Bird + Imagination = Mystery!


December 29, 2012 by kittynh

Joe Nickell solved the mystery of Mothman, a supposed paranormal creature with wings that frightened the people of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.  Mothman the supposed creature appeared in 1966-67.  The myth of Mothman started in 1975 with the publication of a book and then the inevitable movie in 2002.

Mothman was simply an owl.  Either a barn owl or a barred owl.

I live in a very rural area, and one thing I especially enjoy in summer is sleeping with the window open and listening to the different owl hoots.  You can identify an owl by the hoot.

Owls are also not the shy creatures we imagine.  Owls will sometimes swoop down to scare off cats, dogs and even humans, especially when they have young.  They are territorial, as are many birds.

Mothman was an owl and imagination.

Joe found the combination of owl and imagination to be possible solution for more than one alien mystery.

I was reminded of Joe’s owls when I came across this story in the old children’s book “The Weirdest People in the World” by C.B. Colby. (Sterling publishing, 1965).  While the book is filled with myths and lore of buried treasure (and oddly not very many weird people at all), this story caught my attention.  A bird was the answer to a mystery that occurred long before Mothman.

bird two

bird one

Joe’s Mothman solution was the inspiration for one of the stories from my book, “Fairy Tales, Fairly Told”. (also available on Kindle).  Noah Whippie, the illustrator shows how Chicken Little confused the wise owl for an alien.

Mothman (1)

It’s not an alien, it’s an owl. Chicken Little learns how
imagination can make a mystery out of a bird.

2 thoughts on “Bird + Imagination = Mystery!

  1. Ed Reves says:

    I am a skeptic, but I would respectfully disagree with your hypothesis about mis-identification of a bird to be the basis for the Mothman. Several years ago I had the opportunity to work in West Virginia, and spent my off-time investigating the Mothman story in and around the Point Pleasant (WV) and Galipolis (Ohio) area. Just as many “UFOlogists” are ridiculed for their “…therefore, aliens…” conclusions, many skeptics run to the “…therefore, it was an owl…” conclusion as well. I had the opportunity to interview not only Linda Scarberry (the first witness), but also one of the Mallets (the other original witness) — as well as several others who had witnessed the Mothman first hand. In this rural part of West Virginia/Ohio (especially in the late 1960s), much of the gentry’s daily activities took place out-of-doors, even in winter. The children learn, from an early age, to identify the local fauna with speed and accuracy. In all cases, when asked I asked the witnesses if they could have possibly seen a large bird such as an owl or sandhill crane, I was immediately (and emphatically) answered by each and every one that they have seen many owls and many cranes from the time that they were small children – but the thing that they saw didn’t remotely resemble any bird.

    While I still can explain what they may have seen, most people in the area can identify, with a great degree of accuracy, an owl, crane, eagle, falcon, vulture or turkey…and the will also quickly correct the assumption that they mis-identified something that they’ve seen all their lives.

  2. kittynh says:

    I’d say, living in a rural area myself, people identify animals…. but I have seen many things I can’t identify, such as a “chupacabra” with the president of the local skeptic group! We still laugh, we haven’t a clue what it is. And we both know how annoying it is that people are “well you saw a coyote”. (Um, no). That said, when an animal we are familiar with behaves in an unfamiliar manner, then we have problems. I’m thinking, what can fly next to a car…. that isn’t paranormal (I only include paranormal when that paranormal thing is proven… you can’t say it’s a “Mothman” until you know there IS a mothman, it’s not a choice until then).
    So some sort of bird or bat. Behaving in a manner that is odd? yes! Also we’re learning just how agressive owls and other birds can be when they have young or or defensive of an area. Most Mothman sightings were in an area full of owls, but it could be another flying animal of some sort. Sadly, eyewitness testimony is horrible.

    I know, I saw a chupacabra, with another skeptic. We know it’s not a chupacabra but it matched descriptions of chupacabras. However, for us to over turn all information of biologists and rangers that study animals in our area, would be taking a lot onto ourselves. The fact that Mothman died out, could be that others with better lighting and far more calm, have seen whatever it is that was bothering people. When you are interviewed over and over and your memory is asked to remember more detail each time, the details become muddled and new ones are introduced. Sadly, my own shared memories of the chupacabra of our rural area, are also tainted by many recalls (including making a drawing). Knowledge that our memory of an experience can be WRONG, no matter how well we know our local flora and fauna is important(trust me I do bird banding and even know where the fischer sleeps each night and where there is a bear hybernating in my back yard). the more you are interviewed, the worse your memory is. Time is also horrible. It’s sad this is used in court cases, but it can never ever be used in science. Lots of owls in the area, could be an owl. However, other birds, bats and real animals are suspect. What gets you attention… something DIFFERENT….not on the table.

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