List of deathsEdit
At 5:04 PM, on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge collapsed during rush hour.
Forty-six lives were lost, and forty-four bodies were recovered. These are the names of those whose bodies were recovered:
- Albert A. Adler, Jr, Gallipolis, OH
- J. O. Bennnett, Walnut Cove, NC
- Leo Blackman, Richmond, VA
- Kristye Boggs, Vinton, OH
- Margaret Boggs, Vinton, OH
- Hilda Byus, Point Pleasant, WV
- Kimberly Byus, Point Pleasant, WV
- Melvin Cantrell, Gallipolis Ferry, WV
- Thomas A. Cantrell, Gallipolis, OH
- Donna Jean Casey, Gallipolis, OH
- Cecil Counts, Gallipolis Ferry, WV
- Horace Cremeans, Route 1, Gallipolis, OH
- Harold Cundiff, Winston-Salem, NC
- Alonzo Luther Darst, Cheshire, OH
- Alma Duff, Point Pleasant, WV
- James Hawkins, Westerville, OH
- Bobby L. Head, Gallipolis, OH
- Forrest Raymond Higley, Bidwell, OH
- Alva B. Lane, Route 1, Gallipolis, OH
- Thomas "Bus" Howard Lee, Gallipolis, OH
- G. H. Mabe, Jamestown, NC
- Darlene Mayes, Kanauga, OH
- Gerald McMannus, South Point, OH
- James Richard Maxwell, Gallipolis, OH
- James F. Meadows, Point Pleasant, WV
- Timothy Meadows, Point Pleasant, WV
- Frederick D. Miller, Gallipolis, OH
- Ronnie G. Moore, Gallipolis, OH
- Nora Isabelle Nibert, Gallipolis Ferry, WV
- Darius E. Northup, Gallipolis Ferry, WV
- James O. Pullen, Middleport, OH
- Leo "Doc" Sanders, Point Pleasant, WV
- Ronald Sims, Gallipolis, OH
- Charles T. Smith, Bidwell, OH
- Oma Mae Smith, Bidwell, OH
- Maxine Sturgeon, Kanauga, OH
- Denzil Taylor, Point Pleasant, WV
- Glenna Mae Taylor, Point Pleasant, WV
- Robert Eugene Towe, Cana, VA
- Victor William Turner, Point Pleasant, WV
- Marvin Wamsley, Point Pleasant, WV
- Lillian Eleanor Wedge, Point Pleasant, WV
- Paul D. Wedge, Point Pleasant, WV
- James Alfred White, Point Pleasant, WV
The two whose bodies were never recovered are:
- Kathy Byus, Point Pleasant, WV
- Maxine Turner, Point Pleasant, WV
The date (or Mothman math) game played a role in the next death. The first sighting (acknowledged by the media and first filed by reporter Mary Hyre) occurred when the Scarberrys and Mallettes saw Mothman on November 15, 1966, in the TNT area, Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Then exactly thirteen months later, the Silver Bridge collapsed on December 15, 1967. Twenty-six months later (13 x 2) exactly, Mary Hyre died on February 15, 1970, at the age of 54, after a four-week illness. Hyre was the Point Pleasant correspondent for the Athens, Ohio newspaper The Messenger, and during the 1960s' investigations, became a close friend of John A. Keel. (Her husband Scotty had died on December 1, 1968.)
Naturalist, cryptozoologist, and television animal man Ivan Sanderson served as John A. Keel's main consultant on the natural history behind the reports of Mothman. Keel was on the phone often with Sanderson, who was a well-known writer and at the time of the Mothman sightings, also the director of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in New Jersey. Sanderson was one of the first researchers on the scene, to report on the Flatwoods Monster seen in West Virginia in 1952. He was more involved with the Mothman situation that is often remembered. Sanderson, 62, died on February 19, 1973, of a rapidly spreading cancer. Mary Hyre and Ivan Sanderson were named in John A. Keel's book as having died before the tenth anniversary of his Mothman investigations. He also mentioned Fred Freed, who is little known today. In television histories, however, Freed's documentaries, the NBC White Paper, which began in 1960, are acclaimed as groundbreaking. The series would be successful until they ended with Freed's death. In September 1973, Keel and Freed began meeting regularly to discuss a White Paper that would concentrate on the Ohio Valley UFO flaps and other activity (Mothman) in the area. This documentary would never be made. In March 1974, only a year later, Freed died swiftly and suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 53.
Besides John Keel, no other person was as on scene in Mason County, during 1966-1967, as often as West Virginian Gary Barker. Barker was a theatrical film booker and educational-materials distributor based in Clarksburg, West Virginia, who became interested in UFOs after he investigated the Flatwoods Monster in 1952. In 1956, Barker was the first person to write a book (They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, Clarksburg, WV: Saucerian Books, 1956).on the Men in Black (which Keel would later call MIBs). Barker and Keel interviewed Woodrow Derenberger, the contactee who was visited by Indrid Cold. Barker noted in Spacecraft News #3, in 1966, that when he was investigating Mothman near Point Pleasant, he found a note on his door with this ungrammatic message, "ABANDON YOUR RESEARCH OR YOU WILL BE REGRET. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED." Over Labor Day, 1968, Barker held a Mothman Convention in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. This displeased Keel, and after Keel wrote to Barker about it on March 15, 1969, a rift developed between them that would never heal.
UFO humorist and researcher James Moseley, Gray Barker's closest friend, noted in his recent book, Shockingly Close to the Truth, that Barker died on December 6, 1984, "after a long series of illnesses" in a Charleston, West Virginia, hospital. But the cause was somewhat mysterious and the diagnosis was always unclear. Moseley wrote that "the more or less simultaneous failure of various organs, due most probably to AIDS (though it was not diagnosed as such in those days)" killed Barker. In filmmaker Ralph Coon's documentary about Barker, Whispers from Space, the Clarksburg investigator is depicted as a closeted gay man. Barker was only 59 when he died.
Parapsychologist and author D. Scott Rogo, 40, was found stabbed to death on August 18, 1990, after a neighbor in the 18100 block of Schoenborn Street, Northridge, California, noted that Rogo's backyard sprinklers had been on for two days. Police arrived to discover Rogo dead on the floor. The home had not been ransacked. While most of Rogo's early work focussed on parapsychology, he also had written about this theories on Mothman in The Haunted Universe (NY: Signet, 1977) and Earth's Secret Inhabitants (NY: Tempo Books, 1979), the latter book written with his friend Jerome Clark.
Donald I. North, a Point Pleasant native who saw Mothman in the TNT area in the 1990s, died in an automobile crash in 1997.
Conspiracy author Jim Keith, at the age of 50, died mysteriously, on September 7, 1999, during routine knee surgery, after falling off the stage at the annual Burning Man pagan arts festival in Nevada. Jim Keith was responsible for first writing about a CIA-Men-in-Black connection to the initial Mothman events in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. He held the notion that Point Pleasant was being used as a "test tube."
Born in Ontario, Canada on April 6, 1961, Gene Andrusco relocated to Southern California when he was young, then soon became a actor on television programs such as "Bewitched" and "Cannon." In the mid-1980s, under the pen name Gene Eugene, he started a second career as a Christian alternative rock producer, engineer, and musician as a member of Adam Again, the Lost Dogs, and the Swirling Eddies. It was as a musician that his life crossed paths with Mothman, in the late 1990s. Andrusco, 38, was found dead in The Green Room, his production studio in Huntington Beach, California, during the early morning of March 30, 2000, of a brain aneurysm or heart attack.
The only movie Gene Andrusco ever worked on was Douglas TenNapel's elusive independent film, Mothman (2000). Andrusco was the music editor, and performed some of the music, as a member of the Lost Dogs. The film was the first feature directed by Douglas TenNapel, produced by Mark Russell and Jay Holben, and executive produced by Martin Cohen of DreamWorks SKG. It was shot on location in Orange County, California, and Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on 35 mm in fifteen days throughout the month of December 1997. Jay Holben, the film's head cinematographer, would go on to do Minority Report; Mark Russell would produce Minority Report. A sneak preview of TenNapel's Mothman was held at San Diego Comic-Con on August 12, 1999, but, although the date of final release is listed as 2000, no one really knows whatever happened to the film, and TenNapel refuses to discuss it to this day.
The publisher of most of Jim Keith's books and of John Keel's 1991 reprint of The Mothman Prophecies, Ron Bonds of IllumiNet Press, died under strange circumstances, at 48, on April 8, 2001. He was being rushed to the hospital for food poisoning, apparently contracted at the Mexican restaurant, El Azteca, Ponce de Leon, Atlanta. (Before becoming a publisher, Bonds had been a rock promoter and producer. Intriguingly, April 8th is also associated with the date that Kurt Cobain, grunge rock star, was found dead from suicide in Seattle.)
On October 24, 2001, Marcella Bennett who was an eyewitness to Mothman on November 16, 1966, the oft-noted "second sighting," lost her daughter, Robin Pilkington, 44. Marcella Bennett's remark about Mothman's "terrrible, glowing, red eyes" is a frequently quoted description. Her daugther's death would signal the start of a wave of witness-relatives' deaths during the time leading up to and during The Mothman Prophecies movie's release. Pilkington died after a "long illness" at Bridgton (Maine) Hospital. Born January 26, 1957, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to Robert and Marcella Wamsley Bennett, Robin Pilkington, graduated from nursing school, and then moved to Denmark, Maine. Besides her parents, Robin was survived by her husband Ross, son Robert Chaney and daughter Kristen Chaney, both of Connecticut, and a sister Kristina Bennett of Naples, Florida. Robin's younger sister, Kristina (also known as Tina or Teena) was the child in Marcella's arms when Marcella had her sighting on November 16, 1966. Robin Pilkington is buried at the Mount Pleasant (!) Cemetery in West Denmark, Maine.
On January 12, 2002, at the Pleasant Valley Nursing and Rehab. Center, Agatha Eileen Bennett, 93, Point Pleasant, died. While her age would indicate a long and rich life, the timing of her death is noteworthy, coming just as the publicity for the new Mothman movie is beginning. Her son Robert Bennett, who along with his wife Marcella Bennett (the often-interviewed witness), saw Mothman on the second night of the beginning of the 1966 flap. Mrs. Bennett was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Sr.; a daughter, Geraldine Bennett; a son, James Bennett; two sisters; three brothers; and a granddaughter. An individual named Julius Oliver Bennett perished when the Silver Bridge collapsed in 1967.
The up and coming rock video filmmaker and movie director Ted Demme (Blow, 2001) suddenly died on January 13, 2002 at age 38, while playing in a celebrity charity basketball game at the private Crossroads School in Santa Monica, CA. A few years earlier, when Ted Demme was the director of Yo! MTV Raps and Mark Pellington was one of the show's producers, they became friends. Mark Pellington, of course, would go on from his MTV award winning days, to become the director of Arlington Road (1999) and The Mothman Prophecies (2002). Demme's uncle is Jonathan Demme, director of Silence of the Lambs (1991) and The Manchurian Candidate (2004).
The Mothman Prophecies opened across America. The music soundtrack CD is released on the same date.
As the movie began screening on January 25, 2002, the original witnesses, the Mallettes were attending a funeral in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Stephen Mallette, who was one of the first four witnesses, was mourning the passing of his brother, Charlie, due to a brain tumor. Charles Putnam 'Charlie' Mallette, 43 of Point Pleasant, died Thursday, January 22, 2002, at his home.
The last week in January 2002, during that same initial movie release time period, there were five fatalities in and near Point Pleasant, in two crashes involving four automobiles on January 26, and three other fatal wrecks in the next five days. For rural Mason County, the eight road deaths in six days was the most in 40 years, according to the State of West Virginia. In one major crash, two tractor-trailer rigs and a Volvo resulted in the death of truck driver Richard Clement, 61, of Mukwonga, Wisconsin.
On February 15, 2002, soon after the town was coming alive with all the Mothman promotions and attention, one of Point Pleasant's better-known Mothman eyewitnesses, Tom Ury suddenly lost his 52-year-old brother Gary.
Ted Tannebaum, 68, the Executive Producer of The Mothman Prophecies, died of cancer, on March 7, 2002, in Chicago, Illinois. He founded the Lakeshore Entertainment Group (which produced the Mothman motion picture) with partner Tom Rosenberg in the early 1990s. The Mothman Prophecies would be Tannebaum's last movie.
Aaron Stephen Rebsamen, 14, unexpectedly died by suicide on Thursday, May 23, 2002, in his Fort Smith, Arkansas home. He was the beloved son of the well-known cryptozoology artist, William Rebsamen, who did the cover illustration of Mothman for the book, Mothman and Other Curious Encounters. Under a tight deadline after the publisher rejected earlier images from another source, Bill Rebsamen created the Mothman painting, overnight, in one creative inspiration. Witnesses, such as Linda Scarberry, upon seeing the Rebsamen full-length, colored illustration of Mothman, said it is the best drawing, which most matches what was first seen on November 15, 1966.
Along eastbound I-80 at Sparks, Nevada, near the railroad tracks, the partially clad body of Sherry Marie Yearsley, 47, was found on June 21, 2002. Passengers on a passing Amtrak train spotted the body and notified authorities. Police said Yearsley was a murder victim and her body had been dumped the previous day, June 20, 2002. At the time of her death, Yearsley was living with her mother in Reno. County records indicated Yearsley was issued a license in 1996 to marry Alfred Alsvary, who was incarcerated at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in May 2002, on a 1- to 4-year sentence on drug charges. It was unclear if the two ever had married.
Yearsley and author Jim Keith were partners for several years in the 1980s, and parented two daughters, Verity and Aerica. They separated around 1990, and engaged in a disruptive custody battle over their girls. Yearsley lost the custody case when Judge Mills Lane (later to become famous due to his court television show), discovered Yearsley had been lying to him. Today, the children live with their aunt Kathy, Jim’s sister, in Oregon.
Julie Harrison, 29, an associate and good friend of the members of the Portland, Oregon-based high-tech grunge band, King Black Acid, died from the complications of an operation, on November 17, 2002. King Black Acid did most of the songs for disc 1 of the soundtrack CD for the movie The Mothman Prophecies.
Susan J. Minga Wilcox, 53, of Columbus, died of an extremely rare form of brain tumor, ependymoma, which mostly strikes children under 12, at Mt. Carmel East Hospital, December 8, 2002. Wilcox had only been diagnosed with the condition two months before. Wilcox saw a black "batlike" bedroom invader in her Columbus, Ohio, home in February 2001, went on to be a Mothman investigator, traveled to Point Pleasant several times in 2001 and 2002, and created a personal website: "Mothman: A Life Changed Forever." She left behind a large envelope of her investigative logs for her son, Brent Fair (also a researcher on such matters), on which she had penned a note to him that read: ""B.R. Do not open until December 2002." He found the date chilling and prophetic, in light of when she passed away.
Known for his portrayal of Eliot Ness of The Untouchables, and as the host of Unsolved Mysteries, Robert Stack, 84, died at his home, on Wednesday, May 14, 2003. Robust and relatively healthy, his death came as a surprise to many. Stack's wife Rosemarie, who had just returned from a charity function, found him slumped over in the couple's Los Angeles home at about 5 p.m. on that day. The actor underwent radiation treatment for prostate cancer in October 2002, but his wife said he died of heart failure. Unsolved Mysteries was the only regularly scheduled reality program to devote a serious segment to Mothman, which they first broadcast on July 29, 2002.
Jessica Kaplan, a crewmember on The Mothman Prophecies, died in the well publicized nose-dive plane crash into LA's Fairfax neighborhood apartment building on June 6, 2003. The Los Angeles Times identified the pilot as Jeffrey T. Siegel, the owner of a Santa Monica construction firm Siegel's family said that Siegel and his niece, Jessica Kaplan, 24, were flying to the family's second home in Sun Valley, Idaho. Kaplan's family described her as a screenwriter who had written for New Line Cinema. Jessica Kaplan is officially credited as one of the production crew for The Mothman Prophecies. As part of the Art Department working on that film about Mothman-linked disasters, Kaplan is listed as a "scenic artist." Kaplan is also known as the genius teen that sold a script to Hollywood for $150,000, when she was 17. In 2004, that script will be released as the movie Havoc, directed by well-known documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple and starring Mandy Moore. The Los Angeles crash occurred on Friday 6/6/2003 (note 2 x 3 = 6, thus Friday's date can be read as 666), but then, that's probably only a coincidence.
On July 15, 2003, Daniel Carter, 34, died in Gallipolis, Ohio. Carter, born April 20, 1969, had a short but creative life, and died suddenly from a massive heart attack. He was involved with the group of artists, musicians, and photographers, all active people in the Gallipolis-Point Pleasant area who gave the Mothman investigations new life. His photographs of the old buildings of the TNT area were featured in Donnie Sergent's and Jeff Wamsley's Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend (2002).
2003, at Pleasant Valley Hospital in Point Pleasant. He was born February 28, 1959, in Mason County, West Virginia, son of the late Leon Allen Sanders, and Carol Louise See Parsons. He was self-employed as a drywaller. In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by a half-brother, Leon Alton Saunders."
Sanders gained membership on this list because he reportedly is related to "Leo 'Doc' Sanders," who was killed when the Silver Bridge collapsed on December 15, 1967, and perhaps a survivor, Donovan Sanders.
During this unusual "death flap," the other people dying included Ricky J. Doss, 37, of Greenup, Kentucky, who drowned in a Mason County pond on August 27, 2003, and a couple who were killed in an auto accident on Highway 35, near the site of the old Silver Bridge. The paper reported: "Charles W. Black, 84, of Henderson, W.V., a former resident and business owner of Jackson County, Ohio, and Ella Fletcher, his close friend and companion for several years, died in an automobile accident on Tuesday afternoon [August 26] near Point Pleasant....Charles, a World War II veteran of the Army Air Corps and former mayor of the town of Hartford, W.V., and also the owner of a farm equipment dealership in Jackson, was a 1937 graduate of Oak Hill High School....Ella Mae Bechtle Fletcher, 75, of Henderson, W.V., was a retired employee of Holzer Hospital in Gallipolis, Ohio. She was born September 28, 1927 in Pennsylvania, the daughter of the late James T. and Evelyn (Earnest) Bechtle."
British actor Sir Alan Bates, 69, died the night of December 27, 2003, at a hospital in London after a long battle with cancer. Bates played "Alexander Leek" in the 2002's The Mothman Prophecies. The character's "Leek" was a name game based on author-investigator John A. Keel's moniker. The activities and intellectualizations portrayed by Richard Gere's "John Klein" and Alan Bates' "Alexander Leek" in The Mothman Prophecies were fashioned after the real-life John A. Keel. Bates was best known for his performances on screen in films like Women In Love and The Fixer, and more recently in The Mothman Prophecies. Bates' very close friend, John Schlesinger died July 25, 2003, at age 77, at Palm Springs, California. In 2002, Bates accepted the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema¹s Artistic Achievement Award for Direction on behalf of John Schlesinger. Bates gained notice through appearing in Schlesinger's films, especially these three: A Kind of Loving, An Englishman Abroad, and Far from the Madding Crowd. Schlesinger had also helped introduce Richard Gere, in the 1979 film Yanks to film audiences. Bates was born on February 17, 1934, in Allestree, Derbyshire, England, UK. Bates married actress Victoria Ward in 1970. Their twin sons, Benedick and Tristan, were born in 1971. Tristan died during an asthma attack in 1990; Ward died in 1992.
On March 8, 2004, Betty Mulligan, 82, of Pine Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, an engineer, gardener and actress, died. Her daughter, Judy Brant, also of Pine Township, noted her mother appeared as an extra in at least fifteen movies, including Lorenzo's Oil, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Mothman Prophecies.
On July 30, 2004, Jennifer Barrett-Pellington, 42, wife of The Mothman Prophecies director Mark Pellington, died, in Los Angeles, and was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. Ms. Barrett-Pellington was born December 18, 1961. The LA Times reported on August 3, 2004: "Costume designer Jennifer Barrett-Pellington died after an ongoing illness... Ms. Barrett-Pellington was born December 18, 1961. The LA Times reported on August 3, 2004: "Costume designer Jennifer Barrett-Pellington died after an ongoing illness at age 42. Ms. Barrett-Pellington began her career as a model, but switched to costume design. Her credits include Arlington Road and the short Jon Bon Jovi film Destination Anywhere. Ms. Barrett-Pellington was the wife of director Mark Pellington who directed Arlington Road. Her husband included a 'Special Thanks' credit in his film The Mothman Prophecies to his wife for her support of him on that film. Prayers of comfort for her family and friends, especially her young daughter."
Then late in August 2004, Variety announced that Mark Pellington who had joined as the director of a new Harrison Ford movie in July, was bowing out. The reason was Pellington's wife's death after what was called a "brief illness" by Variety. "I am unfortunately stepping down from the job of directing the film The Wrong Element due to the recent tragic loss of my beloved wife Jennifer," Pellington said in a statement to Variety. "It is a difficult time, and having suffered the loss of my life partner and mother to my child, I would not be able to commit the time and energy and focus at this point needed to truly successfully helm the film."
On August 13, 2004, Martin Becker, 49, a special-effects coordinator and the co-owner of Reel Efx, an innovative North Hollywood company, died of pancreatic cancer at his Glendale, California, home. Like Jennifer Barrett-Pellington, Becker received a special "Thank You" from director Mark Pellington for his assistance during the filming of The Mothman Prophecies. The LA Times detailed some of Becker's accomplishments in its August 21, 2004 issue: "Reel Efx, which Becker co-owned with Jim Gill, specializes in creating mechanical effects for national commercial campaigns. The company, begun in Becker's garage 20 years ago, was a pioneer in "frozen moment" multi-camera technology. It created a photographable man-made tornado that has been used in TV shows and commercials and is used on the "Twister" attraction at Universal Studios Florida. The company also created a man-made fire tornado (used by magician David Copperfield), as well as a high-speed wind machine and industry-standard diffusion hazers. A Glendale native, Becker launched his film career as a carpenter at Universal Studios. Among his special-effects film credits are Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Bachelor Party (1984), How to Make an American Quilt (1995) and four of the Friday the 13th films."
On July 16, 2005, Mark Chorvinsky of Rockville, Maryland, died after his relatively quiet battle with cancer. Chorvinsky was born in Philadelphia, on March 4, 1954. A magician from the age of seven, Chorvinsky acquired an interest in mysteries, and a desire to explain them. He founded and edited Strange Magazine from 1987 until his death. Three investigations of his overlapped with Mothman mysteries - his interest in the missing Thunderbird photograph, his debunking of the Owlman reports of Tony "Doc" Shiels, and his interviews with people who sighted what Chorvinsky called the "Potomac Mothman."
The "Potomac Mothman" involved a sighting on July 27, 1944, at 8:30 p.m., by Father J. M. Johnson, pastor of St. John's Church in Hollywood, Maryland. Johnson, who was outside watching an approaching storm, and saw in the sky, "the outspread form of a huge man with wings." Chorvinsky learned of this in January 1990, then ten months later, in October, he interviewed actor Mike Judge (apparently *not* the actor-creator of Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hill), a resident of Potomac, Maryland. Judge recalled that in 1968 or 1969, when Judge was eight or nine years old, a big Mothman flap took place in the area. These two cases became the foundation for Chorvinsky's "Return of the Mothman" inquiries, which we recalled anew with the release of The Mothman Prophecies in 2002.
Chorvinsky's death at the early age of 51 was a shock to the Fortean and cryptozoological communities, few of whom knew he was ill.
On August 10, 2005, the Travel Channel visited Loren Coleman at his museum, interviewing for almost three hours for their program, "Weird Travels." A major concentration was the many questions about Mothman. At the end of the interview, as the camera crew were beginning to do B-roll taping, they asked Coleman to raise a window. A cracked pane of glass split and sliced the palm of Coleman's hand, resulting in three hours in the hospital and stitches.