Mothman: Evil Incarnate by Loren Coleman
The tagline for Loren Coleman’s new book Mothman: Evil Incarnate is “The Unauthorized Companion to The Mothman Prophecies,” referring to the book written by John Keel and published in 1975. And that tagline sums up this book very well. Mothman: Evil Incarnate is by no means a stand-alone book. Rather, it is more of an (admittedly lengthy) addendum to The Mothman Prophecies, along with appendices that offer clarifying annotations to the original book and a list of deaths that seem to be related to the Mothman and the surrounding events of the sightings back in 1966 and 1967. In fact, the main text of the book is only 53 pages long, with the annotations and the “Mothman Death list” comprising the bulk of the book.
The narrative part of the book, brief as it is, offers a wonderful glimpse into various yet distinct aspects of the Mothman mythos. Chapter One leads off with a summary of the most recent sightings of Mothman, or a similar creature, in Chicago in the spring and summer of 2017. Chapter Two gives the reader some background on author John Keel, how he came to be the lead documentarian of the Mothman sightings as they happened, and the sad later years of his life until his eventual death in New York City in 2009. In Chapter Three, The Mothman Prophecies book itself is analyzed, while its shortcomings and inaccuracies are also pointed out. This chapter is short at only a little over two pages, but nicely sets up this book’s first appendix of annotations by Michael D. Winkle, wherein he tries to clarify and expand upon many offhand mentions in The Mothman Prophecies that were never cited for sources. I should note that when I originally reviewed The Mothman Prophecies, I talked about how confusing and hard to follow the book could be at times. It even left me with some dizziness, headaches, and inability to focus. Bad writing, or curse of the Mothman?
The next few entries deviate from Keel’s book a bit to the expanded universe of Mothman, if you will. Chapter Four is about The Mothman Prophecies movie starring Richard Gere, Debra Messing, and Laura Linney. Unsurprisingly the movie takes many creative liberties with the Mothman story, and this chapter does a good job of pointing our various mistakes, purposeful changes to the movie and why they were made, as well as which real-life people certain characters were based on. The aftermath of the incidents in Point Pleasant are described in Chapter Five, detailing untimely deaths and tragedies surrounding people associated with the original sightings, the writing of the book, the production of the movie, and people involved in the rescue efforts after the collapse of the Silver Bridge. The town of Point Pleasant itself is explored next, including the history of the town, the curse perhaps placed on it by Chief Cornstalk in the late 18th century, and the now quite-famous Mothman Festival that occurs in the town the third weekend of very September. Lastly, Mr. Coleman speaks about four documentaries on Mothman, and hilariously tears apart the SciFi (now SyFy) documentary, and rightfully so. Coleman’s greatest praise goes to The Mothman of Point Pleasant, directed by Seth Breedlove and his Small Town Monsters production company, and I couldn’t agree more. Narrated by cryptozoologist Lyle Blackburn, the documentary is exceptionally well-done, from the interviews with the townspeople, to the recreations and reenactments, right down to the musical score. It’s creepy, mournful, atmospheric yet informative, an impressive account of the Mothman timeline of 1966 and 1967, and sightings still occurring to this day. I hope to have a review of it up soon, as I just watched this a few nights ago. But I digress.
This companion ends with a gallery of pictures of people and places related to the initial incidents, the book, the movie, the documentaries, and the town itself. The appendices follow, with Michael Winkle’s annotations to the original book, followed by a list of all the people associated with the Mothman legend who have died. This list is fairly detailed, with a short paragraph dedicated to almost every person listed, save for the victims of the Silver Bridge collapse.
The Good: A great reference guide and companion piece to Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies, it fills in a lot of gaps in the original book, and brings the reader up to date on what has happened since its publication. The annotations are many and detailed, so it’s a great book to have handy while reading the original. The chapters are broken down into easy to digest subsets, which makes it easy to find any specific information you may need. The addition of the gallery of pictures is great, too.
The Bad: Unfortunately, this is less of a “cover to cover” read and more of a reference guide. There is’t a lot of backstory here. A lot of assumptions are made up front on behalf of the reader (which Coleman admirably admits to right away), mainly taking for granted that the Mothman legend and the Silver Bridge disaster are already well-known subjects. This is very much a book for people with an existing familiarity with the legend and who need an update of sorts to their library. It is not a stand alone book, and if you don’t know much about the Mothman going in, this particular book could be confusing.
The Ugly: I’m nitpicking here a bit, but it is a pet peeve of mine, especially when reading books on the paranormal: there are a few typos/editing mistakes here. The most glaring one being on the first page of Chapter One, where it cites a “Lou Strickler” of Phantoms & Monsters. Now, anyone familiar with the paranormal should know that it should be “Lon” and not “Lou.” Thankfully, his name is correct throughout the rest of the book. Another cringe-worthy mistake: when referencing cursed Hollywood movies, and the tragic death of Poltergeist star Heather O’Rourke due to an acute bowel obstruction, the cause of death is written as “bowl obstruction.” I know I make typos on here from time to time, but I don’t have a publishing company, an editor, or proofreader other than myself (and occasionally my wife and cousin) to keep me in check. And I’m pretty bad at recognizing my own mistakes.
The Bottom Line: Another winner from Loren Coleman, but mainly useful only if you’re familiar with the Mothman mythos and want to supplement your existing collection of Mothman literature.
Final Score: 85%