I’m occasionally mischievous when it comes to scaring my daughters.
I do relatively innocent stuff like alluding to the movie “Night at the Museum” by making jokes about how the museum’s exhibits come to life after closing time. Actually, that particular example wasn’t the brightest move, nor was it smart to pretend like the museum mummy was pulling me into his sarcophagus, because I actually managed to make my seven-year-old scared of the one attraction solely designed to educate her.
In my defense, I scare them with a smile on my face, and they don’t usually react so severely. But lately I’ve been forced to respond to the fact that things have changed with Sasha, and I’ve tempered my scare tactics quite a bit lately. She reached an age where her fear became real for her. If I had done the same stunts last year, she would have admonished me “Oh, silly Daddy.” But now, she’s reached an age where she is processing her fear differently.
However, that doesn’t mean that she should let her fear completely dictate her choices in life. I do want to instill in her a healthy dose of courage, and I want her to understand the difference between reasonable fears and unreasonable fears (an uphill battle with a seven year old). With that in mind, I invited her and her sister on a short excursion to visit the “Mothman Museum” in West Virgina. It was a way to break up the monotony of our road trip home from visiting family in North Carolina.
At first, Sasha refused to join me, even though her sister was completely game for the adventure. But finally she agreed to come after I promised not to scare her. And I should reassure my readers that I was very careful to keep that promise because I knew that there would be scary things in the museum anyway.
The back-story of The Mothman is that there were scattered reports in the 60s of people seeing a bird like humanoid with glowing eyes in the area of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. One of the original sightings was by some teenagers who drove out to a remote area (that would later become a bird/wildlife sanctuary) and saw what they described as “…a bird or something” but later go on to describe it as “a man with wings… the head was not a defining characterstic”. It also apparently walked clumsily, flew upwards of 100 miles an hour, and avoided light.
Now Ockham’s Razor would tell us that the more likely explanation for this mystery was that the witnesses mistook a real animal for a monster… or that they were hoaxed (Scooby Doo style). So, when we entered the Mothman Museum, I encouraged the girls to think skeptically about it. There’s no such thing as monsters, so what could it be? Perhaps it was a bit unfair, but I primed them with the probable answer by saying that some investigators (Joe Nickell) are certain that the monster was actually a type of owl called a “barred owl” (not “barn owl”). Once my daughters saw the original sketch of Mothman, they were even more certain that the owl hypothesis was correct. Take a look for yourself…
OK. I must admit that it’s hard to confuse an owl with a humanoid monster, but let’s remember that this sighting was at night and that the witnesses were probably already primed to be afraid. I can imagine that they saw two glowing eyes reflecting back at them, and those eyes might have even been at the height of where a man’s eyes would be, like maybe if the owl had been sitting on a post. And then, when they saw those eyes coming at them with some big scary wings attached, they let their imagination do the rest of the work.
It’s a lot easier to imagine mothman being an owl than to accept the idea that some alien or monster was waiting in the forest to chase some teenagers. And of course, my kids agree. By the end of the museum, Sasha was feeling playful and confident enough to take this picture…
But I did have to save her younger sister from a menacing figure in the corner…
Notice how Juliet is completely unafraid? Yeah, well give her three more years and she’ll be terrified, just like Sasha. And when that happens, I will be there to hold her hand and explain the skeptical side of the story. And hopefully, that will work as well for her as it did her sister.