Mothman is a legendary creature reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia from 15 November 1966 to 15 December 1967. The first newspaper report was published in the Point Pleasant Register dated 16 November 1966, titled “Couples See Man-Sized Bird…Creature…Something”.
Mothman was introduced to a wider audience by Gray Barker in 1970, later popularized by John Keel in his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies, claiming that Mothman was related to a wide array of supernatural events in the area and the collapse of the Silver Bridge. The 2002 film The Mothman Prophecies, starring Richard Gere, was based on Keel’s book
On November 12, 1966, five men who were digging a grave at a cemetery near Clendenin, WV claimed to see a man-like figure fly low from the trees over their heads..
This is often attributed as the first known sighting of what would become known as the Mothman.
Shortly thereafter, on November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant, Roger and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette told police they saw a large white creature whose eyes “glowed red” when the car headlights picked it up. They described it as a ” large flying man with ten-foot wings following their car while they were driving in an area outside of town known as ‘the TNT area’, the site of a former World War II munitions plant.
During the next few days, other people reported similar sightings. Two volunteer firemen who sighted it said it was a “large bird with red eyes”. Mason County Sheriff George Johnson commented that he believed the sightings were due to an unusually large heron he termed a “shitepoke”. Contractor Newell Partridge told Johnson that when he aimed a flashlight at a creature in a nearby field its eyes glowed “like bicycle reflectors”, and blamed buzzing noises from his television set and the disappearance of his German Shepherd dog on the creature. Wildlife biologist Dr. Robert L. Smith at West Virginia University told reporters that descriptions and sightings all fit the sandhill crane, a large American crane almost as high as a man with a seven foot wingspan featuring circles of reddish coloring around the eyes, and that the bird may have wandered out of its migration route.
There were no Mothman reports in the immediate aftermath of the December 15, 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge and the death of 46 people, giving rise to legends that the Mothman sightings and the bridge collapse were connected.
Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand notes that Mothman has been widely covered in the popular press, some claiming sightings connected with UFOs, and others claiming that a military storage site was Mothman’s “home”. Brunvand notes that recountings of the 1966-67 Mothman reports usually state that at least 100 people saw Mothman with many more “afraid to report their sightings” but observed that written sources for such stories consisted of children’s books or sensationalized or undocumented accounts that fail to quote identifiable persons. Brunvand found elements in common among many Mothman reports and much older folk tales, suggesting that something real may have triggered the scares and became woven with existing folklore. He also records anecdotal tales of Mothman supposedly attacking the roofs of parked cars inhabited by teenagers.
Claims of later sightings
Ufologist Jerome Clark writes that many years after the initial events, members of the Ohio UFO Investigators League re-interviewed several people who claimed to have seen Mothman, all of whom insisted their stories were accurate. Linda Scarberry claimed that she and her husband had seen Mothman “hundreds of times, ” sometimes at close range, commenting, “It seems like it doesn’t want to hurt you. It just wants to communicate with you. ”
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman claims that sightings of Mothman continue and told USA Today he re-interviewed witnesses described in Keel’s book who said Mothman was “a huge creature about 7 feet tall with huge wings and red eyes” and that “they could see the creature flapping right behind them” as they fled from it.
Some ufologists, paranormal authors, and cryptozoologists believe that Mothman was an alien, a supernatural manifestation, or an unknown cryptid. In his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies, author John Keel claimed that the Point Pleasant residents experienced precognitions including premonitions of the collapse of the Silver Bridge, unidentified flying object sightings, visits from mysterious or threatening men in black, and other bizarre phenomena. However, Keel has been criticized for distorting established data, and for gullibility.
Skeptic Joe Nickell says that a number of hoaxes followed the publicity generated by the original reports, such as a group of construction workers who tied flashlights to helium balloons. Nickell attributes the Mothman reports to pranks, misidentified planes, and sightings of a barred owl, an albino owl, suggesting that the Mothman’s “glowing eyes” were actually red-eye effect caused from the reflection of light from flashlights or other bright light sources. The area lies outside the snowy owl’s usual range and locals, unfamiliar with such a large owl, could have misidentified the bird.
Festivals and statue
Point Pleasant held its first Annual Mothman Festival in 2002 and a 12-foot-tall metallic statue of the creature, created by artist and sculptor Bob Roach, was unveiled in 2003. The Mothman Museum and Research Center opened in 2005 and is run by Jeff Wamsley.
The Festival is a weekend-long event held on the 3rd weekend of every September. There are a variety of events that go on during the festival such as guest speakers, vendor exhibits, a mothman pancake eating contest, and hayride tours focusing on the notable areas of Point Pleasant.