Alternative Insight

The Mothman Prophecies
Myths and Symbols that lead to destruction

Throughout history, communities have observed omens that forecasted catastrophes. The beliefs in the omens often guided believers to psychological destruction. The Mothman is a recent omen. Mothman sightings, that began in the mid 1960's in the West Virginia town of Point Pleasant, predicted a catastrophic event. On Dec 15,1967 the Silver Bridge over the Ohio river that joined Gallipolis, Ohio, and Point Pleasant, West Virginia collapsed. Sixty seven people fell into the river and forty six died.

Hollywood seized the opportunity, transferred the 1960 events to the present time, and produced a fictional film, The Mothman Prophecies, which describes the unnatural happenings in Point Pleasant. The story of a reporter who is driven to grief by the untimely death of his wife and wanders into a town disturbed by ominous sightings of a prophetic "Mothman" has more on the screen than is readily identifiable. The constraints of Hollywood commercialism prevented a rendition that makes obvious the implications of myth and symbols on society--but they are in the script. Whether it is deliberate or accidental, the film hints at unspoken messages.

The Mothman Prophecies Film
Washington Post political reporter John Klein is exhilarated that he and his lovely wife have located their dream house. In a night of celebration, they race around Washington D.C. in her new car. When he goads her into picking up the speed and testing the car's capabilities, she proceeds to the eventual accident. He survives well, but she lies dying--not from the accident but from a brain tumor. Before her death, she asks him if he saw it--what?--no answer, only a drawing of a strange, bug-like creature. Klein returns to the scene of the accident to locate some meaning to her question. He observes strange markings at the crash site.

Two years pass and the Post reporter has not overcome his grief. He calls an associate at 1AM to inform him he is on the road to Richmond, Virginia to interview the Virginia governor the next day. Instead of arriving in Richmond, he finds himself at 2:30 AM with a stalled car in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, almost 300 miles from Washington, D.C. Efforts to find assistance are counterproductive. He is accused of trespassing by an unemployed and disconsolate townsperson. The woman police officer, Sgt. Connie Parker, who has been called to arrest Klein for trespassing, relates to him a condition of his accuser--he and others in the town have had strange sightings. Some have reported seeing lights in the West Virginia night sky. Other residents have observed the Mothman, a flying being with huge glowing red eyes. A drawing of the creature resembles the drawings that Klein's deceased fiancee made. At sites of the appearance of the apparition, Klein notices markings that resemble the markings he noticed at the site where his wife's auto crashed. John Klein is convinced that Point Pleasants' troubles and the Mothman have some relation to his loved one's death.

Klein works together with Sgt. Connie Parker to solve the mystery of the Mothman. His investigations lead him to a writer on paranormal phenomena. The writer discloses that he had been involved in Mothman sightings and learned that the siting of a Mothman meant prophecy. When the writer related to the police a prediction of an impending catastrophe that finally occurred, he became a suspect in the catastrophe. The writer reminds Klein that if the Mothman has been seen, then a catastrophe will soon occur to those who live nearby.

Klein's begins to believe that his wife's sighting of the Mothman predicted her death. If that was true, then the Mothman sitings by Point Pleasant residents mean they are close to facing a catastrophe. Klein leads himself to believe that the catastrophe will occur at the dying Ohio river plant that had been a principal employer of the "rust belt" town. When he contacts his editor to inform him of his whereabouts, he learns that the editor wants him to interview the governor who will be arriving to initiate the modernization of the same plant. Klein intends to use that assignment to warn the governor of the impending catastrophe.

The governor rebuffs Klein's apocalyptic pleas and the reporter is left to brood in the hotel bar. He receives a note that his deceased love will contact him by phone on Christmas eve. Sgt. Parker asks him not to become victim of supernatural beliefs, not be alone on Christmas Eve and remain with her. Klein ignores the appeal and races to Washington to receive the telephone message. After arriving home, a call from Sgt. Parker reminds him that he can still make airplane connections to bring him back to Point Pleasant. Klein waits impatiently for the promised call. When the telephone rings he struggles hesitantly towards it, his body twitching with uncertainty. He does not answer the call and throws the phone against the wall. He returns to Point Pleasant.

It is Christmas evening and the area's people are descending on Point Pleasant for the Christmas lights and festivities. The heavy traffic is stopped at the entrance to the town and the Silver Bridge becomes overloaded with trucks and cars. Klein sits uncomfortably in his car on the bridge eager to get to town and again see Sgt. Connie Parker. He hears noises and notes the links of the bridge are starting to crack. He hurriedly runs along the line of cars warning them of the danger. He is only partially successful. A span of the bridge falls under the burden of its load and many persons are killed. Klein manages to save himself and Sgt. Parker. As he looks across the river he notes the chimneys of the standing Ohio River plant. The tragedy brings him to reality.

The Mothman Prophecies Revelations
The Mothman Prophecies struggles with itself. The uneven, and at times, confusing scenario indicates that the editing floor contained vital scenes.

John Klein works as a political reporter for a newspaper, a media that often creates sensationalism from everyday stories. He labors in a city, Washington D.C., where myths often overshadow reality. He cannot accept that his careless behavior, his urging his wife to speed, might have been responsible for her death. He readily accepts that the death was due to a tumor and that a mythical figure caused her reckless driving behavior. His grief slowly drives him to madness. He loses track of time and place, wandering aimlessly through the countryside until his car stalls and he finds himself in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

The people of Point Pleasant have their own difficulties and problems. Deep in the "rust belt" they are slowly losing the economic supports that sustained them--rejected by a country that can prosper without their efforts. Their desperation leads them to myths and symbols, to all powerful supernatural creatures who determine their destiny. Their fantasies complement Klein's distorted thinking and he is quick to adopt the Mothman prophecies to rationalize his tragic life.

The sustenance of a stranger, a young woman who recognizes the depths of his mad condition, awakens him from his confusion. He struggles to break from the myths that have tied him to grief. When he realizes that he has not embraced harmless myths, but harmful lies, he begins to recover. The snapping of the cables of the bridge snaps him into reality and action. He saves himself from destruction. His heroism redeems his self.

It is ironic that the tragedy to the citizens of Point Pleasant occurs when they are seeking solace and peace in the Christmas celebration, and is due to the exceptional heavy traffic responding to the spiritual call. The juxtaposition of the events, portentous myth, harmless mythical celebration and ultimate tragedy carry a message: Religious and national myths cannot prevent innocents from escaping their fate. These myths can be rewarding and unifying when understood in context, but can't modify basic truths and realities that determine people's lives. The symbols and myths that replace reality with lies and impede rational thinking can distract from proper judgment and guide populations into misleading premonitions. Following false premonitions leads to an ultimate doom.

John Klein stands on solid ground, looks at the fallen bridge and across the Ohio river to the plant that he believed signaled catastrophe; its tall chimneys breathing smoke into the winter air. The Washington Post reporter has repelled the lies that gripped him, but he has been too late to shield others from the myths that destroyed them.

februrary 16, 2002


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