Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Mothman's "First Eyewitness" Dies




In February, Linda Scarberry, one of the earliest eyewitnesses (November 15, 1966) to Mothman, was admitted to a Point Pleasant-area hospital, in critical condition. Unfortunately, it was been learned, from John Frick, that after a brief battle with cancer, Linda Scarberry died on Sunday morning, March 6th, 2011.  

Our condolences to the McDaniel and Scarberry families. Linda's maiden name, let us not forget, is the significant cryptoname McDaniel. John A. Keel pointed out that the name "McDaniel" was an important twilight language moniker. 

First eyewitnesses: Roger and Linda Scarberry (right) and Steve and Mary Mallette (left).  

Mothman phenomena began in mid-November 1966, when the two couples pictured above, including Linda Scarberry, drove through and parked at an old World War II munitions dump site that the locals called TNT. They saw and said they were chased by a large winged creature. They reported the incident to the police, and the sightings continued from there. The rest is cryptozoological history.

On November 15, 1966, the world was introduced to the Scarberry-Mallette sightings of a creature that would become known as Mothman. After this first encounter incident, as reported by the press in the papers of the day, soon a copyeditor in Ohio, a fan of the “Batman” series then on television, would coin the word “Mothman” since the word fit the headline space better. The sightings of a “Big Bird” had become a “big insect” with one copyeditor’s action. 


Linda Scarberry said the William Rebsamen-drawn depiction of the Mothman on the cover of my book was the one that looked the most like the Mothman she saw. Her earliest drawings (one of which is below) showed the red eyes, wings, legs, but no arms (which did appear in sketches done years later after the imagery had changed in the retelling, demonizing and theorizing).  


A sketch of Mothman (above), made by an eyewitness [Linda Scarberry] in rural West Virginia. In all, more than 100 people reported seeing the creature.--Courtesy Linda Scarberry, in Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend, from the Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2002. 



William Rebsamen's painting, she said, was in contrast to the image used as a cover on a later edition of John Keel's book. It was that cover art that would serve as the insect-like model of the statue in present-day Point Pleasant. 


Linda Scarberry and Loren Coleman, in Linda's home, 2001, during happier times, just weeks before the release of the movie, The Mothman Prophecies. I presented Linda with one of the first copies of my book, Mothman and Other Curious Encounters, which was produced in complete cooperation with Sony/Screen Gems, to appear right before the movie's opening day. The studio was interested in reinforcing the "based on true story" tagline of their feature film.  Linda and I would appear together in the movie's concurrent David Grabias documentary Search For The Mothman, which is in the Deluxe DVD of The Mothman Prophecies.


In the 2002 movie, the first sighting involving Linda Scarberry and her three companions was fictionally re-created in dramatic fashion. Above is a screen capture of the incident from The Mothman Prophecies

See also John A. Keel's obituary.

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