Review by Joan d’Arc
With his new Mothman book, cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has brought us a Fortean housecleaning manual! Finally, we can lift the curtain of ridicule surrounding Batsquatch, we can pull up the rug where the Lizardmen are swept, and we can open the “damned” closet to let out the Houston batman and other weirdies that go screech in the night.
The “damned” is a term first used in this context by the now beloved chronicler of outlandish claims, Charles Fort. Fort believed that science, by its strict adherence to certain “laws,” had “damned” or ostracized visual oddities or nonsensical events to a place beyond the boundaries of the possible. In the Fortean universe there are no such laws. Here we take a peek under the rug at all the monstrosities that have been swept under there in an effort to compose an orderly and bounded picture of a reasonable universe.
In Coleman’s Mothman, we are introduced to the “damned data” of cryptozoology, as Coleman describes it: “an elaborately strange slew of entities haunting the countryside,” including large hairy hominids, werewolves, goat-footed beasties, swamp creatures, 3-toed anthropoids, peg-legged bigfoot, birdmen, owlmen and sky serpents.
Cryptozoologists are the “detectives” who produce evidence that new animals may exist (or extinct animals may not be). Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first began the pursuit of cryptozoology in the 1950s, when he realized that there was a secret drawer, so to speak, where zoology kept uncategorizable claims and “amusing curiosities.” Lacking an identifiable fragment of a specimen, these creatures could not be admitted into the zoological catalogues and were “banned” from the animal kingdom. Often encountered but never caught, Fortean creatures abound in tales and, according to cryptozoologists, in reality. As Heuvelmans wrote: “I dreamed of delivering all of those condemned beasts from the ghetto in which they had been so unjustly confined, and to bring them to be received into the fold of zoology.”
As a young reporter, John Keel (played by Richard Gere in the Mothman film) personally spoke to hundreds of people who had seen the Mothman creature during the “Mothman Flap” of 1966Ð67 in the Ohio Valley in West Virginia. The Mothman Flap corresponded with a “Saucer Flap” (an Air Force term for a series of saucer sightings which had the public “flapped”) in the same window area at the same time. The classic description of Mothman is a manlike creature over six and a half feet tall, with eyes like red stop lights and wings either protruding from or folded against its back. Mothman has no arms and walks clumsily like a penguin. Mothman’s 10-ft wingspan was attested to by witnesses who claim the creature flew alongside their car at 100 miles per hour and squeaked like a giant mouse.
Here in Coleman’s Mothman, we have original accounts of sightings of “vast waves of critters, experiences, and places that just do not fit into the usual world of the explained.” Coleman brings these creatures of the damned into the realm of the undamned, so we can study them without our preconceived notions of what is and is not possible, so that in the comfort of our own homes we can be “armchair cryptozoologists”: the safest kind to be!