park… or why it has chosen—or perhaps has been forced—to stay.  The possibilities are many; it could be a member of the Boggs family, or something the local teenagers conjured up in late-night rituals.  It could even be Chief Logan himself, viciously defending the last parcel of (nearly forgotten) property allowed him.  Whatever is there, is determined. 

             As of this writing, I haven’t returned to the memorial park.  I have considered it… many times.  If you, dear reader, wish to visit the Chief Logan Elm Memorial Park between Circleville and Chillicothe Ohio, I suggest you bring a friend… and perhaps an offering of peace.” 

Native Americans in the past (and even today) obviously had a great deal of respect for nature, spirits of all kinds, and spiritual experiences.  It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that these people would be appalled at how the treatment of their people and land by the new settlers over the generations.  In addition, my research has led me to run across stories of thunderbirds, unusual petroglyphs, objects said to ward off evil spirits (particularly those having to do with rivers), shamans, interesting rituals and ceremonies, etc.  What does this have to do with Mothman?  Keep reading.

First, we have to ask ourselves—what exactly is Mothman and why does he seem to cause (or foretell) such odd occurrences?  I think there are as many theories to that as there are people who have asked the question.  I have one myself, of course—and here it is:  I believe the intelligent energy that the Mothman was created from has existed in the Ohio/West Virginia/Kentucky/Illinois/Indiana/Pennsylvania area for thousands of years (particularly around the rivers).  Perhaps it even draws energy from the New Madrid fault-line that lies deep under certain states/rivers in the Midwest.  In any case, I feel that for centuries this energy may have been conjured and manipulated by the Native Americans in these areas—taking on a shape-shifting, creature-like form.  Then, perhaps out of fear and anger, ultimately used as a tool in an attempt to intimidate the white aggressors. Something caused this intelligence to resurface in the Point Pleasant area in the late 1960’s; perhaps some kind of build-up of energy from the impending bridge tragedy over the river.

I do not believe this energy is good, nor evil—it just is. Sometimes helpful, sometimes hurtful—it carries the traits we as humans give it.  I believe that if you look into it… it will look back into you.  It knows many things and many people—and uses what we think, feel, and do to draw more energy to it in order to perpetuate itself—creating situations and/or hallucinations that either drive us forward or scare the hell out of us; sometimes ruthlessly playing with our minds.  I believe that it is all connected—to both the seemingly good AND bad phenomena and beings.  It watches and waits, and it exists—as many other paranormal phenomena—in the space between spaces.  You may completely disagree with me… and that’s fine.  I don’t believe anyone can know for sure or have all the answers–particularly on a subject so otherworldly.

Recently, I returned for another weekend to Point Pleasant—this time for the 11th annual Mothman Festival (http://mothmanfestival.com/).  While I made the trip solo, I encountered a few familiar faces—which is always comforting.  The Festival is packed with pageants, music, vendors, food (including “Mothman Pancakes”), haunted tours of the historic Lowe’s Hotel, riverside walks, museum and history tours, people in costume (most notably the roaming “Men in Black”).  But arguably my favorite part of the weekend—the nighttime hayrides into the woods of the TNT area—where MIB’s, reenactments from the 60’s, and even the Mothman himself lurked in the shadows waiting to frighten the riders—albeit a tacky plastic and rubber version.  If Mothman has done nothing else, he has put the small town of Point Pleasant and surrounding towns on the map—and has given the area a bit of a financial boost; even though the area itself is beautiful and has a strange magical energy that draws people to it and almost makes them regretful to leave.

I took in most of the activities of the Festival and then some—taking my own side trips to the old battleground, Chief Cornstalk’s resting place, and a couple of cemeteries (then later some Native American sites farther north in Ohio); exhausting myself to the point of sickness by the time I finally arrived back home. So much history (most very tragic) happened in such a small space here. Though, the festive atmosphere that almost seemed to poke fun at the events decades ago—took away any fear or suspicion one might feel otherwise. Something about the collectively light-hearted crowd of families, locals, and paranormal enthusiasts appeared to keep that primal energy at bay.  Only an odd incident near Chillicothe involving swarms of birds on my way there, being alone in my hotel room, and driving on the backroads from the TNT site in the middle of the night stirred up those old familiar uneasy feelings. Even writing this blog has taken over a week, resulting in my having to close my notebook and store it away for a couple of days, as many times just as I began getting my point across, an overwhelming sense of surveillance and accompanying dread seemed to descend upon me.

The media and the focus of locals and investigators seem to direct and shape this energy today.  Who knows when this intelligence will be strong enough to be called up again into our physical world… and what form it might take?  I think it all depends on humanity.  I prefer not too think too much or deeply about it… for it seems that is the time it thinks about me.

 The Mothman Prophecies Trailer (2002)

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