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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2002 > Nov > Nov 15

First Mothman Festival

From: Stig Agermose <stig.agermose.nul>
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2002 12:06:37 +0100
Archived: Fri, 15 Nov 2002 16:20:44 -0500
Subject: First Mothman Festival


Source: Charleston Daily Mail - West Virginia

http://www.dailymail.com/news/News/2002111450/

Stig

***

The Mothman craze

Mason County takes its claim to fame a step further with the
first Mothman festival

Chris Stirewalt <cstire.nul>
Daily Mail Staff

Thursday November 14, 2002; 10:30 AM

**

POINT PLEASANT -- The Mothman has returned to this sleepy river
town, but this time residents hope he will portend economic
growth rather than disaster.

Town merchants are hoping to cash in on a national trend, called
crypto- tourism by some, that has seen tens of thousands drawn
to places where unexplained or paranormal events occurred.

"There's a hunger out there for answers or even just a
connection," local Mothman expert, author and entrepreneur Jeff
Wamsley said. "People want to see something or touch something
that was part of the whole mystery. We've got to find a way to
tap into that."

=46rom the site of alleged alien abductions in Roswell, N.M., to
the home of purported prehistoric underwater creatures in
upstate New York, Americans are willing to travel far and spend
big to be part of the excitement.

This weekend, Point Pleasant will host the first Mothman
Festival in its downtown with rides for children, props from
last year's hit movie "The Mothman Prophecies" and even a
hayride out to the old explosives storage area where the
ghastly, winged being allegedly was first seen 36 years ago on
Nov. 15.

In the 13 months that followed, the town, all of Mason County
and much of the state were gripped with fear as more and more
people came forward to say they had seen a gray creature,
standing 7 feet tall, with bright red eyes and wings like a
bird.

Witnesses reported being visited by the creature, being pursued
by air at high speeds as they drove along country roads and
experiencing interruptions in radio and television signals by an
unearthly squeal.

The sightings abruptly ended on Dec. 15, 1967, when the Silver
Bridge that connected Point Pleasant to Kanauga, Ohio, collapsed
under the weight of a holiday shopping traffic jam, killing 45
and injuring many others.

The Mothman legend faded into the background and Point Pleasant
slipped into relative anonymity over the next 30 years, with the
scars of the Silver Bridge disaster and the terror caused by the
Mothman gradually receding.

When John A. Keel, a journalist who came to town to report on
the bizarre occurrences of 1967, published his book "The Mothman
Prophecies" in 1975, it caused only a minor stir but offered a
more benign explanation of what had occurred.

In Keel's telling, the possibility was raised that the Mothman
came to warn people about the impending disaster. Keel found
other incidents around the world where similar sightings were
reported before disasters.

As the book circulated and the stories became part of local
legend, the Mothman became less of a sinister character and more
of a local celebrity -- a claim to fame for a town that had seen
little else in recent years to celebrate.

By the time the movie based on Keel's book starring Richard Gere
premiered in 2001, most Point Pleasant residents were ready to
embrace the connection to the paranormal.

"I started keeping a guest book after a while because I wanted
some kind of a record to show people at the chamber of commerce
how much interest there was in this," said Carolyn Harris, the
owner of the diner that was recreated in the movie. "We've got
people from all over who see the sign for Point Pleasant as
they're driving along and pull off to see where it all
happened."

Wamsley and Harris are leading the charge to make Point Pleasant
Mothman country. They hope a new river museum, a refurbished
waterfront and other unrelated projects will add to the
experience.

"We have a chance to do something here," said Wamsley, who owns
a record store that is also a Mothman gift shop and center for
paranormal studies in town. "There's still some people in town
who just dismiss what we're trying to do. But you have to
remember that they dismiss everything. It's a lot easier for
them just to shoot down every idea than to get out and do
something."

This weekend's festival is intended to show businesses and city
leaders that the Mothman need not be simply a curiosity. Wamsley
and Harris think he can become an economic engine.

"Even if we just had a few hundred people show up," Harris said,
"that would really say something."

Point Pleasant has some examples to follow when it comes to
crypto- tourism, including the leader in the field, Roswell,
N.M.

Julie Shuster, director of the UFO Museum in Roswell, said their
annual festival held over the 4th of July holiday, the
anniversary of the 1947 UFO sightings, has been a hit for years.
She said the museum itself draws more than 200,000 visitors each
year.

Shuster said the UFO Festival draws more than 10,000 visitors to
Roswell each year with a mixture of fantasy and serious study.

"If they want to dress up as Klingons, they can," Shuster said.
"Or if they want to come down and hear a free lecture from the
leaders in the field, they can do that, too."

Roswell officials credit the fascination with aliens for
creating a tourism boom in their town and eagerly cooperate with
any effort to bring in alien hunters.

Locals in Willow Creek, Calif., also have learned to embrace
their unexplained resident -- Bigfoot.

The Bigfoot Days Festival, held every summer since 1960, draws
as many as 2,000 people every year to the tiny town in the
northern part of the state that bills itself at the "Gateway to
Bigfoot Country" and features a huge statue of a sasquatch.

The festival features fun for believers and non-believers alike,
with costumes, parades and ice cream socials.

"It's just a real hometown kind of festival," Nita Rowley of the
Willow Creek Chamber of Commerce said. "Tourists like it because
it has that homey feel to it. They pour in. And there's the
museum and the like for the more serious folks."

On Lake Champlain in the Adirondack region of New York, locals
love their local paranormal resident, Champ, the Lake Champlain
Monster. Think of him as a smaller and more lovable Loch Ness
Monster.

While there is much disagreement over the actual existence of
Champ, many locals are adamant in their belief that the creature
exists and even assists stranded fishermen. It is considered
something of an honor to have your name listed on a board
listing confirmed sightings.

"The Champ Day celebration is always great fun," event organizer
Teresa Huestis said. "And there is generally a pretty positive
response from local merchants. Everyone sort of gets involved.
We have a townwide yard sale and crafts."

Now that Point Pleasant can claim a creature that may have been
a protector rather than a ghoul, perhaps Wamsley and Harris can
get their town to get behind a festival celebrating the Mothman.

"We need to try something here," Harris said. "We can't just all
sit around on our hands and complain. We'll have to leave that
to them that have been doing it for years around here."

Writer Chris Stirewalt can be reached at 348-4824.

**

=A9 Copyright 2002 Charleston Daily Mail


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