History's greatest sub editors: Mothman

The Mothman Prophecies, by John A KeelNo, this post isn't about a sub editor called Mothman. Let me explain...

I'm currently reading John A Keel's book The Mothman Prophecies, originally published as Visitors From Space. You may have seen the film that was (somewhat loosely) based on this book. The film's rather good, by the way.

As Wikipedia says, Keel's book "mostly concerns events in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, during 1966 and 1967, focusing on sightings of a creature dubbed Mothman".

But how did Mothman get its name? Keel tells us that, following an incident in which four teenagers in a car are followed by a giant "bird":

Sheriff George Johnson called a press conference. Local reporters interviewd the four witnesses. Mrs Mary Hyre sent the story out on the AP wire and that evening the 'Bird' was the chief topic at supper tables throughout the Ohio valley. Some anonymous copy editor gavie it a name, spun off from the Batman comic character who was then the subject of a popular TV series. He tagged the creature Mothman.


Some anonymous copy editor, I salute you. Not quite as good as coining the name 'Spaghetti Junction', but still quite an achievement.

3 comments:

Adam said...
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Anonymous said...

In fact, fifty per cent of Keel's Mothman book was edited out by faceless copy editors in cubicles. He salvaged much of the lost copy for his follow-up, The Eighth Tower (AKA The Cosmic Question).

JD said...

Ah, so if copy editors hadn't slashed Keel's copy, he wouldn't have been able to cash in on a second book! Sounds like they did him a favour...