Folklore Friday: Mothman Dismissed

(Image credit: Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)

(Image credit: Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)

According to folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, reports of the Mothman share many elements with older folk tales, suggesting that some real event triggered the sightings and became woven with existing folklore.  Brunvand says that Mothman’s connection to UFOs and a military storage site are common factors in twice-told tales regarding strange creatures, and that the number of witnesses that are said to have seen Mothman during the 1966 to 1967 flap is not supported by documentation.  The folklorist claims that although at least 100 people saw Mothman--with many more “afraid to report their sightings”--written sources for the stories exist only in children’s books or sensationalized or undocumented accounts that fail to quote identifiable persons.  Investigators of the phenomenon argue that there are documented cases, including that of Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette, and that it’s the cultural stigma surrounding such sightings--reinforced by dismissals like Brunvand’s--that prevents more witnesses from coming forward publicly, and not that the witnesses don’t exist as Brunvand believes.  While folklore may influence the theories presented by investigators and witnesses, and too often those theories are presented as fact, it cannot explain the heart of the mystery--exactly what was seen by the Mothman witnesses.