Mothman

Monster, Disaster, and Community

Authors

  • Joe Laycock Harvard Divinity School

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.v3i1.70

Keywords:

Mothman, monsters, disasters

Abstract

From 1966 to 1967, a small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia was abuzz with sightings of a creature known as “the Mothman.” At the crescendo of these sightings, the town suffered a bridge collapse killing 46. Today, Mothman has become a patron of Point Pleasant and is honored with a statue, a museum and research center, and an annual festival. This paper analyzes the religious dimensions of the relationship between the sightings and the disaster. It is argued the Mothman legend has served an important role in the community's recovery from the disaster. In turn, the disaster had a key role in transforming Mothman from a creature of terror into a source of community and shared identity.

Author Biography

Joe Laycock, Harvard Divinity School

Joseph Laycock is a doctoral candidate at Boston University.

References

Beal, T. K. 2002. Religion and its Monsters. New York: Routledge.

Coleman, L. 2007. “Mothman’s Fate”: http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/ mothman-fate/> (accessed 30/4/2008).

Durkheim, E. 1915. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Free Press.

Freud, S. 2003. The Uncanny. New York: Penguin Books.

Gilmore, D. D. 2003. Monsters: Evil Beings, Mythical Beasts, and All Manner of Imaginary Terrors. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Guertin, Elkerton, and Associates. “Bridge Inspections… Ensuring the Safety of your Community Bridges”: <http://www.geainc.us/news&views/apr99.html> (accessed 31/12/ 2006).

Harris, C. 2005. Personal Communication with the Author (16/9).

Jung, C. G. 1978. Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, .

Keel, J. 1991. The Mothman Prophesies. New York: Tor. —2002. The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings. New York: Tom Doherty Associates.

Kirby, D., K. Smith, and M. Wilkins. “Home of Mothman: Point Pleasant, WV”: <http:// www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/WVPOImothman.html> (accessed 29/4/2008.)

Lysaght, P. 1997. The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart.

MediaMatters.org. “Religious Conservatives Claim Katrina Was God’s Omen, Punishment for the United States”: <http://mediamatters.org/items/200509130004> (accessed 30/4/2008).

National Transportation Safety Board. “Highway Accident Report”: <http://www.ntsb.gov/ Publictn/1971/HAR7101.htm> (accessed 31/12/2006.)

Otto, R. 1971. The Idea of the Holy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Partridge, C. 2003. “Understanding UFO Religions and Abduction Spiritualities,” in C. Partridge ed. UFO Religions. New York: Routledge, 3–42.

—2004. The Re-Enchantment of the West, Vol. I. New York: T&T Clark International.

Partridge, N. 2005. Personal Communication with the Author, (17/9).

Peyton, D. 2005. Speech Given at 2005 Mothman Forum (17/9).

Segal, R. A. 2003. “Jung on UFOS,” in C. Partridge ed. UFO Religions. New York: Routledge, 314– 28.

Sharf, R. H. 1998. “Experience,” in M. C. Taylor ed. Critical Terms for Religious Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 94–116.

Stucki, L. 1976. “The Mothman Prophesies (book review),” American Anthropology, 78.22, 403– 404.

Taylor, T. “Haunted West Virginia: The Cornstalk Curse”: <http://www.prairieghosts.com/cornstalk.html> (accessed 31/12/2006).

Turner, V. 1967. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Victor W. 2006. “Mothman over Dallas?”: In Mothmanmuseum.com. [cited 31 December 2006.] Available from the World Wide Web: http://www.mothmanmuseum.com/ MothmanLives/mothmanwebextras/mothmanwebextras.html> (accessed 31/12/2006).

Wamsley, J., and D. Sergent. 2002. Mothman: The Facts behind the Legend. Point Pleasant: Mothman Lives.

Wamsley, J. 2005. Mothman: Behind the Red Eyes. Point Pleasant: Mothman Lives.

—2005. Personal Communication with the Author (17/9/2005).

—2005. Electronic Communication with the Author (8/8/2005).

Whitmore, J. 1995. “Religious Dimensions of the UFO Abductee Experience,” in R. L. James ed. The Gods Have Landed. New York: State University of New York Press, 65–84.

Yturria, S. 2004. “Mexican Policeman Attacked by a Flying Humanoid Entity”: <http:// www.rense.com/general48/entity.htm> (accessed 29/4/2007).

Published

2009-07-19

How to Cite

Laycock, J. (2009). Mothman: Monster, Disaster, and Community. Fieldwork in Religion, 3(1), 70-86. https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.v3i1.70

Issue

Section

Articles