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The Mothman Prophecies

"Others complain about "Gypsies" crossing their properties at night."

-- John A. Keel, 1975

In 1966-1967, when innumerable reports of UFOS sightings surfaced in the United States, particularly in the Ohio valley. Public and media interest in connection with the existence and the nature of the flying saucers and the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial visits of our planet was raised again. John Keel visited the area five times and gathered experiences and reports there for several magazine articles and his 1975 book, "The Mothman Prophecies."

John Keel was a freelance journalist who sold articles to magazines such as Fate or Playboy. Inspired by Charles Fort, he worked quite lonely and discreetly in the sixties in collecting any possible story of devilish appearances, hairy monsters, winged cats, hair-rising ghosts. His friends were chiefly Gray Barker, the man who was at the origin of the success of the doubtful story of the three men in black told by Alfred K. Bender before his allegedly mysterious withdrawal form the ufological scene. Bender's terrible secret? Flying saucers come from the South Pole; a race of beings resembling intelligent bears grabbed Bender and made him tour their secret base. Gray Barker, according to all those who really knew it - including John Keel - had only sparse interest for any truth and was more interested in sensationalizing exaggerated all sorts of flying saucers stories, insofar as to publish a science fiction story on "interdimensional saucers" as "true events." Also not quite credible in the John Keel entourage, James W. Moseley, future UFO debunker, had his thrills in writing false letters to the contactee and Venus traveler Adamski, to shoot hoaxed UFO pictures and wear men-in-black disguises. It is in more than suspicious company that John Keel established a connection between monsters, saucers, men-in-black, mysterious telephone calls, all in a Lovecraftian athmos which will later fascinate two generations of researchers and mystery mongers, whose appetite for the supernatural cannot be satisfied via ordinary USAF reports and their mph, Lt-Col'sm F-86 and "unknowns" nor via the lack of thrill of Hynek's books in which vampires, ghouls, flying cats and saucers are not permitted in as UFO as long as they have not been methodically investigated, in case they were only tall tales, one man stories, hoaxes, the old planet Venus, the trivial weather balloon, will-o'-the-wisp, or maybe just a plane in the fog at night.

The Mothman Prophecies is the account of John Keel's wanderings in 1966-1967 in the Ohio valley and particularly at Point Pleasant, where he records an almost exhaustive theatre of supernatural events: appearances of what is described as a terrifying flying creature of the devilish giant bat with red eyes kind - more as a large bird such as the red circled eyed Sandhill Crane when daylight comes, if one believes the newspapers, the police officers and the preservation society biologist there - suspect lights in an abandoned military plant, contactees who travelled to planet Lanulos, other contactees preparing the organization of a UFO festival, animal mutilations, apocalyptic predictions of never to occur planetary disasters, telephone noises and failures, strange Asian-looking men in gray robes backseated in Cadillac limos, and a bridge that collapses...

The events reported by John Keel, are interestingly reminiscent of Gray Barker's inventions. Barker, a resident of the area and author of a book on the same stories published 5 years earlier, are told in a vertiginous succession in which John Keel does not see Martians at work, but an undefined unfathomable unintelligible intelligence, so to speak, which is supposed to dwell on our planet since the beginning of times, playing tricks on us, thus obviously beyond the reach of scientific elucidation.

It is clearly useless to try to sort out the fact, the fiction, the misidentification and the paranoia in these accounts and experiences; Keel himself gave up, and, besides, warns the reader: when someone is taken in the eye of the hurricane, there is no more objective distance to make a share of things. Here, he witnesses a nocturnal light type UFO which closes in and proves to be a plane; but there, the plane becomes a phantom plane. Here, the men-in-black is not other than the dark-coated John Keel himself, knocking on doors at impossible times and scaring the hell of the local people. There, male contactee declares himself pregnant from the intercourse with a male alien whose first name is Ingrid, and there the pregnant exiles himself to a remote galaxy, but, oh wait, didn't he simply go to Brazil? Later, Keel's phone rings again: a voice, making an almost credible impression of Gray Barker warns Keel against terrible enemies whose only Barker Gray and Keel John are supposed to know of, Keels deduces that it cannot be Gray, for he would never let himself be identified so easily. How logical. Moseley tries to convince Keel that Gray had this not quite so perfectly imitated Barker voice because he had been on the booze that night, but is that really Moseley on the phone? Sucked into a semi-Phildickian semi-Nixonian universe, suspicious of his friends, of the authorities, and of himself, he remains hopelessly facing the ultimate question: what is real?

Just as Phil Dick did, he enjoys the paranoia without giving up a reassuring humor. However, other authors far, far away from there, and much, much later, fascinated, have adopted Keel's saga as the evidence for their "possibly erroneous" or "obviously not scientific" answer to the UFO enigma. They would not accept any extraterrestrial UFO since this is nowhere to find as correct explanation in peer reviewed scientific papers in Science or Nature. UFOs? It's the devil, it's the military, it's the same as fairy tales, it's something in our own mind, it's a thinking crystal pulsing in the center of the earth, it's hallucinations caused by dental decay germs (yes, we have such theories over here in France), they are effects of LSD impregnated rye, it's a modern myth, it's all illusions of ETs manufactured by aliens, and so on, in any case, they are not from another planet, read John Keel, we know nothing, there is nothing certain after all, it's all myth, delusion, illusion, manipulation, it's Palmer Eldritch, and what good is science then.

Patrick Gross
February 2004

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This page was last updated on February 25, 2004.