By LARRY BURRISS
Point Pleasant, W.Va. Over the years I've been to dozens of media-related conferences all over the world. We've discussed legal issues, new communication theories, trends in journalism education and statistics-based research.
ll of them have been pretty interesting, and have had one thing in common: a very serious, almost end-of-the-world tone.
But this past weekend was something new: I attended the annual Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, W.Va. Now, before you start to laugh, consider this: the Mothman was first encountered in 1966 at a nearby, supposedly abandoned, government ordnance plant. Following hundreds of sightings, men in black, driving government cars with no license plates, invaded the town and told people to keep quiet.
Exactly 13 months after the initial sighting, the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant collapsed, killing 46 people. The collapse was blamed on a broken bolt, number 13, in the structure. The Mothman hasn't been seen in the area since.
There are also connections to Chief Cornstalk, a prominent leader of the Shawnee nation in the mid-1700s.
So important are the sightings, that Hollywood produced a 2002 film, the "Mothman Prophecies," starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney and Will Patton. This was followed by a 2010 made-for-television horror movie, "Mothman," which was followed by a 2011 documentary, "Eyes of the Mothman." So you know there is something going on in this small West Virginia town.
The festival also included a number of speakers and seminars on the paranormal, UFOs, cryptozoology, haunted houses and, of course, Bigfoot.
Academic and professional conferences certainly have their places. But for sheer fun, and the delicious Mothman pancakes, you can't beat a festival devoted to a nearly 50-year-old controversial sighting that has turned into something of a cult classic.