#MOTHMAN: When Testimony Fails
This report will probably upset many in the cryptid and paranormal communities. I am sorry. Roger Scarberry, Linda Scarberry, and Mary Mallette each created handwritten reports just days after their Mothman encounter on November 15, 1966. These depositions were not part of the public record until they were used in the production of the book Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend by Donnie Sergeant, Jr and Jeff Wamsley, (Mothman Lives Publishing, 2002) which is, perhaps, one of the most significant works ever published dealing with this mystery. These handwritten pages, all of which were once part of Linda Scarberry's private collection, were later placed into the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia for all to see. You can find them online.
Here is Linda Scarberry's original account from November 1966:
“We were riding through the TNT Area on a side road by the old Power House building around 12:00 on Tuesday night Nov. 15th, 1966 when we came over this small rise in the road. All at once Steve yelled for us to look at that thing in the road.
“I looked up and saw it go around the corner at the old Power House. It didn't run but wobbled like it couldn't keep it's balance. Its wings were spread just a little. We sat there a few seconds then Roger took off. I kept yelling for him to hurry. We didn't even stop for the curves…
“To me it just looks like a man with wings. (It was a dirty grey color.) It has a body shape form with wings on its back that come around it. It has muscular legs like a man and fiery-red eyes that glow when the lights hit it. There was no glowing about it until the lights hit it. I couldn't see its head or arms. I don't know if the eyes are even in a head.”
Then we have this.
Donnie Sergeant, Jr interviewed Linda Scarberry on July 11, 2001 (nearly thirty-five years after the encounter) and transcribed that exclusive interview for inclusion in Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend. Linda Scarberry proofread it for accuracy.
DS: “This creature has been described by many people. There have been many different reports of what the Mothman looks like. Would you describe, in detail, what it looked like? Its head, body, wings, etc…”
Linda: “It was about seven feet fall. It had wings that were visible on its back, the tips of the wings could be seen above its shoulders. The body of it was like a slender, muscular man, and was flesh-colored. Its wings were an ashen white in color. The wings looked like angel wings. Its face couldn’t be seen, because the eyes simply hypnotized you when you looked into them. You didn't have to look directly into them. If you looked close to its face, your eyes were just drawn to its eyes. It wasn't that it didn’t have a head, it was just that when your eyes got close to its head and neck area, the eyes consumed your vision, and you couldn't see anything but them. It had arms and legs, like a muscular man.
“When we first saw it, we had just topped a hill in the TNT area, and when the headlights of our car hit it, it looked directly at us, as if it was scared. It had one of its wings caught in a guide wire near a section of road close to the power plant, and was pulling on its wing with its hands, trying to free itself. Its hands were really big. It was really scared. We stopped the car and sat still while it was trying to free itself from the wire. We didn't sit there long, just long enough to scare it, I think. It seemed to think we were going to hurt it. We were all screaming, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ But, we couldn't perform the actual action of leaving the scene. It was like we were hypnotized. It finally got its wing loose from the wire and ran into the power plant. I felt sorry for it…”
Linda Scarberry’s 1966 deposition and her 2001 interview read like two separate people having contradictory encounters with completely different entities. This, however, does not negate her original recorded eyewitness testimony, nor does it reflect upon this gentle lady in any negative way.
All memories are prone to corruption and distortion. Linda was human. Interviewing witnesses about any event that occurred several decades ago is counter-productive. It is essential for the investigator (or director or producer) to utilize the earliest primary sources available. Primary sources are those created by the witness of an event. These sources can be a written record or an interview given immediately following the event. Loren Coleman elaborates on this in his review of the "Sci-fi Investigates" Mothman episode broadcast on October 26, 2006:
"Some of the eyewitnesses have so changed their sighting reports over the years as to have disqualified themselves from being useful interview subjects any longer. Perhaps only a few in the Mothman research field and no producers in the reality television world want to hear this truth, but it is a fact. Since the 2002 movie screened and the resulting documentary film company visits to Point Pleasant, the newly retold old accounts have become so changed from the originals to be almost totally useless - except as fodder for nearly fictional sensational television programs."
Memory does not function like a camcorder which captures an event and stores it for future playback. Images recorded electronically do not change over time and are not altered by external or subsequent events. When someone experiences an important event, that person acquires fragments of information from the environment. This information then is combined with information stored in memory and information acquired after the event occurs. The result of this concoction is the current memory of the event.
Numerous studies have shown that eyewitnesses incorporate information learned after the event into memory. "Post-event contamination" is information that is "learned" after an event takes place that is then integrated into the memory of the event. After integration occurs, it generally is not possible to disentangle information which came from the event itself from information which became integrated later on.
Examples of "post-event contamination" can include leading questions by interviewers, overhearing or conversing with other witnesses, reading about the event or viewing an account of it on television. The more times an eyewitness is questioned, all things being equal, the less accurate the latest version will be.
There is a natural fading of memory and we forget some information as time passes. The longer an event is in the past, the more likely the witness will have only a partial memory of it. Even some of the simplest and most obvious facts may have been forgotten.
This is why I do not support documentaries, television shows, and podcasts where the witnesses are interviewed decades after the Active Paranormal Events have occurred. Supposedly presenting facts and information, these programs may contain little more than entertainment value. This is also why I do not support any uncorroborated testimony from Johnny-come-lately witnesses who appear decades after the fact and who have not documented their “experiences” in a timely manner.
No one can identify the mystery that visited West Virginia in 1966. This special report documents the undeniable fact that too much of our Mothman legend began as flawed folklore and evolved into weapons-grade balonium.