Category: Books

With Halloween approaching I thought this would be an intersting post. In 2002 movie mania gripped Armstrong County in Western Pennsylvania. Why you ask?” Officer and a Gentleman”, Richard Gere, was in Kittanning filming a movie called; “The Mothman Prophecies”, based on John Keel’s book of the same name. The events take place in a little town in West Virginia on the Ohio River. Point Pleasant is a real place and between November of 1966 and December 1967 there were several “sightings” and other incidents that took place in Point Pleasant and the surrounding area. A creature between 6 and 7 feet tall with human legs, wings and burning red eyes was seen several times. Several events took place and ended with the collapse of the Silver Bridge  into the Ohio River during an afternoon traffic jam on December 15, 1967.

On November 15, 1966 at 11:30 p.m., two newlywed couples were driving around the TNT area. ([Note: the TNT area is an abandoned WW II munitions plant 10 miles north of Point Pleasant.] As they drove past an abandoned generator plant, one of the women, Linda Scarberry, pointed out two large, red glowing eyes staring at them from the blackness. As the huge eyes moved away from the building, they could see they were part of a large figure. A six to seven-foot-tall creature now stood in front of them. They could clearly see gigantic wings folded behind its back. It was gray and stood on legs like a man’s.

Stricken with terror, the witnesses began fleeing from the creature … As they made a curve in the road, they spotted the creature again. It was standing on a hill just looking at them. As soon as they all noticed it, it shot straight up into the air without flapping its wings.

Because he trusted the word of the four witnesses, deputy sheriff Millard Halstead drove out to the TNT area to investigate. Halstead didn’t find the Mothman, but his radio wouldn’t work while he was in the area. A loud garbled noise was all that would come out of the radio while he was there.

On December 4, 1966, five pilots were standing at the Gallipolis, Ohio airport. Gallipolis is just on the other side of the Ohio River from Point Pleasant. One of the men pointed out a strange object approaching them from the Ohio River. They quickly realized they were viewing a gigantic ‘bird’ that was silently soaring toward them at an estimated 70 mph. Its wings never flapped and the creature was rapidly moving its head from side to side.

On November 26 Ruth Foster was confronted by Mothman in her front lawn near Charleston. The next day Mothman visited a golf course in Mason and then returned to a suburb of Charleston where it harassed two girls as they passed a local junkyard.

Also in November, Mothman confronted two firemen in the TNT area. The creature terrorized five teenagers as they were driving past a rock quarry. A National Guardsman spotted Mothman standing on a tree limb in Point Pleasant. . . . In Point Pleasant, an elderly businessman went outside to hush his barking dog. Mothman stood right in front of him in his front yard. The man was stunned and transfixed by the creature’s glowing red eyes. . . .

The Silver Bridge before the December 15, 1967 Collapse

After the collapse

On December 15, 1967 at 5:00 p.m., a traffic jam occurred on the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant. The bridge quivered, then collapsed, plunging about 50 cars and trucks into the icy waters of the Ohio River. 46 people died in what is still the worst bridge disaster in U.S. history. Some bodies and cars were never recovered and it was assumed that many people who were ‘missing’ after the bridge’s collapse were forever lost in the river.

The collapse of the Silver Bridge represented the end of the West Virginia Mothman episode.

Point Pleasant still enjoys the legend. They have a festival every year in September and even have a statue of the “Mothman” in town. In the movie, Richard Gere was getting messages that something tragic was going to happen on the Ohio River. He assumed it was something at the explosives plant. But like in the sightings from 1966 to 1967 the “Mothman” was warning them of the collapse of the Silver Bridge. The cause of the collapse is still unknown to this day. There were 46 people killed in the collapse and only 44 of the bodies were ever recovered.

This is where my post comes from. Was a lot of the “Mothman” movie embellished for Hollywood or was it more or less true? Some people say there were mothman sighting before 9-11. There are also rumors that he was spotted several times before the Chernobyl disaster. People always try and equate one thing with another. Like, I see red velvet cake before my snacking urge gets quenched. I guess there might really be something to it. The bottom line I guess is the fact that all of us enjoy a good mystery now and again. The Mothman is one of those things.  Some people say; “Of course it happened in West Virginia… It’s all the Percocets and Mt. Dew they do down there…” Nonetheless it happened there and they have documentation of it. I guess it’s one of things that will baffle mankind for ever, just like; why is Jersey Shore so popular?

Now I ask you. Is it plausible? Sure. In this day and age anything is plausible.


I am always looking for an interesting subject when I write a blog.  Do I always have one? Hell no. However, I was reading some news articles on the intranet at work the other night and I learned something.  Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.  Other than myself, my favorite author to read is Stephen King.  A lot of times his books do not translate well to the big screen.  Then again there are some that do.  Even though it saw limited success on the big screen, it has become a cult classic.  I am referring to “The Shawshank Redemption.” Since 1994 I always thought the movie was filmed in the original locations in the book.  That would be Maine.  Once again, I was wrong.  Most of the locations in the film were shot in Mansfield Ohio.  The Prison in the movie is not a set but the former Ohio State Reformatory on Mansfield’s north side.

Overhead shot of “Shawshank”

Construction on the prison began in 1886. It opened in 1896 and housed approximately 154,000 inmates before being mothballed in 1990.  Most of the scenes from the prison were shot on the prison grounds.  Andy Dufresne’s “tunnel” is also on site.  It is a two foot diameter pipe and the sewage that he crawled through was actually sawdust, chocolate and water.  All I can say is, “Thank God.”  It certainly looked real enough to me.  The laundry where Andy worked, the wood shop and movie theater were all on site in the prison.  It was a large, sprawling site and tours are conducted there daily.

The Bissman Building

The Bissman Building shown here on the left was used as the Brewer Hotel in the movie.  The Brewer was where Brooks Hatlin hanged himself and where Ellis “Red” Redding stayed after he made parole.  The hotel was a halfway house of sorts. The E&B Market in Mansfield was the “Foodway” in the movie.  Ninety-five percent of the movie was shot in and around Mansfield.  I still find it interesting that almost all of the movie was shot in Mansfield because movie studio lot’s have everything you need for a movie so shooting on location isn’t as important now as it was 50 years ago.  There were also scenes shot in Ashland, Butler and Upper Sandusky in Ohio as well as the US Virgin Islands and Portland Maine.  There is a tour called the Shawshank Trail.  It encompasses Mansfield and 3 counties around there.  People flock there still to take the tour.

The oak tree from the movie

Another famous place from the movie is the oak tree and rock wall where Red goes at Andy’s request.  The tree and wall are part of the Shawshank Trail tour and are located in the middle of a farmer’s field outside of the Malabar Farm State Park in north-central Ohio.  The location is however on private property so tour takers are asked to not trespass. There is a turnout across the road and patrons are asked to park there. The tree can be seen from the road. All of the other places may or may not be open for you to go inside, you are still able to go up to them and maybe get a picture or two standing next to them.

The movie itself followed a young banker, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), through his trial for having been accused of killing his wife and her lover and his subsequent incarceration in the Shawshank prison. The movie is also about extreme corruption in the Maine prison system and abuse at the hands of sadistic guards.  It also details Andy’s growth and subsequent rebirth into his own person.  He becomes a pet per se of the warden, laundering huge sums of illegal money funneled into the prison through various jobs arranged by the warden and done by the inmates.  In the end, Andy steals the money after his escape through 1000 feet of sewage to the outside.  After he escapes he sends his friend Red a postcard from Fort Hancock Texas, which is where Andy crosses the border into Mexico.  He always told Red he wanted to live in Saywatanayo Mexico.

Freeman, Robbins

Finally in the end of the movie, Red makes his parole and follows directions given to him by Andy to find a long rock wall under an oak tree.  Red looks where he is told and finds a small box buried there.  Inside is an envelope with some money for Red to get a bus ticket and a letter asking him to come with him and live in Mexico. The final scene shows Andy working on a boat on the beach and Red walking up to meet him.  It is a very poignant moment and shows the lives of Red and Andy coming together.  The book is great read and the movie is great too. In conclusion, I suggest that you see the movie and read the book if you haven’t already. Lastly, maybe take the self-guided driving tour around Mansfield and central Ohio.  “Life doesn’t stop. You either get busy living or get busy dyin'” – Ellis “Red” Redding

As a post script to this, someone asked me why this piece was titled; “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”  Andy initially used a poster of Rita Hayworth to cover up his escape hole in the movie.

I have often been asked; “What makes you want to write?”  The answer is simple: I like to express myself.  I have written most of my life and have only in the last 5 or so years taken it to the next step and gotten some things published.  I won an award when I was about 8 years old from the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival.  I got a third place for my age group.  I believe the poem was titled “What does the clock think?”  From there I wrote like most kids do.  There were papers I had to write for school and book reports and so on.  When I was in 4th or 5th grade we went to an outdoor center for 3 days called the McKeever Environmental Center.  It was for school age children to learn about the different animals living among us and about conservation and so on.  When we returned to school, one of our projects was to write a short presentation on what we learned.  We made a film strip and I wrote the screen play.

In high school the writing projects picked up and for a while, and I developed an intense dislike of writing.  It seemed like I wrote so much I could never get anything else done.  Back then, we didn’t have computers like we have now so your writing was either done by hand or on a typewriter.  Since I type like I do brain surgery I almost always wrote my reports in long hand.  Of course my handwriting would envy most doctor’s prescription pads.  After high school I went to the military.  Letters were mostly the only writing I did.  When I returned home I spent most of my time that summer building and driving demolition cars.

Mom's Mac I started writing on

My mom had been working on a book called “Dandelions are Free.”  It was a book about Dandelions and using them in cooking and wine making.  It was actually a very good book and she published it.  I in turn wanted to try my hand at the publishing thing.  Mom’s first suggestion was, “Um, you have to write something.”  A point I had just about forgotten.  I sat down at my mom’s computer, just like the one at the left.  I began writing what I was sure was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.  Much to my dismay, this writing thing was a little more difficult than I had ever imagined.  What I thought would take a matter of hours to get going turned out to be about two hours of staring at the blinking icon on the black and white screen trying to figure out what in the hell I was going to write about.  Finally mom, who I’m sure needed her computer, told me to write about something I know.  I was working as an EMT at the time so I began a story about an ambulance service.

The basis of the story was a paramedic who was being targeted because of a call he had answered years ago and the woman had died.  Two of the family members went after him to make him pay.  His family gets wiped out and he then goes on the hunt instead of being the hunted.  I had changed the name several times but finally settled on “Payback.”  Of course there was already a book written and a movie made so I’m sure I’ll need to think up a new title when the time comes.  To say I finish everything I have started would be false.  “Payback” was the first thing I ever wrote and it was 20 years ago.  I still haven’t finished it.  I find it difficult to decide how I want it to go so I putz with it from time to time then move on.

As I moved on with my career in EMS I started writing down calls I had been on.  The ones I really thought were interesting.  I changed jobs and moved up to a Paramedic.  I still wrote down the calls and one day decided to put them all together in a collection.  My mom had suggested a publisher that she had found and I was awash with great hope of a career in literature.  Sadly my first attempt was mercilessly rejected.  I was crushed.  I thought there was no way I was going to subject myself to this type of let down.  About 6 months later I found a story I had written over a weekend.  It was about a demolition derby driver who is almost killed by his staunchest opponent but returns the following year to try to win the championship.  I based a lot of the characters on guys I knew when I ran demolition derbies.

First book released

“Kickin’ the Tires and Lightin’ the Fires” was actually the first book published but the second one submitted.  Demolition Derbies were a big part of my life growing up.  From the time I was 5 years old till well into my thirties.  I still remember the first time I ever went with my dad.  There was this big black car that just decimated everything it hit.  I was so impressed.  As the years passed my dad and I would still go every year to the derbies and always watched that guy who I first saw with the big black car.  As the years passed I learned that the guy with the big black car (a 1964 Chrysler Imperial actually) lived right around the corner from my parents.  I stopped one day on my way home from school and talked to him a little.  As the days past Alan and I became good friends.  At first my mom had conniptions about me being around guys who were older than I was.  After some silence between my mom and I, my dad secretly checked into it.  He convinced mom that things were okay for me to hang out there.  Now 30 years later Alan and I are still good friends and I see him often.

It finally sees the light of day

I had other projects I was working on but was determined to see my first submission in print.  On a whim, I decided to tear the thing apart and re-write it.  It was difficult to see that a story of my career as a Paramedic-Fire Fighter would never see the light of day.  I spent months on it.  I tore different chapters apart and decided that each chapter would be a different story.  It suddenly dawned on me that my new style of writing it might actually be just what it needed.  I included stories about my family in the mix and other things that influenced my career choices and so on.  A couple of the stories were important to me so even if no one else liked them, I felt they had a place there.  One story was about the day my dad died.  It had great impact on me for a long time and I think it influenced me in a lot of ways.  Another story was about a good friend of mine I had growing up called the prophet.  We got to work together one day and he actually predicted all the calls we got that day.  It was a pretty eerie thing.  We are still friends today and still laugh about our fateful day.  I also included the chapter detailing how my wife and I met.  She was working as a flight nurse and I was working as a paramedic. When  tell people the story they think I’m full of shit.  We met over a trauma patient while I was decompressing his chest.  I guess you say it was love at first pneumo-thorax.

I have a third book getting ready for the publisher now.  It is being formatted and should be in print in a few months.  I went an entirely different route on this one.  I took a true story and twisted it my own way.  I put a spin on it and I think it is actually one of the better things I have written.  It’s based on a local murder case.  I followed it from the beginning and I thought it would be an interesting subject.  Gladly, the publisher did too.  The longer you write the better your writing becomes and expression is easier  to put down on paper.  Writing this blog has helped a lot with that aspect as well.  I get to write more often without having a specific outcome in mind.  I have often had people ask me how I find what to write my blog posts about.  It’s simple.  I see something and if I think I can get some play out of it, I use it.  This blog is actually a lot of fun because I can use my own style of humor and take pokes at people and things I couldn’t normally do.  Today was a little different for me.  I had been having trouble finding a suitable topic for my pen and wasn’t having any luck.  I decided to just write about something from my past and I thought what better thing then writing.

Writing is what you make it.  It can either be a daunting task or a great release.  I like to write because it allows me to be anything or anyone I want to be.  It is also fun because the only limitation is your imagination.  I find that if I over- think things, I get writer’s block.  If I write until I don’t have the next part ready to go it comes easier for me.  If I try to force something out it sounds like shit and I end up either changing it or deleting it all together.  I also never have just one project I’m working on.  I always work on a couple of things.  I’ve found it helps to relieve writer’s block and has been a good thing as well.  When I get blocked on one project I can go to another project and work there for a while and most of the time it helps relieve my block.  Biggest thing I have found is that it doesn’t really matter who likes what I write.  I like it and that is most important.  I write for me first and everyone else second.  It might be a little selfish but if I don’t like what I write no one else will either.

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