Mothman Plaque image from The Ashville Paranormal Society
For a thirteen month period beginning in November, 1966, a series of bizarre sightings took place around Point Pleasant, WV, at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers on the Ohio-West Virginia border. There were UFO sightings, poltergeist reports, but weirdest of all were the tales of Mothman.
The tale began on November 12, 1966 near Clendenin, West Virginia. Five men were preparing a grave for a burial when something that looked like a “brown human being” flew over their heads. The men were baffled. It didn't appear to be a bird, but more like a man with wings.
A few days later, riding past a deserted Point Pleasant factory on the evening of November 15, two young couples spotted something that was "shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six or seven feet tall with big wings folded against its back" and had glowing red eyes. The couples floored their car and fled in a panic.
Moments later, they saw the same creature on a hillside. It flew after their car, which by now was zooming along at over 100 MPH down the road. "That bird kept right up with us," they said.
Later that night, a resident watching TV saw his screen go dark, followed by high-pitched whining coming from his porch and warning growls from the family hound. He went out to see what was up, and saw a pair of glowing red eyes looking back.
He went back in the house to fetch his gun while his dog chased the critter, but couldn't screw up the courage to go back out to face the eerie eyes. When he went out at daybreak, both the creature and his pooch were gone.
The red-eyed beast was busy that night. Another group of four witnesses claimed to see the “bird” three different times.
The town held a press conference the next day, and the authorities said they took the sightings seriously because of the number of reports and the credibility of the witnesses. The press immediately dubbed the critter Mothman, after a Batman nemesis.
That night, a family saw red lights flying overhead, and a visitor found out what the lights were - Mothman. She got out her car, and the creature popped up near her, causing her to drop her baby. She gathered her child and got to her hosts' front door in Olympic time. The haunting sight would stay with her for months in the form of nightmares.
Paranormal researcher and author John Keel arrived in Point Pleasant in December and immediately began compiling reports of Mothman sightings. Before he was done, he would have 100 sightings in his files from November of 1966 to November, 1967.
Here is how they described Mothman:
* approximately seven feet tall
* a ten foot wingspan
* gray, scaly skin
* large, red, glowing, hypnotic eyes
* able to take off straight up in flight, traveling up to 100 miles an hour
* liked to mutilate or eat large dogs
* screeched like a rodent or electric motor
* caused radio and television interference
* had some mind control powers.
Keel believed the creature was real, although he realized that many of the reports he got were generated by folk who were influenced by the flood of lurid Mothman publicity. But he never did say what he though Mothman actually was (which didn't stop him from writing a couple of books anyway, "The Mothman Prophecies" and "The Eighth Tower.")
Instead, he claimed that Point Pleasant was a “window” area between dimensions, a place that was susceptible to odd sightings, monster reports, UFOs, poltergeist activities, and the coming and going of eerie beings.
Others blamed the events on the Cornstalk Curse that was placed on the Point Pleasant region in the 1770's, when the Shawnee chief, his son, and two other tribesmen were gunned down in prison by vengeful soldiers for a crime they didn't commit.
His dying words were "...may the curse of the Great Spirit rest upon this land. May it be blighted by nature. May it even be blighted in its hopes. May the strength of its peoples be paralyzed by the stain of our blood." Hey, King Tut couldn't have said it better.
Other, somewhat cooler heads, theorize that the Mothman was a Sandhill Crane, which have a wingspan of 5-7 feet, a overall average length of 39 inches and an unusual shriek.
Owl theories also abound. The possibility of the Mothman being a Barn Owl, an albino owl, or perhaps a large Snowy Owl have been put forward. Skeptics suggest that the Mothman's glowing orbs are actually red-eye caused from the reflection of light, just like the ones caused by the flash of your Kodak.
But hey, whether Mothman was from the Twilight Zone or just a fat screech owl, it did spawn quite the cottage industry. We've found nine books, two movies, six TV shows, two role-playing games, two computer games, and a pair of dolls that feature the winged critter.
And Point Pleasant isn't shy about its native son. The Mothman Festival, an event held on the 3rd weekend of every September, combines a little folklore along with a lot of local tub-thumping. Hey, he even has a local museum.
Now Mothman has gone international. It is believed to be a harbinger of imminent disaster, reportedly being seen around the globe before great tragedies occur.
Not bad work for a thirteen month run in wild and wonderful West Virginia.