"Witnesses around the world report seeing monsters. Are they real or imaginary? Science searches for answers" - MonsterQuest opening narration
MonsterQuest was an American television show which ran for four seasons from 2007 to 2010 on the History channel. The show focused on monsters of urban legends, presenting stories and eyewitness accounts as well as attempting to investigate into them.
On Wednesday February 10th 2010, episode 64 of the TV series was aired. This episode covered the Mothman of West Virginia folklore.
Point Pleasant WV Mothman Witnesses
The episode features interviews with Mothman witnesses from Point Pleasant, West Virginia who claim to have seen the creature in 1966. One of the original witnesses, Linda Scarberry, told the story of her sighting on November 15th 1966. Faye-Dewitt Leport then told of her sighting which was also from November of 1966. Tom Ury is shown briefly in the episode. An interview with Mothman Museum curator Jeff Wamsley is featured as well.
The topic of the Silver Bridge Collapse is brought up several times in the show. They also refer to Mothman being thought of as an omen of doom. The narration says "Many here believe that the beast foretold of the Silver Bridge Collapse by appearing in the months leading up to the disaster, a warning of sorts".
- Linda Scarberry's Mothman Sighting (November 15th 1966)
- Tom Ury's Mothman Sighting (November 25th 1966)
- Faye-Dewitt Leport's Mothman Sighting (November 1966)
Modern international reports of winged human-like creatures are also included in this episode. Such as a sighting in Wisconsin in 2006 and a sighting in California in 2009. It is implied through narration that these two sightings of winged humanoids could also be the Mothman or at least related in someway.
- Awohali's Winged Humanoid Sighting (Wisconsin - September 2006)
- Lamont Greer's Winged Humanoid Sighting (California - August 2009)
Owls And Eyeshine / Wisconsin Fields and Hills
In the episode, they repeatedly show owls as a possible explanation, displaying owls with red eye shine and comparing it to the Mothman legend. Skeptic Joe Nickell has posited the bard owl as an explanation for Mothman before, he appears on the show to explain this further. He says the bard owl "except for it's size, would be a very good fit for Mothman". An Ohio bird sanctuary is later featured. Jan Ferrell describes the size of bard owls and how their eyes reflect light.
Footage is used all throughout the episode of Wildlife expert, Mark Peterson leading an expedition into the Wisconsin wilderness along with author and researcher Nick Redfern. They state that they were looking for animals with eye-shine to examine. At one point during the hike, Redfern said "If we can get some sort of comparative data from other animals, we can either rule one in or rule it out." They eventually found some deer in a field and examined the eye-shine with a spotlight. The eyes were much too small and the shine was green. They found no owls but again mention owls having red eye shine.
Size Perception Experiment
MonsterQuest had Skeptic Joe Nickell conduct an experiment to test size perception. They constructed three Mothman shaped grey silhouettes with red bicycle reflectors for eyes. The small one being 2ft tall, the medium one 4ft tall and the large one being 8ft tall. They created somewhat of an obstacle course by placing these forms along a darkened road. The road was near the spot where the November 15th 1966 sighting is said to have taken place.
Several test subjects were then asked to drive along this road at night with a spotlight on the side of the car and a camera recording their reactions. As they drove, the light shined on the three silhouettes and lit up the bicycle reflectors. They were then asked by Nickell to estimate the height of the forms. In the episode, a montage then plays of the people listing sizes but it's sort of unclear as to which forms they are speaking of and the raw data or graphing is never fully shown to audience. One of the people in the episode taking the test is investigator John Frick.
Joe Nickell then states "You could look at some of the data and say they did a pretty good job judging height, it's important to note however that no fewer than three people on one of the targets doubled the size of it."
The silhouettes that were used in this experiment was later placed in the Mothman Museum and put on display in the window of the gift shop.
In the episode, witness testimony is frequently discussed. Chad Marsolek, a professor from the University of Minnesota, is brought on to explain memory and some of the flaws of perception. He posits "Weapon Focus" as something that might contribute to vague descriptions of the Mothman and the witnesses focus on the creature's eyes.
Professor Marsolek says "One might imagine that, especially glowing red eyes, would be the parts of the visual experience that are quite sealant. It's quite possible to be responsible for very good memory for the eyes but poorer memory maybe even distorted memory for the larger shape of whatever it was that was viewed."
Weapon focus is a factor affecting the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Weapon focus signifies a witness to a crime diverting his or her attention to the weapon the perpetrator is holding, thus leaving less attention for other details in the scene and leading to memory impairments later for those other details.
Why weapon focus occurs has been described a couple different ways. The first is the "automatic capture" explanation. This suggests that the attention paid to a weapon is automatic and unintentional. Studies have been performed that show that even if a subject is asked to ignore specific stimuli they are unable to thus eliciting an automatic response. However, other research shows that attention focus is not automatic and can be directed on command, especially if attention is already focused somewhere specific.
If attention is already focused away from a certain stimulus, then automatic capture is avoidable.These findings, however, are theoretical and need to be replicated in real world situations to really assess the usefulness of them. They show great promise that weapon focus effect and be counteracted by education on the topic, but they will remain theoretical until further research and implementation of the idea can be conducted.
Forensics sketch artist David E. Weaver of Mountain State University appears on the show. He describes how witness testimony can be effective in identifying culprits of crime but can also sometimes be very flawed.
The witnesses of the Mothman from 1966 are brought in to describe what they saw to the forensics artist so that he can do detailed sketches based on their accounts. Linda Scarberry and Faye Dewitt-Leport both appear in the show talking to the artist as he draws. These drawings are display at the end.
The drawing of Linda's description fits with what she's said before. The sketch has angel like wings behind the creature, a non-prominent head, no arms, human legs and large red eyes. The drawing of Faye's description matches what she said during the program about the Mothman being "crouched like a gargoyle". The image also has feathered wings spreading out like in her sighting. She didn't mention the creature having arms in her story but they are drawn anyway. Tom Ury is shown telling his description but the final photo of that sketch isn't really shown.
Lamont Greer, who had a winged humanoid sighting in 2009, also gets a sketch done by the sketch artist. What seems to be final photo of that sketch is shown at the end. David Weaver then attempts to do a "composite sketch" by combining all the drawings into a single form. He does this as a painting on a canvas.
The final product is a simple artwork of the Mothman, it features arms which is possibly inaccurate, but overall has somewhat of the shape that the witnesses are describing. The large wings are behind the creature, the body is muscular, the coloring is light grey and the red eyes are prominent.
Weaver says "we're drawing something that scientifically may or may not exist and yet these witnesses have huge similarities and were obviously traumatized. They definitely saw something." He goes on to say "These witnesses were true in they're interviews with me, as far as I can tell. The hope is more information will come forward."
Sources: MonsterQuest Episode 64 (2010) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapon_focus http://cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/mq-mm-review/