Soon after John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies (2002, Lakeshore Entertainment) was put on the big screen by director Mark Pellington, the now-annual Mothman Festival rose seemingly out of nothing. In 2004, I was fortunate to attend a viewing in Point Pleasant, and did so with actor Sam Nicotero, who had a small part in the movie as the watch-capped man on the bridge warning John Klein (Richard Gere) about “Some problem with the traffic light.”
Some of you more hardcore film fanatics might even remember Sam as Deputy Shade, in George A. Romero’s The Crazies (1973)—produced in Evans City, Pennsylvania, near where Romero had earlier filmed Night of the Living Dead (1968).
At the time, I remember remarking to Sam on the meta-weirdness of watching Mothman Prophecies in a theater not 20 feet from where the entrance to the Silver Bridge once stood, with a man who portrayed a character standing on a real bridge substituting for one no longer in existence. Sam merely nodded, and advised me to button my lip. In 1967, when the bridge fell, he had been a radio DJ in nearby Charleston. His amazingly hardworking nephew, Greg Nicotero, is a legend in Hollywood (hell, anywhere) special make-up effects, presently heading the team on The Walking Dead. Greg too worked with George Romero, on Day of the Dead (1985).
After watching the movie, Sam and I shook hands, and went our separate ways; he back to Pittsburgh (where I—at the time—also lived) and myself across the river to Keel’s old HQ, The Blue Fountain Motel. I wanted one more day to knock around, explore the area.
Earlier that year, I drove from Pittsburgh up to Kittanning, where future pal Mark Pellington had spent some hard days filming. On Route 66, I passed this incredibly sinister-looking structure. I liked its silent desolation so much I used it on the cover of my short-story collection, Traces of Oblivion (Oblivion Press, 2014).
Kittanning, as it turns out, was not a strange town to me. I had, in 2001, while working for a disaster-restoration company out of Jeannette, PA, spent two weeks there helping to restore some guy’s garage after a fire. Little did I suspect I’d one day return to photograph the place—setting for another historical disaster. In 2003, I would become a full-time writer.
Although I visited during mid-week, the town was very still.
It’s easy to see why Kittanning was selected to portray Point Pleasant. Similar architecture, quiet hauntedness, and a certain unfocused melancholy. But that’s probably subjective. Like everything else….
Thanks for hanging out. On 18 May, from 11:00 PM until 2:00 AM, I’ll be the guest of host Jeremy Scott and producer Amanda Curran, on this show:
Shortly after I mentioned this on Facebook, these two fellas dropped in:
What’s “enhanced interrogation”?…