Thursday, February 11, 2010


History Channel - Original Air Date: 2/10/10

Full disclosure: I have a bit of skin in the game this time, as you'll notice in the following paragraphs.  (Not much, but a bit.)

MQ looks into the legendary Mothman, and though the legend comes from West Virginia, they start in La Crosse, WI (confusing Mothman with Manbat -- but then, MQ often plays a bit fast and loose with their "facts").  They have the usual eyewitness stories, from Wisconsin to West Virginia to Sacramento, and Joe Nichols and others to do a bit of skeptical investigation.  Joe thinks people have misidentified known animals, like the barred owl, which he says is a good match, except for its size.  Plus, the owl has red eye shine (a Mothman trademark). Friend of Uncanny Radio Nick Redfern (author of Three Men Seeking Monsters and contributor to Uncanny Encounters: Roswell) is among the researchers looking for the beast in Wisconsin.  They canoe into the wilds and hike ancient bluffs, searching for evidence, and also investigating animal eye shine.  They use owl calls to try to lure a barred owl in, for comparison to the stories, but all they find is shiny-eyed deer.  The examine some deer carcass photos, but the expert believes them to have been killed by poachers.

The show also looks into the traditional West Virginia story, talking to witnesses and recreating events. They speculate about Mothman as a portent of doom - including recent disasters and even 9/11.  David Weaver is a sketch artist MQ brings in to draw what the witnesses have seen.  He believes the sketches all portray similar creatures.  The scientific team believes the witnesses saw a smaller animal, and fear enlarged it.  They create cutouts at various sizes (with reflector eyes) and then test subjects on size recognition.  The size estimates vary widely, depending on the witness; some people doubled the size of the targets, calling into question what people are seeing and reporting.  Dr. Chad Marsolek talks about how human memory is effected by emotion; people viewing a disturbing image believe their memories to be accurate, when usually they are not.  He also says that a "weapon focus effect" could cause people to focus on the eyes and forget other details.

As with the better, MQ shows, this episode features a combination of legends and scientific investigation.  There's plenty of info for believer, investigator, and skeptic.  Linda Godfrey and I did part of a show on Manbat in Uncanny Radio.  I hope to get that segment back up on the internet one day. In the meantime, if you're looking for a fun gift for Mothman lovers, you can send them Everything the Government Wants You to Know about Mothman -- a blank book (suitable for filling with your own conspiracies) from Walkabout Publishing.

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