a thirteen month period from November 1966 until December
1967, the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, USA was reportedly
tipped into a state of chaos - overrun by a number of strange
phenomena that appeared to revolve around regular sightings
of a winged humanoid known as the Mothman. There were hundreds
of alleged witnesses to these phenomena. One such individual
was John Keel, who had arrived from New York to investigate
the reports. His book the Mothman
has been turned into a film staring Richard Gere. We caught
up with the author as the movie was about to go on general
release in the UK...
Online: What do you think to the finished film?
Keel: I was pleased with the Hollywood interpretation. They
got a lot of the stuff in the book into the movie, but with
slight variations. But it revived a lot of memories of that
period, which was a very traumatic period for me. I
have no real complaints about it. It's Hollywood, and it's
done well - that's my feeling about it.
worried first how they were gonna do the scene with the bridge,
'cause that might have looked like a piece of crap, but they
did the collapse of the bridge beautifully. I thought Richard
Gere was real good in it. He did not try to imitate me - that
would be too big a job. I thought Alan Bates, playing his
part, was very good in it - slinking around alleys, hiding
from whatever he was hiding from.
Ever felt like you were being stalked?
Sure. Sure. There's a chapter in the book about it. They worked
a lot of the stuff into the movie. And did it very well, I
thought. Because a lot of the stuff sounds totally insane;
the telephone stuff, ringing when they were unhooked, when
they weren't connected - mysterious voices on the phone; I
went through all of that.
How close did you come to really experiencing the Mothman?
I never saw the Mothman. But I saw people minutes after they
had had an experience with it. And they were in a state of
total terror. Just happened to be in the vicinity at the time.
It's taken a long time since you wrote the book for Hollywood
to come calling...
It took 30 years. I had many, many offers and would-be deals.
Agents would call me up, and say "How soon can you get out
here?" I'd say, "As soon as I get your cheque." That would
bring the conversation to a close. They all wanted something
for nothing. They all had great deals - for them, but not
for me. See, I have one of the best agents in the country,
maybe in the world, and I'd say, "Well, you'll have to talk
to my agent." And that would bring the conversation to a dead
halt - they didn't want to talk to agents.
know authors who've been tricked like that. Everyone's heard
of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's a title
from a college professor's book - and he got a total of $1700
out of that. Which is absurd. But they conned him into it,
they promised him the moon - a world of publicity, cardboard
figures of him standing in front of the theater, and all this
stuff. And of course none of it came true.
So what made you go for this deal, then?
I'd had countless calls from young writers who wanted to write
it, some of them well-known, and this young man called me
- and he understood the book. He'd probably read it 10 times.
And he gave me the kind of pitch he would throw - in Hollywood,
the pitch is all-important; they don't want to see it on paper,
they want to hear you tell it - so I put him in contact with
my agent, and they worked out the whole deal.
they got involved with Mark Pellington (director), who was
instrumental in putting the whole package together. I wish
I could complain about something, but I can't. They pulled
off a very difficult project.
Have you any idea why these things happened in this town,
and not, say, somewhere else?
Well, it does happen in other places - you just don't hear
about it. I just happened to be there, and kept careful notes.
If I hadn't been there, you'd never heard about it. But I
was there to record the whole thing, step by step. As I was
recording it, I didn't know what the hell I was doing, didn't
know what was going on. So I withdrew from the whole thing.
I had so much trouble with the telephone that I took the whole
thing out and didn't have a telephone for 10 years.
been afraid many times. But I've also spent a lot of my time
in cemeteries at midnight, I've been inside the great pyramids
alone. I've done a lot of interesting and dangerous things.
I trekked through the Himalayas alone. I'm six foot two and
the Tibetans are five foot two, so it was not a good idea
to go very far, but I stepped over the border just so I could
say I'd set foot in Tibet. But I'm not courageous or anything.
I'm stupid. I take chances. A lot of people don't - they'll
sit in the corner of their insurance office all their lives.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Lesley O'Toole and Laura Norton at Way To Blue