A dear friend of mine stumbled on something recently and it got me thinking about legends and superstitions and whether or not they can survive the age of technology. So much of what I write is based on old legends, stories passed down through the generations of mountain folk trying to come to grips with events that seemed beyond reality’s explanation. These were people who believed in ghosts and demons, God and angels, witchcraft and salvation with equal sincerity. Their beliefs were strong. They are still strong, compounded and handed down by their parents and grandparents through the years with the same fervor in which they’d been created. Belief is a powerful thing, but is it enough to keep legends alive in a time where science and reason reign? I like to believe that it is.
Let me tell you a story, dear reader.
On the other side of the Ohio River, across the bridge from Gallipolis and some 40 miles from the holler as the crow flies, is the mountain town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Known by some as the site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War, by others as the site of the 1967 Silver Bridge collapse…and by others still as the home of the Mothman.
The Mothman has been both praised and condemned as either a hero or a demon depending on how you read the legend and events that lead up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge, understood to be a harbinger of catastrophe or an omen of warning. No one knows for sure what its intentions are, or if it even exists. What they do know, is that people have claimed to see it all over the Appalachians.
I had thought that this kind of legend would have died out when everything can be dispelled on the internet as a poorly executed hoax. The Mothman, the Jersey Devil…Bigfoot.. they would all meet a sad fate at the hand of Google search engines.
Or would they?
Just when I thought there was no hope for these myths in a modern age, my friend stumbled on an article that had somehow eluded me. The Mothman had been seen in Chicago. Not in antebellum years. Not in 1934. Not in 1967. In 2018.
In that simple eyewitness report, I found hope for the old stories… for the myths of spirits and cryptids inhabiting land growing barren and industrialized with progress and rising population needs.
I found a reason to keep believing, and maybe, even though the world is changing and the magic is disappearing…maybe legends never die.