Released to theatres in 2002, “The Mothman Prophecies” follows John Klein, played by Richard Gere, as he leaves his Washington newspaper job to investigate sightings of winged creatures, referred to as “Mothman,” in a small West Virginia town. The film claims to be based on actual events that occurred in Point Pleasant, W.Va., between November 1966 and December 1967. Loren Coleman, founder and director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, was a consultant during the production of “The Mothman Prophecies.” According to Coleman, the film, which is based on the 1975 book of the same name by parapsychologist John Keel, is a fictionalized narrative of actual events. “‘The Mothman Prophecies’ is based in reality, but the film is [director] Mark Pellington’s docudrama/fictionalized narrative motion picture of the events,” Coleman told HuffPost. “The characters … were created from parts of the personality and experiences of … Keel. Even the character names are formed via movie scriptwriters as puns, for example [Alexander] Leek [is] Keel backwards.”
In 2002, I wrote a discussion, “The Mothman Prophecies: ‘Gordon Smallwood’ and Some Strange Happenings,” of the name game in the film for a science fiction site.
In the new motion picture, The Mothman Prophecies ( based on the book of the same name by John Keel), chemical plant worker “Gordon Smallwood” (Will Patton), is deeply upset by late-night visits, he thinks, from reporter “John Klein” (Richard Gere). ”Smallwood” also believes that an entity named Indrid Cold is communicating with him, and this is slowly driving him, well, to turn a phrase, batty. ”Gordon Smallwood” is loosely based on contactee Woody Derenberger, who reported encounters with an Indrid Cold in West Virginia during the period of the Mothman sightings there in 1966-1967. This is all rather obvious, and the “Smallwood” and Woody link is not hard to see.Pellington was also the voice of Indrid Cold during the phone call.
Right after the movie’s opening, Jerome “Jerry” Clark, author ofThe UFO Book, posted the following on an online UFO group: ”I wonder how many of you who’ve seen the movie caught the deep-inside-the-ufological-beltway use of the name ‘Gordon Smallwood’ for the Will Patton character?”
No one answered, but many were interested in learning what the in-joke was all about.
Jerry Clark explained: ”Gordon Smallwood is a pseudonym Gray Barker [the late West Virginia ufologist, and friend of John A. Keel] used for Quebec ufologist Laimon Mitris, who allegedly was visited by a man in black. See chapter 13 of They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Barker writes, ’I would like to know someone by the name of Gordon Smallwood. The name in itself sounds honest and reputable. If there are any Gordon Smallwoods reading this book, let them rest assured the name used here is an invention. But let them write to me for I would like to know people with such a name.‘”
The Mothman Prophecies movie has many layers of meanings and a few inside jokes: from the Fortean number game turning up in the night visits related by “Gordon Smallwood”, the selection of names (e.g. Leek = Keel), and even on-camera appearances. Notice the imposing figure of the bartender at the Marriott who helps the Richard Gere character with the television channels. That’s director Mark Pellington in his Alfred Hitchcock-like cameo.
On October 28, 2013, the film’s head writer, Richard Hatem, posted a tweet saying, “Thanks Loren – I knew guys like you would get the jokes.”