Book Review: ‘The Mothman Prophecies’ by John A. Keel

When you look at the latest cover of John A. Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies – the book for which the movie, staring Richard Gere is based upon – you see the words:  “a true story.” Those three words could repel you, cause you to repudiate the book’s claims. It might make you laugh, though not likely. The third reaction is to be engrossed, to take everything at face value. While this can be dangerous, The Mothman Prophecies is just the kind of book to challenge your way of thinking as a vessel into a belief that is frightening and incredible.

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I’m of the belief that American folklore is haunted folklore. You can’t flip on the television without seeing a reality based program where strangers invade a home or “haunted” location, poke around, and gather evidence. The term “Squatchin’,” a word that essentially means to go out into the woods and hunt for bigfoot, is part of the American lexicon of words. America’s folklore is populated by ghosts, hairy ape men, lake monsters, and many other legends. Among them lives the Mothman, a six foot tall humanoid, covered with brown hair, and with wings that span ten feet, on average. The most stunning feature though are those glowing red eyes. Even to those who have never seen such a creature, they know those eyes, as if through telepathic means. This creature haunts the psyche of a collective body.

The Mothman hasn’t been sighted often in our modern era, if you can believe the reports. Some say he was seen flying over the ruins of The Twin Towers, and there are others that believe the creature has been sighted all over the world. It was 1966-67, though, when this creature became celebrity, and with it, one of the most consistent and incredible sightings of UFOs, MIB, and aliens of all kinds, even of the strange human variety.

The first official sighting of the creature occurred on November 15th 1966 in Point Pleasant, WV; a town as vital to the legend as IT was to Derry, Maine. In and around Point Pleasant, sightings of UFOs occurred as regularly, if not more than Mothman. More terrifying than those sightings were that of the Men in Black. The way Keel describes them in his book, it’s as if they’re aliens in human disguise, except they don’t know how to act human. The simplest things, such as ballpoint pens and Jell-o seemed to confuse them. They all looked relatively the same; short, oriental features, unnatural skin color, large eyes, and erratic behavior. Likewise were the encounters that some people had with alien beings. Woodrow Derenberger’s encounters with the being named Indrid Cold are widely publicized, but Keel goes into great depth on Woody’s encounters with the man, including time in a space craft and visits to a planet called Lanulos.

Keel’s style of storytelling relies less on the chronological, though the overall focus of the book is kept in a tidy nature, in the larger scope of the Silver Bridge Collapse. He focuses on certain events, beings, or phenomena as the subjects of his chapters. As a journalist, his writing is top notch; investigative reporting about strange phenomena has never been more brilliantly told. Keel also does a phenomenal job introducing theories to account for some of the “goings on” during the time period, including explanations on hypnosis, names and shared Greek characteristics, and theories about ley lines and UFO phenomena. He does his best to play the skeptic, but having experienced many of these events himself, he explains them as any person would, faced with the unknown, through human context.

If you’ve seen the faux documentary, Mermaids: The Body Found – the purpose of such a documentary, aside from telling a compelling story, is to make you think, challenge your world view. The Mothman Prophecies, is the original Mermaids, only, to hundreds of people, the events surrounding 1966-67 in West Virginia were real.  This is a book first published in the 1970’s and today it is still haunting, fascinating, and a frightening display of what the unknown is capable of. At the end of the book, like the end of West Virginia’s 13 months of terror, you’re left with questions, and an explanation that is altogether hard to believe. If you’re looking for an acceptable answer though, that’s up to you, the reader, in that last fateful chapter. If all you’ve ever known of The Mothman is from the Richard Gere film, grab this book and let it grab and hold you; this book doesn’t let go easy.

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