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Interview-Alternate Perceptions Magazine, November 2015

An Interview with:
Steve Ward:
Keel, Mothman, and One Man’s Ufological Journey
Part Two

by: Brent Raynes

Continued from the previous issue

Steve Ward: After the festival on Sunday I took a side trip to Flatwoods, WV. The infamous Flatwoods Monster (whatever the hell it really was) made its presence known in September 1952, one month before I was born. I had first read about the hellish invader in one of Frank Edwards anthologies. A giant something with inhuman eyes, a red face & foul odor which terrorized a group of children & an adult. There where many ideas about what it was & what it wasn't but I didn't really care about that at that moment. I wanted to see how close I could get to the alleged landing site. I knew that it was on private property, but I hoped that I could still get a look at the place I had read & wondered about for years.

I hit the freeway & before long I was passing the sign on my right that said, "Welcome To Flatwoods: Home of the Green Monster." The sun was getting a little low on the horizon so & stopped at a few local establishments to get directions before I ran out of daylight. I had no idea where to look. To my surprise some of the people I asked didn't know were the landing site was and some others gave me directions that only a local boy could follow. I did find the Flatwoods High School. The building didn't look old enough be the one that stood there in '52, but I found out later that the school had been rebuilt where the original edifice had stood. That was where the children first saw the fiery object pass overhead that supposedly deposited the Monster on a hill.

With the sun soon to disappear I stopped at the Flatwoods Municipal Building & Police Department. The tiny white structure wasn't much bigger than a speed bump. Inside I found a lady that worked there that knew how to direct me to the historic site. It turned out that the road was just South of that same building, and I could have walked to it. I thanked her & drove up a very narrow & winding road to a long driveway that led to a large house. I stopped abruptly as there was a gigantic sign in front of me that made it very clear that there was to be NO TRESSPASSING. Damn. So close. I thought about walking onto the property & knocking on the door, but I imagined that the owners have over the years put up with a parade of pests asking to do just what I wanted to do. Maybe some day I would be able to see grounds where the Flatwoods Monster tread, but it wouldn't be that day. I turned around & as I lost the sun, I headed back to Point Pleasant.

The Blue Fountain Hotel was located across the river in in Gallipolis, OH. That was where John Keel had stayed during some of his visits to the Ohio Valley during the events described in "The Mothman Prophecies." I thought it would be fun to crash at the same place that Keel had stayed, but first I thought I would cruse by the Lowe Hotel to see if there were any stragglers from the weekend. Lo & behold as I drove down Main Street I saw a tall man dressed in black clothing & wearing a black fedora standing in front of the hotel. I wasn't worried about him trying to suppress my UFO investigations because it was Tim Frick, one of the men that flew the Mothman for the TNT Hayride & dressed as a MIB during the festival. Apparently he hadn't changed back to his civilian clothes. I stopped my car & got out to talk for a while. There was another gentleman with him that we all now know as "Bigfoot" Phil. Phil was a bigfoot researcher from Ohio that we would see from time to time in Point Pleasant & Salt Fork.. Later he would have a cameo on an episode of "Finding Bigfoot." We were soon joined by Tim's brother John & then the four of us became immersed in a conversation which included Mothman, John Keel, a heavy dose of Forteana, & the possible location of Keel's Hill.

It became evident that these guys knew their stuff. The brothers had a knowledge base of the Mothman phenomena that was pretty uncommon, even for those that seek out these kinds of mysteries. They had also met John Keel a few years before & gleaned some inside information from him such as some of the ways that his manuscripts had been assaulted by various editors. John & Tim had also tracked down Tom Monteleone. Monteleone had successfully hoaxed Keel during the craziness of the mid 60's & the Mothman & UFO sightings. Keel believed Monteleone's fictious close encounter story because Tom had somehow come up with several completely made up details during his narrative that were virtually the same types of details that Keel had uncovered in other cases. Information that John had kept secret & that no one should have had access to. The tall tale was included it in The Mothman Prophecies. Later Keel rejected Montelone's claims & this incident is described in the afterward to the 1991 edition of "Prophecies".

While we were standing on that street corner I had no idea that in a short time, all of us would cross paths again. In the years ahead, John, Tim & I would make numerous trips to Point Pleasant, explore the TNT area many times (including on the night of 11-11-2011 at 11:11PM!!) & travel to the stone chambers in Upstate New York. Soon we would be attending the Paranormal state event in Point Pleasant, travel to a bigfoot hot spot in Pennsylvania & meet many important researchers & investigators along the way.

....And you never knew when & where Bigfoot Phil would make an entrance.

I had a good time talking to those guys. A nice way to stretch out the festival. After a while we called it a night and I headed to the Blue Fountain and hit the rack. The next morning instead of heading directly home I drove through Duncan Falls, OH. John Keel took a side trip there which he describes in "The Mothman Prophecies". In October 1966 a Mr. Leonard Elmore had encountered a "strange building" one night that seemed to pop up out of nowhere --- that is he had never seen a building on what was a familiar section of land to him. A voice suddenly came from the structure telling him not to run. Elmore turned around, hurried home and got his rifle. When he returned, the building had vanished. That was just one of many strange incidents that Keel covered around that time period. --- alleged incident anyway. Needless to say, as I passed through on my way home, I didn't notice any vanishing buildings.

It was the following year that we finally found Keel's Hill. It turned out that the three of us (John Tim and myself) had searched the area surrounding Gallipolis Ferry independently for a couple of years looking for the hill Keel described on Five Mile Creek Rd. Keel was often a bit non-committal and even a little deceptive about locations mentioned in his writings. Too often some "self-styled" UFO investigators would read Keel's articles and then seek out and pester some of the witnesses that Keel had interviewed. He simply wanted to protect the people that were good enough to come forward and tell their story.

We had been unable to find the location that Keel and the reporter Mary Hyre had visited numerous times to watch the mysterious lights travel over the countryside those many years ago. That is until John and Tim found a lady that lived in Point Pleasant who knew some of the people that had gone out there back in the 60's to scour the night sky. She knew precisely where the hill was located. I won't give the exact location ---- I'm not really sure where the private property begins and ends out there. It would be counterproductive to get the property owner all riled up by inviting a bunch of thrill seekers to converge on his land for the purpose of searching the heavens for ---- spaceships.........

If you take Crab Creek Rd. and make a couple of turns eventually you will need to veer off on a narrow dirt road that is in disrepair and more than a little rough going. Follow the road and it will lead to the top of a hill and end at a long gate. Beyond sits an old white farmhouse. I believe it is the same farmhouse that Keel mentions in his book. He and Mary would watch the owners turn off their lights at 9:30 PM every night and that is when their sky watch would begin. It had been forty years since my first trip to Point Pleasant and I had finally discovered the location of Keel's Hill. I would visit there several times. One Sunday night after one of the festivals, six of us went up to the hill. Besides me, there was John, Tim, Ken, Lee, and Patrick. When we came to the fence we walked up another rise to our right and from that vantage point we had a great view of the valley.

We were all fairly quiet. After a while I started to think about some of the incidents that Keel described in "The Mothman Prophecies" and what it must have been like for those that stood on that hill way back in 1966. Keel and the others witnessed the never ending manifestations of unexplained lights that passed overhead almost every night. At one point, Keel discovered a patch of forest that gave off an eerie glow down in a remote valley. He also saw what he described as translucent purple blobs which floated high above the trees in the Chief Cornstalk area. They moved out of the way of his flashlight the moment he trained its beam on them. Another time Keel experienced a close up sighting of a brilliant multi-colored UFO that came very close to his parked car. So many unexplained incidents took place on those dark nights. I imagined what it must have been like to have been standing there with John and Mary on that hill during "the year of the Garuda."

Paranormal State was a paranormal reality show that premiered in 2007 and ran for 6 seasons. It featured Ryan Buell as the leader of the Pennsylvania State University Paranormal Research Society and a group of college students investigating the unknown. There is of course plenty of controversy regarding "reality" shows in general and Paranormal State was no exception, but that is something that I won't be dealing with here. One of the episodes that they filmed was entitled "Mothman." If you watch closely you will see a cameo of John Frick who is billed as a "Mothman expert" leading the intrepid band of college students in the dark into the heart of the infamous TNT area. The episode also featured well known psychic Chip Coffee.

In February of 2009, the PRS group had a "Return to Mothman" event which I decided to attend. It turned out to be miserably cold. Coming down from Michigan I can usually count on the temperature being about 5 to 10 degrees warmer in West Virginia, but on that February a cold front followed me all the way to the Silver Bridge. I checked in at the Lowe Hotel and as the PRS group and John Frick weren't to arrive until later, I had some time to kill. John was to be part of the event in his capacity as a Mothman expert and would be answering questions in the Mothman Museum.

Andy Colvin is a Mothman researcher that has been fascinated by the Mothman and related phenomena since he was a child. He lived on a road called Woodward Dr. where he has chronicled many strange events that happened to him, his family and his friends. The Mothman sightings occurred when he was very young and not far from his house on Woodward Dr. he reportedly experienced a shadowy figure or entity that may have been a manifestation of the Mothman. I knew Andy from the Mothman festival and had viewed his "Mothman's Photographer" DVD series. I decided to drive out north of Charleston, which at one time was called "Mound," so that I could get a look at the area that Colvin had described in his video series.

During the time of the events recorded by John Keel in his book, Andy started having a reoccurring dream that Men in Black had somehow gotten into his house. This was long before he had read Keel's "Mothman Prophecies" or Gray Barkers, "They Knew Too much About Flying Saucers" -- the two books that originally dealt with the Men in Black phenomena. In the dream, the MIB's had Andy and his family imprisoned in their front room under some kind of hypnotic spell. They were all being questioned by the strange men. Andy hadn't completely succumbed to the hypnosis, but he still couldn't quite remember what questions were being asked of them. In his DVD series, Andy and a childhood friend named Harriet (who is very psychic) returned to the house of his childhood. Harriet picked up on some details of the dream (or experience) including descriptions of the interior of the room they were held in that she couldn't have known about. She had a strong sense that it may have been a real event.

Other family members experienced things like missing time & bizarre dreams of "glowing bigfoots." Some people reported what looked like large black panthers in the area -- which of course do not exist in North America. One night as an adult, Andy and two others were near a church on Woodward Dr. when they experienced what they described as some kind of "vortex" where they all witnessed three "shimmering beings" appear and disappear before their eyes. Besides his DVD series Andy has a series of "Mothman's Photographer" books in several different parts which describe all the weirdness he and others experienced on Woodward Dr. Andy's neighborhood sure sounded a hell of a lot more interesting than the one I grew up in.

Things were a little more mundane for me when I cruised up and down Woodward Dr. to see the sights, although I wasn't quite used to navigating roads that were considerably more narrow than your standard Michigan road. The local traffic seemed unfazed by blind curves and speed limit signs were just part of the backdrop. There was little doubt that I would be pegged as one of those "out of state" drivers.

There are a couple of things of interest that occurred during the PRS event that I will talk about but first I wanted to say a couple of things about the weekend. John Frick & I had a blast. His brother Tim couldn't make it because he was recovering from an operation. Tim was fine but had to take it easy, otherwise he would have been there. While there were of couple of small organizational glitches, the PRS event went fairly smoothly and was a really good time. The PRS members were all very generous with their time and made sure everybody was treated well.

During the course of the event several buses cruised out to the TNT area with the PRS members in tow so that those who had never been there before could see Mothman's stomping grounds. Those trips ran late into the night. They led a ghost hunt (TV style) across the river at the Atrium Theater, complete with all the customary lingo that we have come to expect from the ghost hunting shows. "If there is anyone here, could you please give us a sign of your presence?" There was also a dinner followed by a Q & A with the group. One of the other episodes that they had done was called, "First Contact" and took place on the Gilliland Ranch in Washington State. By many accounts that ranch is a paranormal hot spot and has exhibited many different types of paranormal activity. I asked them about their time there and they all became very animated and talked at length about their experience. It seems that they had all witnessed strange light phenomena that couldn't be accounted for.

John Frick had become friends with Chip Coffee during the PRS "Mothman" episode. He was hoping that Chip would accompany us out to the TNT area on Saturday morning. There was an alleged paranormal incident that was supposed to have occurred in the TNT area and John thought Chip might agree to go to that location and see if he would be able to pick up any impressions that might indicate that something really had happened there. Chip agreed, but there was another reason he wanted to go there as well.

The night before, when the buses were shuttling people out to the TNT, there were two young ladies from the Midwest that were about to take one of the bus rides when they ran into some unexpected negativity presented to them by another lady that attended the event. Inexplicably this woman decided to tell the Midwesterners that they shouldn't go out there because she was terribly afraid that Native American spirits would attach themselves to them and the spirits would follow them home!! She was very emotional when she made her plea and quite convincing. The two young ladies decided to forego the road trip.

John found out what had happened and told Chip. Chip was really perturbed. He had little patience for people imposing scare tactics on others. Chip invited the two ladies out with us to the TNT that morning to assuage any concerns that they might have about the TNT or mischievous spirits. After breakfast the five of us took a ride up Rt. 62 in "The Frickmobile" and hit the back roads that lead to the TNT.

As I said, John was interested in Chip checking out something unusual that had supposedly occurred in the general McClintic Wildlife area a few years before. A lady I will call Lucy introduced John and Tim Frick to a married couple who have chosen to remain anonymous. Their story was that they were driving on some of the back roads that crisscross that part of West Virginia. They saw something in the road and stopped to see what it was. It was some kind of metallic disk or cylinder. They took it with them and went on their way. After a short while the lady got a very negative vibe from the object and had the feeling, she claimed, that it wasn't of this world. She was unable to explain why this strange notion came over her but she was compelled to throw the object out of the window while the car was in motion. Almost immediately afterward, the couple was surrounded by several black automobiles that converged on their vehicle. The next thing they knew they were still in their car but there was no sign of the other vehicles. Before long they discovered that they were missing 3 or 4 hours that they couldn't account for. I asked John recently about this incident and what he thought about the credibility of the witnesses. John said that when the woman was recounting her experience she was visibly distressed. She didn't seem like she was spinning a tale. Both John and Tim had the impression that the couple was truthful and had what they thought was a real experience.

It's hard to know what to make of an incident like this. It had some of the trappings of a classic MIB experience but only partly. John Keel recorded many alleged MIB encounters in his writings and while he also thought that people were having experiences that were real to them, at one point in "The Mothman Prophecies" he suggests that the MIB encounters may in fact be hallucinatory. He couldn't account for the cause necessarily, but he thought that some of the reports may not be physical in nature. As far as the strange metallic object that they claimed to have found there is only one incident in the literature that I can think of that might parallel this experience.

Much earlier I mentioned the Sandy Larson case of the mid 70's. That was the abduction case investigated by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Dr. Leo Sprinkle, and Jerome Clark. It was one of the very early abduction cases that had inescapable paranormal aspects that were not often reported prior to that close encounter. At one point, in Larson's testimony, she recounts a "dream" where she is looking out the window of her home and sees the sky turn dark and foreboding. She watches as a metallic object falls from the sky and lands on her front lawn. She goes outside and picks the object up, then becomes fearful, drops it to the ground and then runs inside the house.

Strangely enough, Chip Coffee got the impression that it was in fact a real incident and even had an inkling as to where the object was thrown and the general area that it landed. Some time later, leaving no stone unturned, John and Tim would return to that spot wielding a metal detector -- just in case something was really there. Needless to say, they came up empty. Even that which seems "real" in the realm of the paranormal can be as elusive as "swamp gas" and will fall very short of something tangible. The five of us returned to Point Pleasant without any extra passengers.

John and I had taken several of the new people out to the TNT area that didn't want to wait for the regular bus. One of those trips may have pegged the "high strangeness" meter all by itself. We were in my car with John and I in the front and Jerry (not his real name) and Susan (not her real name) in the back. We turned on Potters Creek Rd followed by Igloo road # 7 and then trekked to igloo #2, the same one that provided the setting for the Paranormal State episode about Mothman. Everything was copasetic until we headed back.

We were cruising south on Rt. 62 when out of nowhere Susan felt the need to saddle us with a litany of her personal problems. She might have been reciting a treatment for a soap opera script. We were all people that she didn't really know but it didn't stop her from unloading stuff that probably should have been saved for the confessional. Gratefully I can't remember much of it but it was something about her ex husband being Satan, her children being taken away for a year and she needed an operation on her shoulder but had no insurance. That was just for starters. Jerry, even though he was sitting right next to her seemed to be oblivious to her never ending soliloquy. He was on a different wavelength all together. We of course were following the same highway that the two couples did back in '66 when they were the first to be pursued by the Mothman. Suddenly Jerry (referring to that same incident) would blurt out things like, "Oh! Look! That's were they saw the Mothman land on the billboard!!" The two of them would go back and forth like that as if the other one wasn't there. Susan gave us plenty of drama and Jerry gave us loads of enthusiasm. John and I were very quiet. It was a long six miles.

After we stopped the car and the odd couple departed, John turned, looked at me and said, "That was kind of like being in Twin Peaks, wasn't it?" 'Nuff said.

To be continued…..

Sunday, March 03, 2024