There are plenty of cryptids reported across the United States, from Bigfoot to Champ to the Skunk Ape. One in particular was only reported in Point Pleasant, West Virginia from 1966 to 1967. It would later come to be known as the “Mothman.” Despite being a mythical creature that has not definitively been proven by science, it has since become a huge part of Point Pleasant’s history and cryptozoology.
The first ever sighting of the Mothman occurred on November 12th, 1966 when five men who had been digging a grave near the town of Clendenin, West Virginia spotted something flying through the trees. The men described the creature as a “brown human being” which glided over the men’s heads.
However, the first well-known sighting of the Mothman occurred three days later on November 15th when two married couples, Steve and Mary Mallette and Roger and Linda Scarberry were driving near an area outside of Point Pleasant called the “TNT Area.” The TNT Area was originally known as the West Virginia Ordinance Works and had operated during World War II as a factory which produced ammunition for the U.S. Army. The facility had since been disposed of, and became a somewhat popular destination for young couples. However, on this particular evening the four individuals saw a creature they described as six to seven feet tall, and possessed two red eyes even though the creature didn’t exactly possess a head, although it was described as the eyes being located almost on its chest as well as two large wings. The group fled the area, although the Mothman managed to keep up with their vehicle which was going roughly a hundred miles an hour up until they reached the city limits of Point Pleasant. Oddly, the wings weren’t described as flapping and the creature reportedly made a squeaking sound similar to a “big mouse.”
Initially, the group’s sighting was ridiculed in the press, and Deputy Millard Halstead went out to the TNT Area to see if the creature was still there, although he saw nothing except for a puff of smoke in the distance which was attributed to the creature taking off and landing again. The deputy did state that as his vehicle passed the location of the Mothman sighting, his police radio made a noise similar to a sped-up record. Strangely, for thirteen months following the incident there were roughly a hundred more individuals who claimed to have seen the Mothman, while there were over two hundred reports of strange phenomena. As for the name “Mothman,” apparently an individual at the Point Pleasant newspaper did not want to cause confusion with the Batman television show that was currently airing, so the name “Mothman” was chosen due to the creature’s wings.
The TNT Area in particular was claimed by the newspapers and by locals to have been the Mothman’s home, as it included large tracts of land, and is covered in dense forests and rolling hills. The facility itself includes many small igloo-shaped structures made of concrete that were used for storing ammunition, and multiple tunnels riddle the landscape. There have been a few sightings of the Mothman in this area, such as on November 16th at about 9 P.M. the Bennett family saw a strange red light which circled the TNT Area. Mrs. Bennett herself would go on to reportedly encounter the Mothman other times, and stated that the creature made a sound similar to a screaming woman. A second sighting was by two firemen named Paul Yoder and Ben Enochs who stated that on November 18th they had seen the Mothman flying within the area. Then on November 2nd, 1967 a woman named Mrs. Ralph Thomas claimed to have heard a sound like a “squeaky fan belt” outside her house and spotted a “tall gray figure” that was moving around in the vicinity of the concrete domes in the TNT Area.
Even though the incidences on November 12th and the 15th were the first sightings attributed to the Mothman, there had been other sightings prior of strange, similar creatures. In the early 1960’s, a woman driving near the Ohio River on Route 2 with her father spotted a large man-shaped figure that walked into the road. When she slowed her car, the creature spread its two wings and flew into the air. Later in 1965, a woman who lived near the Ohio River stated that her son had reportedly seen an “angel.” In the Summer of 1966, a woman stated she had seen a six-foot tall creature that looked like a “giant butterfly.”
In the later part of 1966 when sightings of the Mothman began to somewhat decrease, there were reports of other strange occurrences that began to appear in Point Pleasant. People reported seeing UFO’s within the area of the city, and even mutilated animals started appearing in the surrounding areas. There was also the reports of “Men in Black,” or individuals who were theorized by locals to have been government agents who spoke with those who’d reportedly seen the Mothman, and spoke very monotone. In particular is one entity nicknamed “the Grinning Man” who was reportedly called Indrid Cold, an individual who is believed to have been either an MIB or an alien or some other paranormal entity. Like the MIB, Indrid Cold was reported to have contacted the residents of Point Pleasant and spoke with certain individuals. Regardless, the sudden appearances of UFO’s and MIB’s have permanently connected the Mothman with aliens to some degree or another in many people’s minds. However, earlier on November 14th a UFO sighting occurred before the Mothman craze even began. A Salem man named Newell Partridge spotted two glowing red objects hovering above a field, when his German Shepard took off after them and was never seen again.
The Mothman sightings continued until December 15th, 1967 when at 5 P.M. the U.S. Highway 35 bridge, better known as Silver Bridge, collapsed and thirty-one vehicles (out of thirty-seven currently on the bridge) were plunged into the river. Forty-six people were unfortunately killed, and nine more were injured in what became one of the worst bridge disasters in U.S. history. The cause of the disaster was officially determined to have been the heat-treated carbon steel eye-bar broke, which caused the rest of the bridge’s frame to collapse under the stress. However, many Point Pleasant residents reported to have seen the Mothman flying to and from the bridge, and strangely following the disaster, the Mothman was never reported to have been sighted in Point Pleasant again.
Today, the mystery of the Mothman and the strange effects it had on Point Pleasant has established the creature as one of the world’s most reported cryptids, and has even led to the creation of a festival in honor of the creature that brought such attention to the area. John Keel, a journalist sent to Point Pleasant to cover the phenomena wrote a book entitled The Mothman Prophecies about his experiences during the years 1966 and 1967, which was later turned into a more recent horror film of the same name.
As to what the Mothman was, it has never been conclusively decided. Some experts believe that certain species of owls, such as the barred owl or similar birds like the sandhill crane are to blame due to the similar wing structure. However, if were some bird or owl, then it is very strange how after the Silver Bridge collapse no one ever reported such animals in the area afterwards. As stated earlier, some theorize that the Mothman may have been an alien entity due to the number of UFO sightings, while others believe that the Mothman’s appearance may be an omen to an upcoming disaster. This is because the Mothman was not seen again until the Chernobyl nuclear disaster where it was known as the “Black Bird of Chernobyl,” although others claim to have seen the Mothman during 9/11 and the Fukushima disaster.
Whatever the origins or intent of the creature, the Mothman will most likely never be explained, although it is strange that so many other occurrences such as UFO’s and MIB’s accompanied the Mothman’s appearance, suggesting the Mothman was more than simply an over-sized bird.