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"The Mothman Prophecies," a $42-million Sony Screen Gems release that opens Friday, stars Richard Gere as a crusading Washington Post journalist named John Klein who, through a personal tragedy, finds himself in Point Pleasant.

He gradually becomes embroiled in the town's strange sightings until he reaches a point of obsession and near lunacy.

By 1998, Lakeshore Entertainment (producers of "The Gift," "Runaway Bride") bought the rights to the script and began a two-year development process. "Most Hollywood movie ghosts make their presence known to help us get back together with our girlfriends," said Hatem. When the bridge collapsed, it was pretty distressing....

"I wanted to write a story that said you can ask questions about why things happen, but they are the sort of things that we are never going to get an answer to. I was determined I was going to find the answers to this. It took a long time for me to realize that I was dealing with something that the human mind could not understand.

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One theory is that people saw a huge sandhill crane that veered off course. And others say the people in Point Pleasant succumbed to mass hysteria. It was probably a bird," said Hilda Austin, 58, who lived through the Mothman sightings and is currently the head of the Point Pleasant Chamber of Commerce. It could have been something spawned by the toxic ground from the TNT area. I thought it was a hoot [when this happened]; everyone just sort of laughed at this.

They just thought it was preposterous." But others, like cryptozoologist and author Loren Coleman, said there is a history of this kind of lore in the Ohio River Valley.

During a bout with insomnia, he found himself in a Pasadena bookstore. That was the appeal to me, the ambiguity and the unanswered questions.