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Reality Checking

Was one witness haunted by the terrifying Mothman specter?

By Brent Raynes

Brent Raynes

In John Keel’s five lengthy visits to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, back in the latter part of the 1960s, he wrote that he had interviewed over a hundred witnesses to the legendary “Mothman.” He reported that about half of these witnesses had described having latent or active psychic abilities and experiences (i.e., premonitions, extra-sensory perceptions, poltergeist manifestations, etc.). In May 1976, I and Ohio cryptozoologist Ron Schaffner, known best for editing a journal called Creature Chrnicles, descended upon Point Pleasant one weekend and verified a number of Keel’s published observations. I contacted and spoke on the phone with Virginia Thomas who described her “Mothman” (or whatever it was) experience back on November 2, 1967, and her prophetic dreams, one which seemed to foreshadow the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge on December 15, 1967. She said that she had once also foreseen an explosion at a jail in Point Pleasant where several people died. We met with one of the original Mothman witnesses, Linda Scarberry, who shared with us (along with her mom and dad) not only chilling details of her original Mothman encounter on the night of November 15, 1966, in the area of the abandoned World War II munitions TNT complex several miles outside Point Pleasant, when she and three other teenagers not only had an up close look at a six and a half to seven foot tall man like figure with “two bright red” eyes and “big wings folded against its back,” that took to the air as they attempted a high-speed escape down local Route 62 (for several miles it apparently kept up) but Linda claimed that she had actually had “hundreds” of experiences with the creature since! It was as though she had become haunted by the entity, and even described how one time she looked out an apartment window where she was living at the time and a mere yard or so distance she saw the creature looking back at her, with it’s luminous, protruding red eyes! “It seems like it doesn’t want to hurt you,” she insisted. “But you’re too afraid when you see it to do anything.”

“We had never heard of a UFO or anything like that before in our lives,” Linda’s mother, Mabel McDaniel, told us. “Now that’s the truth. We had never heard of it before until that happened to the kids and then after that happened everything went berserk.”

And “berserk” things indeed became! All sorts of strange happenings plagued them. UFOs, doors opening and closing, mysterious footsteps, unexplained odors, and ghostly apparitions. Linda once awakened to see the dark outline of a man standing at the foot of her bed. She wanted to yell over at an aunt sleeping in a nearby bed in the same room, or grab a flashlight which she felt as though if she could just shine it over on a crucifix on the wall everything might be okay, but she found she “couldn’t even move.” Several minutes seemed to elapse and then, she stated, “He lit a cigarette and when he lit the cigarette it lit up this crucifix on the wall and he disappeared.” When Linda’s aunt awakened right after that she said that she had just dreamed that there was a man in the room.

“We’ve heard beeping sounds over the phone,” Linda added. In the house they had also heard a sound like an amplified “heart beat,” jibberish like “speeded up voices,” and occasionally an odor like “peach jelly,” which I was told that Keel had informed the family was a sign that the good beings or forces were near. “I don’t understand it really but he seems to know what he’s talking about,” Mrs. McDaniel told us. She recalled how Keel was visiting one time and one morning she had gone to the bank. “He was still here and he hadn’t gotten up yet and there was this big black shiny Cadillac, right behind me, and I went on to the window and instead of him coming straight on down right behind me there, after I made the turn he went on straight through the alley. So I came back to tell John about that and he said that ‘he wants you to know that he knows I’m here.’”

In Mothman Prophecies, Keel wrote: “Roger and Linda Scarberry were living in a house trailer at the time of their Mothman sighting. In the week that followed they were suddenly plagued by strange sounds around the trailer late at night. Beeps and loud garbled noises like a speeded-up phonograph record. They could not locate the source of the sounds outside or inside the trailer. Worried and frightened, they finally moved out of the trailer and settled in the basement apartment in the home of Linda’s parents, Parke and Mabel McDaniel.”

Keel had a number of UFO sightings while in West Virginia, but he wrote that his best one occurred on top of a high hill in Gallipolis Ferry during the wee hours of the morning of April 3, 1967. It was at about 1:35 a.m. when he observed a clearly defined saucer-shaped object, an estimated 20-30 feet across, that was “glowing red with greenish upper surface” and had “red lights or ‘portholes’ around (the) perimeter.” It appeared to land behind some trees a short distance away from his automobile, in which just moments before he had been relaxed and listening to the Long John Nebel radio program being broadcast from New York, while chewing on a candy bar.

The very next afternoon Keel led Macon County Sheriff George Johnson and Deputy Millard Halstead up the hill to where he had had his encounter. They checked the area over with a Geiger counter and looked for any physical trace evidence, but nothing abnormal turned up, although one odd thing did happen. As Sheriff Johnson had been driving up the hill a strange sound issued from his radio, which wasn’t even turned on at the time (and, in fact, turned on with a key, and the key wasn’t in the lock). “It sounded like the voices on a speeded-up phonograph record,” Keel wrote.

In addition, Deputy Halstead stated that five months earlier he had heard that same noise come over his radio. It happened in the McClintic Wildlife Station on Wednesday, November 15, 1966, when he sat in his car with frightened young witnesses to what would become the “Mothman” legend.

One day in Gallipolis, Ohio, Keel was introduced by area journalist Mary Hyre to a respected, credible woman who insisted on anonymity. She hesitantly described her encounter. It had happened several months earlier, the previous November. It was somewhere around 7 or 8 p.m., she was outside and getting ready to leave her job site and go home when saw a “big cylinder” silently land a mere 20 feet from her. Two normal looking men got out and approached her. They seemed heavily tanned, had pointed noses, pointed chins and high cheekbones. “Their voices were sort of singsongy and high-pitched,” she told Keel. “It was like listening to a phonograph record played at the wrong speed. And they kept asking me for the time. They said ‘What is your time?’ two or three times. Finally they just walked back to the thing and it took off.”

Linda and her mom used to watch for a spell a nightly UFO display that appeared over local reporter Mary Hyre’s home. It would be around 10 p.m., and “a light, a kind of orangish-red, looking like a rose,” would appear, Mabel McDaniel stated. Linda added, “It looked like the petals were coming out. It was of different colors, and not any colors that we have. And then this big golden cross would come up out of it. It’s really huge.”

Regarding UFOs, Mabel noted, “You’ve got this feeling that comes over you all at once. My husband can verify that too because he was there one night and we were just looking, watching for something in the sky, and all at once we both got real quiet and I said, ‘Do you feel anything funny?’ and he said “Yes, do you?’ I said, ‘Yes, let’s get out of here.’ It wasn’t very long till we saw this UFO, or whatever it was, playing hide and seek with us. We would get right under it and it would black out, and then go on ahead of us like it was trying to lead us or something. But you can tell that quick when there’s something around up there. It was pretty low.” Mr. McDaniel estimated that it was as low as 300 to 400 feet.

Ron and I had found that Point Pleasant’s Mothman story was even deeper and more complex, incredibly enough, than we had read in Keel’s Mothman Prophecies. “As you discovered, my book only covered a small part of the overall situation,” Keel later would write me. “It would have taken six books to discuss all of it. What happened there also happened (and is still happening) in many other parts of the country. I was flabbergasted by the scope and complexity of the phenomena in the 1960s. I found the same identical situations everywhere, from Long Island to Hartshorne, Oklahoma. I spent some time in Fyffe, Alabama then, and, as you know, they are still having UFO stuff along with many animal mutilations, poltergeist activity, etc.”

In the March 1976 issue of FATE magazine, was published an account from a Virginia Miller of Elma, New York, describing how after reading a book review of Keel’s Mothman Prophecies, she was reminded of an experience with a Mothman-type creature that her father had had, of all times, on Halloween night in 1974. She wrote that they had not ever heard of Mothman until nearly a year after her father’s experience.

She described how her father was outside the house that night watching for overzealous trick or treaters when he felt a compulsion to go to the backyard where his daughter Virginia had recently had a miniature replica of Stonehenge constructed with cement blocks. Stumbling over a low garden fence he fell to his knees, got up and approached the circle of blocks. Then over nearby treetops Mr. Miller was startled to see a human-like figure with a 9-10 foot wingspan and a “large grotesque head” come gliding down towards him! It came very close, but then suddenly veered off back towards the woods. Virginia had felt that her father had been protected from the “gargoyle” looking creature because a friend trained in the ancient Celtic traditions had blessed the site with an old Celtic blessing. She also reported that like the people chronicled by Keel, she and her parents were “plagued by various misfortunes for months” afterwards.

A correspondent of mine wrote Virginia Miller and paid a visit to her and her father. The creature, my friend was told, had had “leathery skin,” “glowing eyes,” and a “turtle like face” and a “long neck.” The Miller’s also had a history of various kinds of psychic experiences as well.

A few years back (1978), I corresponded with a Swedish ufologist named Hakan Blomqvist about Mothman and other anomalies. He described for me how during a wave of UFO sightings over Sweden on the night of October 30, 1965 (Halloween Eve) a couple encountered “several small humanoids floating around their car.” He added, “The creatures had big, hypnotic red eyes just like Mothman.”

“The woman has also met an Adamski-type humanoid on a boat in Norway. He was wearing a one-piece uniform and gave her several predictions about the death of Martin Luther King and some personal things. This couple, who have since become my very good friends, have had so many experiences that it would take a book to cover them all. Strange phone calls, invisible entities in their apartment, furniture moving by itself. You name it they got it. John Keel met them when he was here in 1976. The latest development has involved the man who has become a trance medium. They are now cruising all over Sweden giving ‘teachings’ from an old Arab called Simeno!! I would favor the hypothesis that the teachings come from their/his subconscious as the philosophy presented is really their own, a combination of theosophy and spiritualism.”

“There are many striking similarities between UFO humanoids and the devas, elementals and fairies described in the occult literature,” he noted. “It’s like some energy zeroes in on certain individuals under certain conditions and this energy can manifest itself in many ways. Sometimes the contactee can partly control it himself like Uri Geller and his metal bending.”

“In 1974, I investigated an abduction case which happened at Valletuna, north of Stockholm. A man, an electrician, got an impression to walk a certain route. There he saw a very intense light. He threw himself to the ground but claims he never reached it but was instead sucked up into the light. Then he remembered nothing more until he was at home again. During hypnosis though he described the usual abduction tale, how he was examined by some strange entities. He wasn’t sure of their appearance but they seemed transparent.”

“After this experience he became very sensitive to electrical and ‘other’ energies. He also had several ESP-experiences and said he had met and talked to an ape-creature in a dream calling itself Hanuman. This is odd as he knew nothing of the Hindu age god Hanuman.”

Blomqvist introduced me to another Swedish ufologist named Ake Franzen who in October 1969, visited Point Pleasant himself, spending nearly four weeks there, and a little less later on a second visit, probably sometime in 1970. He met all of the major figures in the Mothman mystery, like Mary Hyre, Linda Scarberry, Parke and Mabel McDaniel, Connie Carpenter, Marcella Bennett and many others. He had corresponded with John Keel, who gave him a letter of introduction, which Ake stated “opened almost every door in Point Pleasant for me.” When he was initially doing his research on Mothman he was a little skeptical. “I had in mind that it could be a hoax and if it turned out to be, I had to take the whole thing as a pleasant holiday,” he wrote me. But notions of hoaxing were soon removed from his mind as he met the people of Point Pleasant, spent time with them and heard their many strange stories firsthand. One night he visited the old abandoned power plant in the TNT complex with Mary Hyre, Linda Scarberry, and Connie Carpenter. He intended to enter the plant but Linda and Mary told him not to go in, that they could feel that something was wrong. “I must admit I got scared but my curiosity was a little stronger so I got out of the car and approached the ruin,” Ake wrote. “It was then when I noticed the change. Earlier, when we had been there, lots of noises were heard, from all directions. A bark, for instance, from a dog nearby, crickets in the grass, and a lot of different sounds from the woods. But now…It was complete silence! Not a single sound from anywhere. I can’t understand it because there should have been something!”

“Well, I continued through the opening in the building, where it had been a door one time in the past. I searched with my flashlight around the walls and the inner room, but found nothing. But the whole time the air felt thick in a strange way.”

“On my return to the car, Linda screamed that something was moving in the ruin and I turned my body. But there was nothing to be seen, and I came back to the car. Mary and Linda told me that my hair had been raised when I turned my back to them and it’s possible, but I didn’t feel it. But both Mary and Linda had seen something moving in a window in the building after my search. I can’t explain that either, but my opinion is that both of them are able to see things others can’t.”

Did Mothman need people with psychic abilities?

Ake came to feel that many of the witnesses had something in common. “They are highly sensitive persons and perhaps very susceptible for this sort of experience. Linda even suffered from hearing heartbeat sounds from the cellar now and then. Louder and louder until they suddenly disappeared.”

“Perhaps our enigmatic friends from The Twilight Zone need sensitive people to make themselves known,” Ake offered.

I came to wonder if it was a mere coincidence that a lot of the Mothman activity in West Virginia seemed to erupt soon after Halloween in 1966 and 1967. During that November 15, 1966 episode, at one point during their frantic attempt to outdistance themselves from the winged horror that was pursuing their car, they noticed the body of a big dog on the side of the road. A few minutes later when they passed back by that same area again there was no body!

Was Mothman conjured in an occult ritual?

“Soon after the Mothman’s first appearance in November 1966, police found the body of a dog in the TNT area,” Keel wrote in The Mothman Prophecies. “It was completely charred, yet the surrounding area was unburned. I wondered if it might not have been sacrificed in some secret magical ritual by some unknown local warlock: a ritual that brought Mothman into being?”

Keel came across a lot of strange animal mutilation cases in the area. Across the Ohio River from Point Pleasant, Keel had found Gallipolis, Ohio to be an active area. That November a man had found his missing German Shepherd dead, laying in a field inside a perfect twenty foot wide circle of flattened grass. Reportedly every bone in its body had been crushed and there was no sign of any blood.

Interestingly the Celtic Druids of England reportedly believed that the dead needed to be cleansed after death. They believed that the soul of the departed had to be transferred to the body of an animal, and on the night of October 31st, the souls were to be freed by a Druid god named Samhain and taken to heaven. The ancient Druid ceremonies were accompanied by animal and, reportedly, human sacrifices sometimes.

It all sounds far out, doesn’t it? However, when it comes to the mystery of Mothman and all of the other high strangeness that occurred in Point Pleasant and the surrounding areas, what doesn’t?! In the end, Keel wrote me: “there have been Mothman-type sightings in every part of the world. I no longer find them intriguing.”

Invisibility again….

In the November 2012 issue of this magazine, in this column (Reality Checking) I explored several instances of invisibility described by a UFO experiencer from Illinois. Nancy Talbott recently mentioned on her website how two witnesses had observed young Dutch medium Robbert van den Broeke temporarily disappear while a mysterious ball of light cavorted about. Interestingly, just as this young medium often seems to have strong precognitive impressions of crop circle formations before they appear at locations in his country of Holland, he earlier in the day, on June 27, 2007, had asked a certain Ellen Gomez how she would handle it if a “light-ball” would appear near her and if she’d be fearful if he happened to “disappear” or be “transported” (he had had UFO/entity encounters before). Later that night, at 11 p.m., Gomez and Robbert’s mother accompanied him out to a field in Holland at a recent crop circle site. He had walked off to a distance of approximately 50 meters, at which point they could make out his silhouette. Suddenly he disappeared and then simultaneously a small golfball sized red ball of light appeared over the field about 50-75 meters to the left of where Robbert had been just a second earlier. The light began moving horizontally in a circular pattern about a meter above the vegetation, at first slowly and then at a fast rate, forming at that point a solid ring of light. Then the light ring took up a position that was at a 45 degree angle to the field.

“Suddenly the red line became a red ball of light again, which began bouncing up and down, down into and then up above the crop in what appeared to be exactly the same location, three times—after which it just disappeared,” Talbott’s report stated. “Where it had just ‘gone out’ Robbert was now standing, his silhouette clearly visible to both his mother and Mrs. Gomez. The women called to him and he slowly walked toward them. As he reached them, he said he had seen a tiny red light (like a ‘firefly’) circling just above his head and heard a very brief ‘chuuuk’ sound, but that then he must have ‘blacked out’ because he couldn’t remember anything else. He was a little dizzy and asked the women if they had been able to see him the whole time, apparently suspecting that he may have disappeared and that something strange had happened. Ellen estimated that Robbert was ‘missing’ for no more than 30 seconds to 1 minute and both women believe the entire red ball of light incident lasted only about 5 minutes.” (The complete report can be viewed at: http://www.bltresearch.com/eyewitness8.php)

William Hamilton in his book Alien Magic wrote: “One of the most remarkable abductees that I came to know was Brian Allan Scott. Brian was born on October 12, 1943 in Philadelphia. On his 16th birthday he saw a glowing orange ball of light come down from the sky to within a foot of where he stood, then it darted skyward, leaving the youthful Brian dumbfounded. The ball of light returned on many occasions, and on one particular night it came into his house and passed in front of a dresser mirror. Its reflection could not be seen in the mirror. Brian grabbed a broom and tried to bat the ball out of the house.”

We’ve covered mirror anomalies in this column before as well!

Back in 1976, I corresponded rather extensively with Brian Scott and another investigator who was looking into his case. I was surprised to come upon other contactees who described this birthday element, like a lady from New York who saw her first UFO on her 15th birthday on July 11, 1952. Like Brian, her parents had been Swedish too. In Ohio, I came upon a case of a young man of Danish ancestry who had missing time in 1973 on his 16th birthday at the height of UFO contact experiences that his family was undergoing. Was it all coincidence? I even came across other similar birthday encounters. I had no idea what to make of the data, what to do with it, and when I asked other seasoned ufologists if they had noticed such patterns I was told that they had not.

Once again, interesting but inconclusive!

Sunday, May 19, 2024