Once you have established a belief, the phenomenon adjusts its manifestations to support that belief. If you believe in the devil he will surely come striding down your road one rainy night and ask to use your phone. If you believe that flying saucers are astronauts from another planet they will begin landing and collecting rocks from your garden.”
—John Keel, The Mothman Prophecies
Kentucky’s Route 9 is a hilly, one-lane road with winding Wisconsin-like curves, ear-popping ascents and stomach-churning drops. It’s the darkest stretch of road I’ve ever driven, unlit but for a strip of reflective median paint. One minor lapse of concentration or sleepy nod could pit a driver head-on with a semi. I’d been driving for seven hours in a Ford Ranger with no emergency breaks and airbags that had been recalled for firing metal into passenger’s upper bodies upon impact.
I gunned the truck up a steep incline towards the glow of oncoming headlights. I switched off my brights, expecting another car, but the light grew brighter and brighter until it was clear this light wasn’t from a vehicle. I ascended to a sky engulfed with flames. A massive smoke stack shot fire into black darkness, a valley of factory lights lay below it: metal and halogen twisting and curling like glowing centipedes. This was the largest factory I’ve ever seen and bigger than almost every city I would encounter from here on.
West Virginia towns are laid out as such: trailer park, cemetery, energy factory. Your lifecycle is here before you, self-contained. Walmart and Little Caesar’s Pizza are culture. God and guns set the moral code. Having only ever lived in Chicago or an hour southwest of it, this all was foreign land and foreign ideals, the extreme of any reference point I had. I began to miss home. Began to regret why I was doing this.
When you’re racing down unlit roads in the middle of the night, it’s exhilarating to pull your hovering foot from the break and let gravity and uncertainty take control.
The International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, is situated in the back of a quick-service Mexican restaurant. It’s a shrine to animals that have been reported but not discovered: Giant Squid, Bigfoot, Mothman, Chupacabra, Loch Ness Monster, Dog Man, Thunderbird, the Jersey Devil—to name prominent ones—and world famous Cryptozoologist and Maine native, Loren Coleman, who has dedicated his life to researching and hunting for these creatures. To this day there has been no Mothman body or Bigfoot body or Loch Ness Monster body or any body of any of these creatures. No bones have been found either. In the case of Bigfoot there are hundreds of footprint casts, unidentifiable hair samples, and hours of blurry video footage and mumbled audio recordings. Plenty of darts have been thrown at the cryptid dart board but no one has hit a bull’s eye. Yet.
In the museum one can find foot print casts, a sighting map dotted with push pins, newspaper clippings, a life-size replica of Chupacabra, but also a rifle used to hunt Sasquatch in the early seventies and an alleged bigfoot dung sample. Display cases are haphazardly curated, stuffed with amateur art, figurines, and novelty odds and ends, many of which are toppled over or facing the wrong direction. The whole set up is barely two hallway’s worth of material, yet docents give visitors a map, making one wonder if the people behind this are in on their own joke.
This museum has not only survived but paved the way for others: the Expedition Bigfoot, Sasquatch Museum in Georgia; the Flatwood’s Monster Museum in West Virginia; Willow Creek Bigfoot Museum in California; and the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Like waterparks, each one self-acclaims: the biggest, the oldest, or containing the most evidence.
The International Cryptozoology Museum is not in downtown Portland, but on the outskirts of town near the interstate bus station. Nonetheless it was packed on a Sunday morning with a line starting to snake out the door when I left.
Whether these people were believers or skeptics didn’t matter, they were willing to fork over the $15 entry fee. At the very least, they were interested.
One of my earliest memories as a child is watching the History and Discovery channels with my dad in his bedroom while my mom worked nights at the hospital. At the very least he encouraged my curiosity for the mysterious—after all, he controlled the remote. I can remember programs about the UFO crash in Roswell, about the disappearance of Flight 19 in the Bermuda Triangle, or how the Egyptians built the Great Pyramids. I was captivated by these mysteries at a young age and my sense of childlike wonder has never left me, though skepticism has caught up.
When I was 12, I read Loren Coleman’s Bigfoot!: The True Story of Apes in America. I still have the book on my shelf and it’s scribbled with marginalia, judicious and snarky notes poking holes in eye-witness stories, questioning incongruous timelines. Coleman is an authoritative and respected voice in the field—you have to be to have a museum dedicated to you—and this is his most prominent work, running the gamut of encounters and describing the work of renowned Sasquatch hunters, and positing answers to age old questions like: “If you find a Bigfoot in the woods should you kill it?” But it all toes a line between self-awareness and oblivious optimism that even rereading it now I still can’t tell what side Coleman takes. I’ve been a hard agnostic towards the existence of Bigfoot and it’s cousins for years.
Mothman mythology is this: from November 1966 to December 1967, nearly 100 people in the small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia reported seeing a man-like, winged figure with glowing red eyes.
Famously, two young couples from Point Pleasant were joy riding in an area outside of town known as “the TNT area”, the site of a former World War II munitions plant, when they saw a large grey creature whose eyes “glowed red” when the car’s headlights picked it up. They described it to police as a “large flying man with ten-foot wings.” Their report was the first in the news, published in the local Point Pleasant Register. Within days the national press picked up the reports and spread the story across the United States.
Upon getting wind of the initial sightings, a reporter from New York named John Keel, came to Point Pleasant to investigate and interview witnesses. His work was published in the book The Mothman Prophecies and claimed, among many other things, the existence of intense UFO activity and visitations from the men in black coinciding with the creature encounters.
Nearly a year to the day of the first sightings, the Silver Bridge which spawned the Ohio River and connected Point Pleasant to Ohio, collapsed, killing 46 people. It was and still is the worst bridge disaster in U.S. history. Reports of the Mothman after this tragedy abruptly stopped and, aside from a few sightings in Chicago in 2017, the Mothman hasn’t been seen since.
I lied about covering this festival in an email to the organizers. They told me I didn’t need a press pass anyway, so I lied for nothing. No magazine was going to pay me to write about this. I drove 9 hours southeast to a state whose license plate I’d yet to ever see. I packed dowsing rods, a Ouija board, cannabis gummies bequeathed by a friend from California, and a tablet of acid. I was hunting for a story that may or may not exist. I was throwing darts in a pitch black room and I wasn’t even sure there was a dart board.
I found parking for the festival in front of a house that had recently burned to the ground. Two brick chimneys were all that remained. Charred wood as black as night lay soggy from recent rain. This resembled the morning after a campfire more closely than a structure that once housed bedrooms and a living room and a kitchen. “Ominous” I said to no one in particular.
I carried with me a Fuji camera I didn’t know how to use and about $30. I took note of the license plates I saw: Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Massachusetts, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama, New York, Illinois (me), and West Virginia (obviously). An online article I’d read said organizers anticipated crowds as large as 15,000. This, somewhat unsurprisingly, had be the largest annual festival in the state for years.
At the entrance to the festival a group of middle school girls were selling raffle tickets to support their volley ball team. The winner of the raffle would receive a prize box of two handguns and ammo. Welcome to West Virginia.
The festival was in full swing at 10 a.m. People wandered Maine Street in masks, costumes, and face paint. Everyone seemed to be in costume: Mothman, Sasquatch, the Ghost Busters. I furiously jotted notes in my notebook and I was nearly bowled over by a large child in an inflatable dinosaur costume.
“Sorry man,” the boy inside said as the T-Rex tail dragged over my feet. “It’s my first time at Mothman.”
“Me too,” I said, but the T-Rex has already found a new victim. Several people were helping him untangle his costume from a woman’s wheelchair.
I ventured on and soon encountered a woman in a winged get-up with platform heals, and corset that presented her breasts like halved melons. Mothwoman was smoking a menthol and had the oily, waxen skin of someone who’d smoked tens of thousands in her lifetime. She wasn’t alone. These were some of the most physically unhealthy people I’ve ever seen. To a person they ranged from being unnaturally “nicotine skinny” to morbidly obese. In my notebook I wrote: “These are the children of drinkers and smoke breathers,” although in hindsight, not much different than anything I’ve encountered in the Midwest.
Tented booths lined the streets. People were hocking wears that ranged from t-shirts to wood carvings. Nearly everything for sale was homemade and Mothman themed: Mothman shrinky dinks, Mothman stickers, Mothman gingerbread men. Apparel galore: Mothman trucker hats, t-shirts, sweaters, beanies. Mothman masks. I even found a storefront advertising Mothman leggings.
I found a row of booths belonging to festival presenters and experts, mostly men. They all had movie posters and books for sale. I riffled through several books, looking for publisher info. Unsurprisingly, many were self-published. But there’s also Eerie Lights Publishing, Tor Books, Eagle Wing Books, which to me showed that someone believed in this stuff enough to throw money at it. As writer with an unpublished short story collection and two published chapbooks, I revere those who have published multiple books, and all these people had at least two.
Dave Spinks, who was speaking later that day, had published four, two of which caught my immediate attention: West Virginia Bigfoot and West Virginia UFOs. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask him if he’d ever cross-referenced UFO sightings and Bigfoot sightings. He told me this was a very hot topic and something a lot of people were looking into, but that he couldn’t get into specifics. He was eager to point me to his TV show appearances on the Travel Channel and History Channel. I said I’d check them out, but knew I wouldn’t.
This was the 18th annual happening of the festival, which occurs on the third weekend of September every year. Just the day prior, The Navy had confirmed the existence of unidentified arial phenomenon. In a few days it would be the fall solstice. Anything can have meaning if you want it to.
At some point early on I decided it was time to get into the drugs. I headed by to my car.
For centuries humans have told stories of ghosts, of monsters and demons, of flying discs and angels. The 1947 report of a UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico would become the world’s most famous, and most exhaustively investigated UFO claim ever, serving as ground zero for worldwide interest in bright lights, flying saucers, and government cover ups. UFOs are a full-fledged cultural phenomena with innumerable books, documentary films, TV shows, international conferences, t-shirt slogans, bumper stickers. In 2019, 3.5 million people responded as going or interested in the Facebook event to Storm Area 51.
The most famous Bigfoot evidence is a film shot in 1967 in Bluff Creek, California allegedly depicting a female Bigfoot walking through a dry creek bed. Chances are you’ve seen the 53 second Patterson-Gimlin film or a picture. While reports of the Abominable Snowman, Himalian Yeti, and American Sasquatch existed before (especially tales in Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest), the past half-century has given an exponential rise to reported sightings from around the world.
The history of ghost stories or tales from the spiritual realm stretches back much further, with an innumerable amount of accounts. From the witches of Salem in the 1600s, to New Orleans’s French Quarter and thousands of hotels, asylums, farm houses, and graveyards in between, ghosts encounters and hauntings persist to a staggering degree. Odds are, wherever you’re reading this, someone close by has a ghost story of their own, a tale from the other side.
Every piece of evidence put forth in these UFO, Cryptozoology, or ghost hunting communities is met by equal skepticism. Roger Patterson’s background of truth telling is spotty at best, with a track record of get-rich-quick schemes. As an amateur filmmaker with Hollywood connections at the time, it’s not hard to trace a path to a studio costume department. In the 1990s, the U.S. military published two reports disclosing the true nature of the crashed Roswell object: a nuclear test surveillance balloon from Project Mogul. A simple Internet search will reveal step-by-step instructions for creating your very own crop circle with a 2 x 4 and some lengths of rope. Photos can be doctored, videos staged, anything can levitate with the proper amount of counterbalance. All argument is against the existence of these things; but all belief is for them. And so they exist in folklore and campfire tales, revealing the contours of our anxieties and the nature of our collective fears and desires.
I find the legend of Mothman particularly interesting because it combines elements of all these things. Here’s an undiscovered creature that in the days and months following a sighting witnesses claimed to experience vivid nightmares at hallucinations. At the same time of these encounters, hundreds of people in Point Pleasant and surrounding towns reported seeing flying saucers and bright lights in the night skies. Better still, townsfolk tell of run-ins with black-suited government agents who questioned their stories and warned them to keep quiet. Lastly, there’s the Silver Bridge collapse, the worst bridge disaster in US history, and the belief that all these bizarre happenings preceding the tragedy were a warning or omen.
I returned to the festival. It was midday and the clouds had parted and the sun leaned close as if to tell a secret. I could hear the pores of those around me ripping open, sweat oozing out and evaporating. The air was humid and thick with fair food, Mothman hotdogs, corndogs, funnel cakes.
I drifted towards a booth selling ghoulish masks. The proprietor, a woman my age with a bulky knee brace, said “I like your camera.”
I examined the mechanical object hanging from my neck. “Thank you, its name is Lincoln.”
She asked if I wanted to try a free sample of popcorn, apparently it was one of those scary mask and popcorn shops.
“I really can’t eat anything right now,” I said and walked away.
I was feeling a bit claustrophobic and wandered over to the river for some fresh air.
There was a double decker boat docked near the music stage, which butted up with the river. The mighty Ohio river glistened, the Appalachian mountains smiled. I was momentarily overcome by the striking beauty of this part of the country. Then I noticed a Confederate flag swaying on the boat. Was this normal? Or maybe this was a local pushing back on all these weirdos invading his town. I’d read on Wikipedia that people in Appalachia resent the hillbilly stereotype. Maybe the owner of the boat had never been on Wikipedia.
I turned for something else to look at. Behind me, a massive flood wall stretched the length of the town, painted with epic mural depicting the Shawnee Indian’s life on the land: hunters returning to grass huts with fresh game; women and children tending to crops; bloody battles with the Virginia Militia. It’s really quite incredible and if you ever find yourself in Point Pleasant, more than the Mothman stuff, I’d recommend the mural. I walked it end to end.
At one point I was approached by a bearded man sipping a bottle of Coke. We stood before a panel showing white militia breaking into a cabin and firing upon three proud-standing Shawnee men. “That’s Chief Cornstalk,” the man said, pointing his Coke bottle at the Shawnee Indian with a headdress and arms crossed in front of his chest.
“They say he put a 200-year curse on this town.”
“Is that so?”
I walked away and back into the heart of the festival.
A line of at least an hour snaked from the Mothman Museum. I unfortunately would not make my way inside during the whole weekend.
I joined another line, this one was to take pictures with the Mothman statue. It’s a towering metallic bust that looms over the town square and the leading image when you search for Point Pleasant on Google Maps.
In front of me in line was a group of 7 or so junior high aged girls donned in dresses, tiaras and sashes. I remembered then that there was mention of a Mothman beauty pageant earlier that day. They asked me to take their picture and before I could answer I had 7 smart phones in my hand.
My thoughts on science: I didn’t take any science courses in college. I nearly failed biology sophomore year of high school. I’m a one-trick pony as far as academia is concerned, but I respect the hell out of it. A substantial portion of my publication history as a professional writer has been in health journalism; I’m self-taught when it comes to reading and interpreting scientific studies. I read the abstract and introduction, skip the methods, and read the results and discussions. I formulate questions, interview the paper’s authors, write my article, rinse and repeat. Remarkably, I’ve turned this into a career. While I may not have a grasp on the fundamentals of physics, I’m aware of what I don’t know (a lot) and know how to ask questions of the people that do.
A hallmark of the Flat Earth movement is the rejection of science and mainstream education. This movement is comprised of people who by their own admissions feel left behind or failed by our education system. If you have the time, there’s an eye-opening documentary about it all called Beyond the Curve.
I used to laugh at the Flat Earth movement, seeing it as a curiosity that was entertaining for its absurdity and radical denial of objective truth. A lot of people felt this way about Trump in 2015 and 2016: nothing serious. Both are now very serious and scary. I had reservations the Mothman festival might be a gathering of people sharing these same ideas. Who among this crowd was also a Flat Earther? Or a Trump supporter? Who here was failed by the United States education system?
I ventured into the town theater in time to catch the tail end of a talk about Light Anomaly Exploration, which from what I could make sense of, is just a fancy term for looking for orbs in the woods. Next on the docket was a memorial for Rosemary Ellen Guiley, a paranormal investigator and pioneer in the Mothman and ghost hunting community. Four people delivered short eulogies recounting their favorite moments with Guiley and her impact on the community. She’d authored over 60 books and was board director of the “National Museum of Mysteries and Research” and the “Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters.”
I’d actually never heard of her, and the 50 or so other people in the crowd seemed to be in the same boat. About 20 minutes into the hour-long time slot the mic was turned over to the floor and members of the crowd were encouraged to come forward and share their favorite Guiley memories. Only one person did. It was an incredible awkward 40 minutes as the gentleman orchestrating this whole thing begged and pleaded for people to come forward. No one did.
Near the 55-minute mark one of the women who had delivered a short eulogy said she had recently engaged in automatic writing. Basically automatic writing is a psychic ability to write without consciously thinking about it.
What did Guiley tell this woman to write? Oh, just that “Bigfoot and Mothman are real and exist in different dimensions.”
In the early spring of 2019 I brought a Ouija Board to investigate a friend’s apartment. He said he kept finding screws in the bottom of the toilet and had so for weeks. He’d collected them in a bag. They were all different types, finishing screws, drywall screws, screws that probably went to a television remote. Eight in total. My friend complained to me about vivid nightmares during the same time as the screws and admitted these were the first dreams they’d had since childhood. Through the board we spoke with a spirit that confessed to placing the screws in the toilet. The spirit also told us the number of screws: 8.
That night I foolishly brought the screws home with me. I don’t know why I did this. I don’t know why I do a lot of things.
Within two nights I was experiencing incredibly cinematic nightmares, the type that on more than one occasion forced me to awake in a cold sweat frantically panting. I experienced sleep paralysis for the first time in my life. A friend recommended I contact the Paranormal Mom Society (PMS), a band of ghost hunting moms who eradicate bad spirits and also give free advice. This included sage-cleansing my apartment while verbalizing a clear intention for the bad spirit to leave.
The Mothman festival offers a guided tour in an airconditioned bus to the McClintic Wildlife Management Area, known locally as the “TNT Area.” Now an overgrown forest and swampland, it’s situated 15 minutes outside Point Pleasant. This is the site of the majority of Mothman sightings. Part of the area was used as amo storage during WWII and is scattered with about 100 storage bunkers or igloos. The tour guide takes you inside these.
I decided to save $20 and drive out to the igloos myself. I steered my truck into the heart of this preserve, first through a corn field and then down a one way road grown over by thick forest vegetation that suffocated the edge of the road.
This is like no nature preserve I’d ever been to. No walking paths, no signage, no parking area. Every so often I’d find a turn off about 30 feet weed and just deep enough for my truck. I pulled into one because I needed to pee and then found a path leading to one of the igloos. To my left was an algae-covered bog, which to some could be considered a small lake, to my right was tangled forest.
I wore sandals, the grass in some areas grew knee high, and I kept thinking this was such a comically dumb thing to be doing that I probably won’t get a tick bite. Bugs would think I’m too stupid to feed off. It had rained recently, everything was wet or damp or soaked and I trudged on until I came upon one of the igloos tucked away. It’s a concrete doomed structure.
Upon first sight, it appears the doomed structure is built into a hill, but taking in the surround area, there’s faint evidence it was built and then earth was dumped over it. I snapped pictures with Lincoln and reached into my bag for my dowsing rods.
To contact spirits with dowsing rods, I tuck my arms into comfortable right angles at my side with forearms extending out and the rod handles loosely gripped in my hands. I asked aloud, “Is there a spirit here,” and watched as the rods slowly angled in and crossed. There was. I stepped inside, a circular room 50 feet wide and 20 feet high. It was dark but softly lit by a small opening at the top which water slowly dripped from.
On my walk back to my truck I come upon a couple who again asked me to take their picture. I guess because I’d been carrying a camera with me the whole day people figured I must be an expert at taking pictures. They wanted me to take snap the photo in front of a graffitied guard rail.
I handed the camera back to the woman and the guy asked me if I’d seen or found anything interesting.
I felt like saying, “there’s definitive evidence of supernatural activity here.”
But instead I said, “Just this beautiful bog.”
I returned to town and made my way back into a theater. There was a talk about to be delivered by David Bakara, the owner and curator of the Expedition: Bigfoot, The Sasquatch Museum, which among other things boasts the country’s largest permanent display of footprint casts.
The auditorium smelled like a musty couch. Picture a pontoon boat covered in perpetually wet carpet. That’s what this place smelled like. I took up a seat in the middle of the room.
His presentation began with a swirl of blurry pictures of ape-like creatures in trees, then images of footprint casts, and a CGI’d something wandering mountaintops. All set to the Marvel Avenger’s theme. He jumped on stage with the zeal and gusto of a life coach on cocaine and began, what is in hindsight, a very awkward and confusing way to begin a lecture about bigfoot: he recited the common reasons people are skeptical of the existence of bigfoot i.e., no bones, no body, and then argued against the validity of answers put forth by the bigfoot believers at large.
For starters, no bigfoot bones have been discovered because animals eat the bones or they decay before they can be find.
“Wrong!” yelled David Bakara. “People find bones of other animals all the time. Why should Sasquatch be any different?”
Okay, but how about a body, why hasn’t anyone found a body? Many in the bigfoot community believe they bury their dead.
“Wrong again!” yelled Bakara. “There’s enough people digging around that we’d find fossilized remains by now.”
Bakara was about 5 minutes into his presentation and I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly he was getting at. He himself probably didn’t seem to know the point of his rambling. At 10 minutes, when he abruptly switch gears to talking about sighting of bigfoots with glowing red eyes, I knew there was no greater point. This thing was off the rails and never getting back on. Actually, it was never on rails to begin with. Now it was heading as fast as possible from the rails and straight towards a small village.
When Bakara started discussing sightings of bigfoots wearing clothes and I just about lost it. To keep myself from laughing I covered my mouth, then I snorted a bunch, then choked, then went into a full on whooping cough, attracting the attention of everyone around me. And by the time I had regained control of myself the man on stage was reciting a second hand account of a truck driver who claimed a bigfoot paced his truck on the highway for a mile, then ran underneath the big rig, then jumped clean over the other lane of traffic and scampered into the woods.
Like a runaway dog that eventually wanders home, Bakara’s presentation did return to answer why no one has found a Bigfoot or a Mothman or any of a long list of crypto creatures. The screen above the stage now showed the word: Portals.
“That’s right,” he boasted triumphantly, “Bigfoot, Mothman, Dogman, all these creatures travel through portals from different dimensions.”
And almost immediately his time was up. He announced that he’d be answering questions at his booth behind the Mothman statue.
That’s where I was heading. I had so many questions.
As people rose form their seats and made for the exit, I wondered who around me genuinely believed what this man had said. Who here was agnostic and who was skeptical? Do hardened skeptics drive to West Virginia to hear a lecture about Bigfoot at a festival dedicated to the Mothman?
People seemed mostly void of reaction. You’d think the drugs would help me get a read on these people, but aside from the shirts that said Believe with a picture of a UFO, I didn’t know where anyone stood on any of this. I caught the eye of a woman seated in front of me.
She looked old enough to be my grandma, with a long silver ponytail and features that suggested Native American heritage.
I asked her what she thought of all this.
“He’s right. They come through the portals.” She spoke with the authority of wise sage, calming and contemplative and certain.
“Have you had any experiences of your own?”
“No. No I haven’t. But I just know.” The woman picked up her biker helmet from the seat next to her, which I noticed had a Canadian flag on it.
“Did you come here from Canada?”
“I did. On my motorcycle.”
John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies essentially reaches this same conclusion about crypto creatures and even aliens using interdimensional portals to visit our planet.
Instead of thinking in terms of extraterrestrials, I have adopted the concept of ultraterrestrials—beings and forces which coexist with us but are on another time frame; that is, they operate outside the limits of our space-time continuum yet have the ability to cross over into our reality. This other world is not a place, however, as Mars or Andromeda are places, but is a state of energy.
It’s almost a fool-proof argument for explaining the existence of something. To understand, much less investigate, the existence of other dimensions means venturing down a rabbit hole of String Theory, Einstein’s concept of Spacetime, and parallel and infinite universes. These are not concepts you can simply Google on you iPhone. And I’m doubtful many paranormal investigators and crypto researchers have a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics.
Interdimensional portals as evidence of Mothman also feels like a cop out. It suggests that in the past 50 or so years all logical and conventional possibilities have been exhausted or disproven. All argument is against the existence of these things; but all belief is for them. Settling on the theory of portals is like begging a bartender not to close after last call because you don’t want the night to end.
I waited at Bakara’s tent for what felt like a half hour but he never showed. It was nearing seven and the crowds were waning thin, the museum had closed, local shops were closing up. There was no night time activities scheduled except the hayride to the TNT Area. I decided I would drive back towards my Air BNB, shower, and find a local watering hole to set up shop in and start writing.
On my way out of town I passed a sign that read: Put a Cross for Every Abortion You’ve Had. There were about 10 crosses.
The sun was setting and long shadows presented themselves on the road and for a brief moment everything seemed to make sense. It didn’t matter if Mothman existed. Arguing for it is like arguing for the existence of God. At the end of the day, all that matters is belief.
I didn’t know what I believed. I still don’t. I guess I believe that we can all do better to be more informed and educated.
About 20 minutes outside Point Pleasant I was stopped by a group of what felt like 30 police officers for what they told me was a “standard sobriety test.” The nearest officer asked me to roll down my window all the way and present an ID.
“Illinois?” The officer questioned loudly in mild disbelief before handing it back to me. “What are you doing out here?”
“Hunting for ghosts,” I said, and I rolled up my window with my hand crank and peeled off down those dark West Virginia roads.
About a month after the festival I had another nightmare. About the Mothman. I was driving down a wooded road in my truck. It was raining, because I specifically remember the windshield wipers cutting back and forth. There was a gray mist hanging over everything. And suddenly up ahead appeared Mothman. It was black, in the shape of a man with wings. And it had piercing red eyes. My heart was beating so fast. In and out. Up and down. In the dream and in the physical world. I was scared, no frightened, like I had only been in the time of the Ouija Board. In the dream I was driving fast in the truck, maybe 60 mph, with the full intention of running the Mothman over. I wanted to kill it. But right when I’m about to hit it, the Mothman disappears.
Kevin Sterne is the author of From Your Jerry (No Rest Press) and is the editor in chief of Funny Looking Dog Quarterly. His fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Maudlin House, Literary Orphans, and others. His work has been translated in Spanish and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He loves running and trees.