Not even the supernatural have been immune to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, when the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant had to shutter for the second year in a row, cryptozoology enthusiasts, and hosts of the ‘Mothboys’ podcast, Michael Strayer, Jake Haskin and Matthew Schang scrambled to create an alternative event.
Now in its second year, the Cryptid Bash in Morgantown is a rising star in West Virginia’s growing constellation of supernatural attractions. Reporter Chris Schulz spoke with organizer Michael Strayer about this year’s bash.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Schulz: So Michael, Why don’t you start us off by telling us exactly what Cryptid Bash is.
Strayer: Cryptid Bash is a meeting of people within the cryptozoology community. Around this time last year, the Mothman Festival was canceled. So we’re like, “How can we put on an event for all of our friends that are losing money from the Mothman Festival?”, that kind of thing. Bunch of artists, musicians last year and everybody just followed. You know, it’s just a bunch of people that love cryptozoology: Mothman, Flatwoods Monster. Well, it’s all like minded people just getting together and celebrating cryptozoology.
Schulz: So as we’re speaking, it’s early July, The Mothman Festival this year is still set to happen in September. Was there ever any question as to not have Cryptid Bash in 2022?
Strayer: I think that the Mothman Festival is just part of why we threw it. We also just wanted a bunch of people that we admire in a room together. It did so well last year that we don’t want to let the people down either. That’s because people had a lot of fun. There was no chance that we weren’t going to do it, it just did so well. And we were so happy with it.
Schulz: Why don’t we back up here and make sure everybody’s on the same page. What exactly is cryptozoology? And why do you and your group of fans find it so appealing?
Strayer: There’s creatures out there that can’t be explained by science. And that’s what cryptozoology is. And it just appeals to us because there’s more to the world than just us, you know? And the things that we know about. It’s just, it’s cool. There’s a whole full folklore thing behind it. And there’s just a sense of community to it, that you don’t find in a lot of places. It’s a bunch of weirdos getting together and just talking about these cool stories essentially is what it is. That’s why I personally love it. And I think that’s why the fans love it too. Just, it’s just cool stories to tell.
Schulz: Michael, what brought you into cryptozoology originally?
Strayer: It was a few things, actually. I mean, my mom was really into aliens and UFOs and Bigfoot. You know, I think a lot of people start off with that. Loch Ness Monster. That kind of stuff. Yeah, my mom was doing all the weird stuff, you know, ghosts and stuff. And then eventually, my personal interest. I got into the weird, weird, weird stuff by watching ‘The Mothman Prophecies’ with Richard Gere. I saw that in theaters with my dad, who took me to see that. Mothman was something I’d never heard of and that blew my teenage mind. So I was a big fan. But yeah, I think initially, my mom really got me into weird stuff. She was a huge Bigfoot enthusiast. Shout out to my mom for getting me into all this weird stuff.
Schulz: West Virginia is pretty well represented on the cryptozoology map. What do you think it is about the state that kind of primes it to be a center of this world?
Strayer: I think the storytelling here is big. The folklore behind it, people telling each other stories and small towns, especially small towns. It’s like a small town thing, passing stories along to each other, hearing stories when you’re young. I’m not from here. But you know, I talked to people and I used to hear stories about this and that. I feel like West Virginia has the most creatures and the coolest creatures. I think Mothman, obviously. And then you got the Grafton Monster, Flatwoods Monster, you have a list of all these cool monsters coming from here that people are interested in. And I think it’s just, the storytelling from here is so rich. And I think that’s why. And some people say that West Virginia is a window area, that’s like an area where reality kind of bends you know, and things can come in and out.
Schulz: Do you feel like you’re adding to that, that folklore and that oral tradition with your productions?
Strayer: I hope so. I hope that we’re doing that we do it in kind of a silly way, a goofy way, we have a different way of telling stories. A lot of podcasts and people that are telling these stories, do it very seriously. And that’s fine, that’s great. We love it, but we come at it at an angle that’s a little different. We try to be a little fresher and we try to make it a little bit more funny. We try to laugh with it, you know, we try not to laugh at it too much, you know, but it’s weird stuff, and sometimes you can get a laugh out of it. So I hope that we’re adding, I think we’re adding this whole folklore thing to it because we’re trying to get a younger crowd into it. We know there’s a lot of serious podcasts out there and we love them but we’re trying to get a whole new generation in with this this thing
Schulz: To that end, people who are maybe on the fence about coming to a cryptozoology event. What would you tell them about cryptid Pash?
Strayer: Well, I mean, if you’re not in the cryptids I mean it’s just it’s a good, free event where you’re gonna meet some really nice people that you can decide not to talk about cryptids with as well. But if you want to, you can talk about anything with these people. It’s just some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. And some just great artists and musicians and speakers. We got, I just say, the people are really great. And I think that’s a reason enough to come just hang out for the day and see, see if you’re into it, you know,
Schulz: So what can people expect at cryptid bash?
Strayer: So, Cryptid Bash, Morgantown, West Virginia. It’s gonna be at the Morgantown Art Bar, and then the Morgantown Art Party, Saturday, August 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. And it’s gonna be vendors, musicians, speakers, there’s gonna be a costume contest. So if you want to dress up like a cryptid, come out, just like Mothman or Bigfoot, whatever you want to do. There’s a money prize and stuff like that. We didn’t have that last year so we thought that would be a lot of fun for people. Hopefully people dress up and come act goofy.
More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.