Folklore Friday: Mothman and the Cornstalk Curse

The original Native American inhabitants of the Ohio River valley considered the area haunted long before John Keel investigated the Mothman phenomenon in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.  Nobody really knows the origin of the area's reputation for anomalous activity, but some believe it may be connected to a centuries old curse cast on the land by an indigenous leader called “Keigh-tugh-gua,” which is translated as “Cornstalk”.

Legend has it that by the late 18th century Cornstalk had made peace with the the white settlers that had moved down into the Kanawha and Ohio River valleys, but he was betrayed and killed by a garrison of soldiers when they misguidedly blamed him for an attack by local natives on two of their compatriots.  

As the story goes, Cornstalk looked on the soldiers that murdered him, and said with his dying breath, “I was the border man’s friend. Many times I have saved him and his people from harm. I never warred with you, but only to protect our wigwams and lands. I refused to join your paleface enemies with the red coats. I came to the fort as your friend and you murdered me. You have murdered by my side, my young son.... For this, may the curse of the Great Spirit rest upon this land. May it be blighted by nature. May it even be blighted in its hopes. May the strength of its peoples be paralyzed by the stain of our blood.”

Since that time, the area is supposed to have been cursed, suffering from a number of unusual disasters; everything from coal mine collapses to fires to explosions to plane crashes have been blamed on Cornstalk's curse.  It's only natural that some would ascribe the collapse of the Silver Bridge to the curse, although how the curse might fit with Mothman, Men in Black, and the unusual UFO activity reported from 1966 to 1967 is anybody's guess.  Considering that the area's unusual reputation predates the purported curse, it seems unlikely that the curse is the cause of the eerie activity that plagues the land around Point Pleasant, but rather itself springs forth from the same source as the associated phenomena--be that the human imagination, superstition, or strange forces beyond our understanding.  It exists as a competing narrative to explain the human tragedy endemic to the Ohio River valley, and not as a source out of which Mothman might have arose.

Tobias WaylandComment