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The first I ever heard of the Mothman was when I watched the 2002 film with Richard Gere and at the time, I had no idea there were real sightings and events behind the film.  The film was based on the 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel and followed the first mention of the stories by Gray Barker in 1970.  But it seems, according to a report from just last week on Cryptozoology News, that the Mothman is still being seen around Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

History of the mystery

The story behind with five men who were digging a grave in a cemetery not far from Clendenin, West Virginia, when they saw a man-like figure flying low over their heads.  This is logged as the first sighting of what later became known as the Mothman.

In November 1966, two couples from Point Pleasant called the police when they saw a white creature that had glowing red eyes in their car headlights.  Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette described as large flying man that had ten feet wings which followed their car passing an area known as the TNT site, a former World War II munitions plant.

The couples were interviewed by Deputy Millard Halstead who was convinced that they were telling the truth.  He attested that he had known them all of their lives and that they all told the same story when separated.  He also said that their reactions alone showed how genuinely frightened they were so he had no doubts they were telling the truth.  He even took Scarberry back to the munitions plant site and looked for the creature but nothing was found.

The following night, a group of armed and frightened townspeople went to the site and thoroughly searched it but no trace of the creature was found either.

More sightings

This was probably due to the fact that the creature wasn’t home that night as it was nearby and was spotted by Marcella Bennett.  She was visiting friends near the TNT area when she saw a large grey human-like creature that had glowing red eyes rising from the ground.  She was so terrified by what she saw, she dropped to the ground to protect her baby girl then ran back into the house and called the police.  By the time they arrived, the creature had gone.

In the days following, a number of other witnesses came forward to report seeing the creature.  Two volunteer firemen reported a large bird with red eyes leading Mason County Sherriff George Johnson to blame the sightings on an unusually large heron.  Another witness, Newell Partridge, reported shining a light on the creature and seeing its eyes glow red like “bicycle reflectors” and that the creature was responsible for the buzzing noises from his TV and his missing German Shepherd.

Silver Bridge

The Silver Bridge before the Accident

The Silver Bridge before the Accident

There were no sightings of the Mothman just after the Silver Bridge accident, leaving many people to speculate that the sightings were somehow predicting the disaster.  Silver Bridge was an eyebar-chain suspension bridge that was built in 1928 and named for the paint colour.  It crossed from Point Pleasant to Gallipolis, Ohio across the Ohio River.

On December 15th 1967, the bridge collapsed during rush hour, resulting in the death of 46 people.  The remains of two of those who died were never recovered.  Investigations found that the cause was the failure of a single eyebar in the suspension chain that led to a tiny 2.5mm deep.  Added to this was the fact that the bridge was carrying heavier loads than it had been designed for and had been poorly maintained.

Other strange stuff

One of the first ideas put forward to explain the Mothman was that it was a Sandhill Crane, a very large bird that stands as tall as a man stands and has red feathers around its eyes that would give a red eyed effect.  The trouble with this explanation is that it simply doesn’t fit all the facts, for example, the man shining a torch at the creature would have noticed it was a bird and the red feathers wouldn’t have “glowed” or resembled bike reflectors.

An offshoot of this idea is the concept that the Mothman was a crane but that it was a mutated form.  The TNT area contained some semi-underground buildings known as igloos that were discovered to be leaking toxic waste.  Perhaps this leaked to the nearby Wildlife Preserve and caused the mutation of the bird.  But wouldn’t this have taken a number of generations and hundreds of years to have an effect?

According to the Gods-and-Monsters website, there were also a number of UFO sightings in the area at the time.  Also, some of those who reported both the Mothman and the UFOs reported being visited by strange men wearing black suits and hats along with sunglasses who told them not to speak of what they had seen.

Recent sightings

Most reports stop there with the Silver Bridge disaster and immediate aftermath.  But it seems that this isn’t the case.  As recently as just December 2014, a student came forward to say he had seen the Mothman when visiting a friend in the town in 2010.  He and his friend saw a black figure outside the house, standing in the road.  They hid and peeked out at the creature but it simply stood there and watched them.  Finally, the boys worked up the nerve and ran out of the house with baseball bats, yelling.  The creature emitted a high-pitched screech and flew away.  The witnesses said that the creature was around 7 feet tall, jet black and had features that were like an owl’s, with glowing red eyes.  Its wingspan was 6-7 feet and it had skin but no fur or feathers.


So while the Mothman is often seen as a phenomena from the 1960s, it seems there are still sightings occurring periodically that show perhaps whatever this strange creature is, it is still in the Point Pleasant area.

Further reading:

Original Mothman Prophecies book