The Mothman Prophecies

The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel

I’ve known about Mothman for years. I’ve been reading books on the unexplained ever since I could read, and just about every compendium about monsters or mysterious beings has an entry on Mothman in it. But until recently, I had never read what most would say is the ultimate account of the Mothman legend: The Mothman Prophecies, by John Keel.

John Keel was a journalist who was investigating the Point Pleasant area while all of these mysterious events were happening. The basic story can be summed up thusly: a tall, gray man-beast that could fly, dubbed “Mothman,” was terrorizing local residents. It had red, glowing eyes, and basically hung out around an old munitions dump in the area called the TNT area. On the surface, it’s a typical “lover’s lane monster.” But there’s more to the story than that. Much more.

And that’s really the biggest weakness of this book. Keel really tried to delve into detail, but the narrative doesn’t really follow one direct path. It jumps around to different people, different witnesses, and in fact, different times. Some parts later in the book actually happened before things in the beginning of the book. It was a bit confusing, and also a bit annoying.

There is an array of weird characters and happenings in the book, and very few can actually be considered “Mothman.” There were weird phone calls with odd sounds and strange voices. There were the “oriental” or “negroid” looking visitors (these 2 terms, quoted directly from the book, really betray the age of the book). And then there was Indrid Cold and friends, a very unusual group. All of these phenomena would be very interesting, but the jumpiness of the narrative doesn’t really let you get to know any of them too well. Once Keel starts getting on a roll talking about one incident or being, the focus is changed 180 degrees, onto a completely new subject, or one from so early on in the book you have already forgotten most of the details.

The book ends very much the same way the movie based on it does, with the tragedy at the Silver Bridge. It’s because of this event that Mothman is seen as some sort of portent to disaster. To see Mothman is to know that something bad is going to happen.

It’s hard for me to recall much about the book, as I sit here writing this review. A lot of it confused me, and a lot of what I do remember seems fuzzy at best. Perhaps Indrid Cold is somehow interfering with my own thought processes? Seriously though, I wanted to like this book, and there is a lot to like in here. But I wish there was some more structure and organization regarding the timeline and narrative. A great story needs to be told well, and The Mothman Prophecies just didn’t do it for me.

The Good: Some genuinely creepy goings-on make some of the accounts in this book well worth reading, and makes you wonder what really is going on, whether it’s alien beings, the government, or something we don’t even have a name for yet. Fact or fiction, it’ll make you wonder and send some chills down your spine.

The Bad: The book is old, so a lot of the narrative is hard to relate to today. It was originally published in 1975, and most of these events happened years before that. There’s also a lack of pictures (which is a major pet peeve of mine when it comes to books on the unexplained and paranormal), and it would have been nice to at least see some of the creepy locales where a lot of the events took place, like the TNT area, or the Silver Bridge. Especially since my edition of the book was a re-release after the Richard Gere movie version came out.

The Ugly: As I mentioned earlier, this book really meanders. It’s hard to keep up with all the names and places and times when Keel bounces all over the place. I found it very difficult to read because of this. The narrative should flow, not change gears at every other page.

The Bottom Line: Let’s face it, the book is a classic, even if it hasn’t held up well through the years. If you already know a lot about the Mothman legend, it’s a worthwhile read. But for the uninitiated, it could confuse more than tantalize.

Final Score: 75%

Alien Agenda

Alien Agenda by Jim Marrs

Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory. And there are tons of them out there. From “Who killed President Kennedy” to the “New World Order,” conspiracies (or the possibility of them) just fascinate human beings. We’re not satisfied with leaving something a mystery. We have to solve these mysteries. It’s just our curious nature. Psychologists would say that this is just our brain trying to make order out of chaos. Or maybe that’s what they want us to think!

All kidding aside, there are legitimate conspiracies in our world. There always have been, and there probably always will be. And whatever your favorite conspiracy theory is, I assure you, Alien Agenda by Jim Marrs is sure to open your eyes to some new (and lesser known, though equally fascinating and worrying) theories. At first glance, the book may appear to be just another UFO book. But inside is a wealth of information on many other “odd” things that happen in the world that are not reported on by the mass media (and of course, Marrs tackles the media conspiracy theory in the book’s Appendix).

Alien Agenda, as the title implies, mainly focuses on the conspiracy theory regarding extraterrestrials and their hidden intentions towards us. Marrs covers many topics in this book, including ancient and biblical astronauts, foo fighters and other World War II-era UFO’s, the Roswell crash, Project BlueBook, the Bentwaters/Rendlesham incident, Area 51, the “space brothers” of the 1960’s, alien abduction, crop circles, animal mutilations (it’s not just cattle), and remote viewing. Each of these topics is discussed in detail, and there are many lesser-known facts contained within Marrs’ accounts.

Alien Agenda by Jim Marrs

Alien Agenda by Jim Marrs

Perhaps the two greatest chapters in the book don’t even deal with UFO’s, directly. Chapter 1 deals with the moon, and if you thought you heard all the conspiracy theories about the moon, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet. Without ruining any surprises, Marrs cites credible evidence that shows that there may be more to the moon than we think. One example shows how the moon is far older than the earth, and perhaps even the solar system. The implications of this alone are staggering, alien involvement or not. There’s much more in this chapter, but like I said, I don’t want to give too much away. It’s easily the best chapter in the book, and the most fascinating.

Also of note is the Appendix, called “Take Me To Your Leader.” This chapter asks the question: If aliens did come to Earth, who would be the person to represent the planet? Who is our leader? Not a leader of a country, but for humanity? This chapter, though not as fleshed out as I would have liked it (it is, after all, an appendix), does give some good information on a lesser-known conspiracy, namely the attempted overthrow of the U.S. Presidency (and government) in 1934. It also discusses shadow governments, such as the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations. Again, this chapter is a little thin on details, but there are plenty of books out there dealing with “New World Order” conspiracies.

The Good: One of the better UFO books I’ve read in a while, and as I’ve said, it’s much more than just a mere UFO book. A good chronological history is provided, touching on just about all of the most important UFO and UFO-related incidents in human history. Also, most of the seemingly “out-there” theories are all backed up by facts and sources, should you care to ever investigate them yourself.

The Bad: For a book of it’s scope, there really aren’t that many pictures in this book. The pictures are all in black & white, and I think there are some better pictures out there that could accompany this book. Especially since it’s a great book for the uninitiated. What better way to convince someone who’s sitting on the fence than with some very strong photographic evidence?

The Ugly: The only gripe I have with this book is the chapter entitled “A Metaphysical Exam.” This chapter deals with UFO’s and aliens as somewhat non-physical beings or objects, but rather energy, gods, even “wee folk.” The theories had to be presented, and Marrs should be commended for including this alternate perspective, but being the last true chapter of the book, it’s somewhat jarring in it’s placement. The book, up until this point, makes an extremely strong case for the existence of UFO’s, evidence that the U.S. military has captured some of these UFO’s, and that some high-ranking government officials have actually met with, and formed treaties with, the occupants of said UFO’s. So to then introduce theories of UFO’s being hallucinations or energy or something not quite real just interrupts the flow of the book. The chapter is interesting in its own right, and I think it would have been better off if placed earlier in the book, perhaps in the chapter before the one dealing with “Ancient Astronauts.”

The Bottom Line: Talk of fairies and leprechauns aside, this is a great book, and one of the best books on extraterrestrials I’ve read in a long time. It’s a comprehensive history of the phenomenon, and very detailed, for the most part. A newcomer to the field could gain a wealth of knowledge from reading Alien Agenda, but armchair ufologists will learn a lot as well. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the topic.

Final Score: 90%

Astronaut Claims Aliens Exist

This is one of those stories that usually gets me annoyed. Skeptics like to bring their own “legitimate” scientists or witnesses into the UFO debate, and that’s supposed to be the final word. Buzz Aldrin says there’s no UFOs, and since he’s been to a tiny part of space a few times, he must know everything, right? But when another astronaut, in this case Edgar Mitchell, says that UFOs do exist, the skeptics will shoot him down. Yes, Buzz Aldrin is more well-known. But that’s like saying Angelina Jolie is a better mother than, well, any other mom in America, just because she is more well-known. If one astronaut is credible, than why should any other astronaut be less credible?

The thing is, something is going on. I’m not saying UFOs are extraterrestrial. Just “unidentified.” Maybe they’re military craft, maybe they’re natural phenomena, maybe they are beings from an alternate dimension or universe. The point is, we don’t know. And I think there are enough credible witnesses and evidence, going back way past 1947 (when most skeptics will erroneously claim the UFO “craze” began) to justify some serious study. Too many pilots, military personnel, and other people trained for such observations and circumstances have just too often seen things they cannot explain. Are we to believe that Major Jesse Marcel, based out of the only operating Army base in the world that was allowed to handle nuclear weapons at the time, couldn’t identify tin foil, balsa wood and other weather balloon materials? If so, then there’s a bigger threat to our national security than UFOs.

Area 51 debunked? I don’t think so…

Ok, so according to this article on AOL.com, the mysteries of Area 51 have been solved. It seems like five former employees at the base are talking to the media, and are claiming that the UFOs sighted at the base over the past 40 years or so can be attributed to a top secret military aircraft, known as the A-12 Oxcart. It seems that this project was recently declassified, so now they are free to discuss it. Apparently the craft has a disc-like body, and has a reflective surface.

You know the skeptics will be all over this, just as they were all over the report that came out a few years ago claiming that the Roswell incident was just Project Mogul, not a weather balloon. Just a different kind of weather balloon. Yeah, that’s the ticket…

I don’t think that most of the sightings at Area 51 are extraterrestrial craft. Actually, I’d bet all of them were simply military craft being tested. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility that some alien technology has been reverse engineered there, or that remains of previous crashes, including Roswell, could be housed there. Just because these guys worked there doesn’t mean they knew everything that went on there. Think about any organization. Does the IT department know what the accounting department knows? No. So while I don’t think Area 51 is chock full of alien flying saucers, I don’t think that you can discount everything weird about the place just because of the A-12 being declassified.

But I’m sure a lot of skeptics will come out and use this as ammunition to debunk all UFO activity.

On a side note, I really liked the photo in the article from Stan Romanek’s video of the “alien” popping his head in his window. Fake as a $3 bill, but who among us wouldn’t need a change of underwear if something like that did peek into one of our windows?

Intergalactic Peeping Tom

Intergalactic Peeping Tom

The Field Guide to North American Hauntings

The Field Guide to North American Hauntings by W. Haden Blackman

In my first entry, I reviewed The Field Guide to North American Monsters, by W. Haden Blackman. This is a companion of sorts to that “field guide,” with this one dealing with ghosts and hauntings, obviously. The Field Guide to North American Hauntings covers well known ghosts and hauntings such as the Amityville “Horror”, as well as little-known local specters. This review will be very similar to the previous Field Guide… review. The books are very similar, so I decided to keep the reviews very similar.

The book, as the title implies, is really a reference guide, covering such general categories as True Haunted Houses, Haunted Vessels and Phantom Craft, Haunted Cemeteries and Burial Sites, Natural Haunts, Other Haunted Sites, as well as a detailed section of appendices entitled “Ghost Hunting.” Again, the focus of the book is North America, so no Scottish castles or haunted moors are mentioned.

The overall layout of the book also is implied by the title. It is set up like a field guide, as if the reader was going to take this with them when they went visiting selected haunted houses. And while the facts and narrative presented for each ghost’s description are largely accurate, it’s also done a little bit tongue-in-cheek. Entries warn the reader about being respectful to the ghosts, not startling them, bringing a priest, and the best times of day for spotting them. This kind of humor is used throughout the book, just as it was in The Field Guide to North American Monsters, and again I found myself chuckling more than a few times. But then again, that’s my kind of humor. To give you an idea of what I mean, here is the author’s little bio, from the back cover:

W. Haden Blackman is a corporeal spirit haunting portions of San Francisco, where he manifests to serve a prominent computer game company. He rarely appears during the day, cannot be photographed, and is easily repelled by the sight of religious artifacts.

(Just as an aside, the “prominent computer game company” he mentions is LucasArts, creators of, among other things, the Star Wars games.)

The Field Guide to North American Hauntings

The Field Guide to North American Hauntings

Honestly, for The Field Guide to North American Monsters, I didn’t mind the tongue-in-cheek tone of the book. That’s really what gives it it’s charm. Each monster entry starts with a brief summary of it’s vital statistics, including distinguishing features, height & weight (approximate, of course), range & habitat, population size, diet, behavior, and chance of encountering the creature. A narrative follows the vital statistics, including some of the more well-known stories regarding the monster in question. But it just doesn’t quite work as well with this book. A “nature field guide” for monsters is funny. You can almost imagine going out into the Pacific Northwest to do some “Bigfoot watching.” After all, if they do exist, they’re just animals, same as birds or what have you. But for ghosts, it just doesn’t seem as clever.

The guide ends with some interesting appendices, including a sample questionnaire for ghost witnesses, as well as one for ghosts(!); a state & province listing which is great for seeing, at a glance, which states harbor which spooks; and the requisite glossary of terms and bibliography.

The Good: Lots of the famous hauntings in here, from Amityville, to the Winchester Mystery house, as well as lesser-known haunted places, such as the Conference House (a favorite of mine). Also, many of the entries have a related picture, to help you better visualize the spooky scenery.

The Bad: Just like The Field Guide to North American Monsters, there’s not too much you could say against this book. The tongue-in-cheek humor is a little detrimental in the big scheme of things, I think. Skeptics could pounce all over that, and I’m surprised there hasn’t been more made of this. It’s very hard to get the scientific community to look at these phenomena in a serious light to begin with. This book doesn’t help the cause of the believers. But then again, that’s not it’s intention.

The Ugly: Some of the ghosts in here are known hoaxes, which I think hurts the book’s overall integrity. Things such as Amityville and the Winchester House (which is unusual to be sure, but only because Sarah Winchester thought it was haunted), don’t really belong in a book about supposedly real haunts.

The Bottom Line: Overall, I just didn’t get the same giddy feeling from The Field Guide to North American Hauntings as I did from The Field Guide to North American Monsters. Monsters are a prime target for satire, and a field guide felt perfect. Here, it feels a little forced. It’s still a good book, by a good author, and if you like the silly yet subversive humor as I do, it’s worth checking out.

Final Score: 85%

Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America

Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America by Loren Coleman

I think it’s pretty safe to say that these days, almost everyone has at least heard of Bigfoot. The name has invaded our popular culture. A monster truck, e-mail service, pizza, and hard drive company have all been named after the legendary ape-man of the Pacific Northwest. Bigfoot jokes abound on such shows as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” But before the publication of Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America, you’d have been hard pressed to find a book that so well documents the history of this North American enigma.

Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America

Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America

Loren Coleman, for the uninitiated, is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists. But don’t let his “expert” status or scientific credentials scare you off. In this book, as well as his others (see also the great Mysterious America), Coleman’s style has universal appeal. He speaks with an expert’s knowledge, without being condescending. Unlike some other books I’ve read on the subject, Coleman provides an easy, accessible, yet highly intellectual, reading experience. Another strong point is that Coleman isn’t afraid to call a hoax a hoax. When a story simply doesn’t have the evidence to support it, Coleman points this out. No agendas here, folks. To me, the most important thing when investigating the unknown isn’t how many degrees a person has, or how many books he or she has written, it’s how open their mind is. Coleman obviously believes in Bigfoot, yet he doesn’t tarnish his credibility by accepting all Bigfoot reports as gospel. Whether you’re an absolute skeptic or a fundamentalist believer, you’re ignoring the other side of the story, and thus, possibly the truth. Coleman’s open mind is a breath of fresh air.

The book starts off with a quick overview of some recent Bigfoot reports and a look at one of the most significant pieces of evidence since the Patterson-Gimlin film, the Skookum Cast. The cast, for those who don’t know, apparently shows the underside, legs, foot, buttocks, and other features of a Bigfoot stretching in some mud to reach some fruit that the researchers had planted as bait. It was obtained by researchers from the BRFO in Skookum Meadows, Washington, in September of 2000. The book then starts off with a pretty comprehensive history of Bigfoot, starting with Native American traditions and folklore, and ending with questions for the future. In between, author Loren Coleman covers such topics as the incident at Ape Canyon, the Patterson-Gimlin footage, the Minnesota Iceman, and even theoretical sexual behaviors of Sasquatch.

Each case study in the book is thorough, but by no means all-inclusive. Entire books have been written on the Patterson-Gimlin footage, so the twenty or so pages in this book dedicated to this subject seems abnormally brief. Where the book really shines is when it is examining other well-known incidents that aren’t as well documented in the literature overall. Stories such as Jacko the adolescent Bigfoot, Ape Canyon, and the Albert Ostman “kidnapping” are all covered in much more detail here than I have seen almost anywhere else. In other books, these stories are usually briefly touched upon in an introductory chapter, and are treated more as folklore than as actual events. Coleman examines them in much greater detail, and separates the fact from the fiction.

The later chapters dealing with sexual habits of Sasquatch, as well as the three most-asked (and possibly most important) questions regarding Sasquatch, are not to be missed. One chapter, “The Bigfooters,” nicely outlines all the major players in the investigation of Bigfoot, from John Green and Rene Dahinden, to Grover Krantz and the ever-growing list of internet sites. Even the book’s appendices have some great stuff in them. One appendix lists the 20 best places to see a Bigfoot, and the other appendix lists groups and organizations where you can obtain actual footprint casts of alleged Sasquatches.

The Good: This book is one of those rare finds that gives a good, thorough history of the Bigfoot phenomenon without becoming bogged-down in details and minutiae. Most of the major Bigfoot accounts are documented here, and even some lesser-known ones are included as well. Coleman’s literary style ensures that this book will be enjoyed by all readers, and his sense of humor and wonder is a welcome addition to a genre usually lacking those qualities.

The Bad: My only issue with this book is that some of the stories and chapters are a bit on the brief side. I wish some of the topics had been fleshed out a little more, and had some more detail and back-story to them. Of course, this would have made for a longer book. If the only bad thing I can say about this book is that it left me wishing there was more of it, I guess that’s not such a bad thing after all.

The Ugly: The pictures leave a lot to be desired in this book. For one, they are all in black and white. Secondly, there are dozens if not hundreds of alleged Bigfoot pictures out there, some obvious hoaxes and some that are really intriguing. But there are very few Bigfoot pictures in this book. Frame 352 from the Patterson film is included, but I think at this point, it’s a law that any book on Bigfoot has to have this picture in it. There’s also another interesting picture of an alleged skunk ape from Florida. You can visit Mr. Coleman’s website for better pictures, and in full color (although any way you cut it, it looks like an ordinary orangutan to me).

The Bottom Line: Overall this is a great book, especially to newcomers to the field of cryptozoology, but even us armchair cryptozoologists can enjoy it. I’ve read just about everything ever written on Bigfoot, and I still loved this book (not to mention I learned a thing or two). Writing a book covering everything on Bigfoot would be about as easy as actually capturing the mythic beast, but Mr. Coleman has done a fantastic job of balancing brevity with as complete a history you could hope to find in one single book. This isn’t meant to be a “be-all, end-all” book on the subject, just a thorough history of a misunderstood mystery. And Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America succeeds almost flawlessly.

Final Score: 95%

Bigfoot! : The True Story of Apes in America

New Jersey UFO Hoaxers Fined, Sentenced

After reading these two articles on the New Jersey UFO hoaxers and their sentencing, it really made me realize how sometimes the skeptics make themselves look even more foolish than some of the most “out-there” believers. One of these numbskulls is actually a science teacher, and you’d think this guy would know better. For one, sending flares up into the night sky is the essence of stupidity and irresponsibility. Secondly, they did this purposely, knowing that people would call 911 to report what they were seeing, thus clogging the phone lines and preventing people who really needed help from getting through. Thirdly, I can’t even begin to explain how unscientific it is to disprove something by hoaxing it yourself. What does it prove, exactly? That people are going to notice and report strange lights in the sky that don’t belong there? Didn’t we already know that? Did this science teacher really think that his little performance would prove to the world that every UFO sighting was a fake? Does dressing up in a gorilla suit prove that every Bigfoot sighting, going back thousands of years in Native American history, was all a hoax? Does putting a sheet over you and moaning prove that every ghost story ever told is false? I’m all for approaching these things with a skeptical mind, but fanaticism of any form, whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, just makes you look plain goofy.

Also, this science teacher should lose his job over this. He put lives at risk, acted irresponsibly (and was stupid enough to post his exploits on video all over the internet), and is not really setting a  good example for his students, either from a scientific or a moral standpoint.