The Mothman is a creature reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia from November
12, 1966, to December 1967. Most observers
describe the Mothman as a man-sized creature with large reflective red eyes and
large wings. The creature was sometimes reported as having no head, with its
eyes set into its chest.
A number of hypotheses have
been presented to explain eyewitness accounts, ranging from misidentification
and coincidence, to paranormal
phenomena and conspiracy theories.
Mothman has been described as a man sized creature with glowing red eyes and
wings of a moth. Others have described it with no head and his eyes set in his
chest. It has an unusual shriek that can be heard from a mile away. It may have
gray or light-blue colored skin under its feathers, which also vary in color. It
is not known if it has skin like a human or very fine fur on its body. It has
great strength as it has been seen lifting an object as heavy as a car. Mothman
is often referred to as a male.
On November 15, 1966, two young, married couples from Point Pleasant, Roger
and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette, were traveling late at night
in the Scarberrys' car. They were passing the West Virginia Ordnance Works, an
abandoned World War II TNT factory, about seven
miles north of Point Pleasant, in the 2,500 acre (10 kmē) McClintic Wildlife Management
Area, when they noticed two red lights in the shadows by an old generator
plant near the factory gate. They stopped the car, and reportedly discovered
that the lights were the glowing red eyes of a large animal, "shaped like a man,
but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big wings folded
against its back," according to Roger Scarberry. Terrified, they drove toward Route 62, where the creature
supposedly chased them at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.
A plaque on the Mothman statue provides a version of the original legend: On
a chilly, fall night in November 1966, two young couples drove into the TNT area
north of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, when they realized they were not alone.
Driving down the exit road, they saw the supposed creature standing on a nearby
ridge. It spread its wings and flew alongside the vehicle up to the city limits.
They drove to the Mason County courthouse to alert
Deputy Millard Halstead, who later said, "I've known these kids all their lives.
They'd never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took
them seriously." He then followed Roger Scarberry's car back to the secret
ex-U.S. Federal bomb and missile factory, but found no trace of the strange
creature. According to the book Alien Animals, by Janet and Colin Bord, a
poltergeist attack on the
Scarberry home occurred later that night, during which the creature was seen
- November 16, 1966
The following night, on November 16, several armed townspeople combed the
area around the TNT plant for signs of Mothman. Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley,
and Mrs. Marcella Bennett, with her infant daughter Teena, were in a car
en-route to visit their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Thomas, who lived in a small
house near the igloos (concrete
dome-shaped dynamite storage structures erected during WW-II) near the TNT
plant. The igloos were now empty, some owned by the county, others by companies
intending to use them for storage. They were heading back to their car when a
figure appeared behind their parked vehicle. Mrs. Bennett said that it seemed
like it had been lying down, slowly rising up from the ground, large and gray,
with glowing red eyes. While Wamsley phoned the police, the creature walked onto
the porch and peered in at them through the window.
- November 24, 1966
On November 24, four people allegedly saw the creature flying over the TNT
- November 25, 1966
On the morning of November 25, Thomas Ury, who was driving along Route 62
just north of the TNT, claimed to have seen the creature standing in a field,
and then it spread its wings and flew away, and Thomas sped toward the Point
Pleasant sheriff's office.
A Mothman sighting was again reported on January 11, 1967 hovering over the
town's bridge, and several other times that same year. Fewer sightings of the
Mothman were reported after the collapse of the town's bridge, the Silver Bridge, when 46
people died. The Silver Bridge, so named for its aluminium paint, was an eyebar chain suspension bridge
that connected the cities of Point Pleasant, West Virginia and
Gallipolis, Ohio over the Ohio River. The bridge was built in 1928, and it
collapsed on December 15, 1967. Investigation of the bridge wreckage pointed to
the failure of a single eye-bar in a suspension chain due to a small
manufacturing flaw. There are rumors that the Mothman appears before upcoming
disasters and seems to try to warn people of them. After that, mothman was never
again seen in Point Pleasant.
The word "Mothman" was an invention by an Ohio newspaper copyeditor, after the first news stories of
the "Big Bird" sightings appeared.
A large collection of first-hand material about the Mothman is found in John Keel's 1975 book The Mothman
Prophecies, in which Keel lays
out the chronology of the Mothman and what he claims to be related parapsychological events in
the area, including precognitions by witnesses, and the December 15
1967 collapse of the Silver
Bridge spanning the Ohio
In the May-June 2002 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, journalist John C.
Sherwood, a former business associate of UFO hoaxer Gray Barker, published an analysis of private
letters between Keel and Barker during the period of Keel's investigation. In
the article, "Gray Barker's Book of Bunk", Sherwood documented significant
differences between what Keel wrote at the time of his investigation and what
Keel wrote in his first book about the Mothman reports, raising questions about
the book's accuracy, although Sherwood was later revealed to be a hoaxer
himself, since he posed as "Richard Pratt" for some of Barker's hoaxes.
Coleman, in conjunction with Sony/Screen Gems studio and as noted in the
documentary film by David Grabias, "In Search of the Mothman", served as one of
the fictional movie's two publicity spokespersons (Keel being the other,
although Keel's involvement was limited by health concerns).
Andy Colvin, a photographer and documentary filmmaker who claims to have seen
the Mothman, has produced two books and a reality series on Mothman called
The Mothman's Photographer, featuring John Keel and almost 50 witnesses.
Colvin's sister took a snapshot of him in 1973 that allegedly shows a Garuda in the background.
There are several theories concerning the Mothman phenomenon.
- Supernatural theories
John Keel claimed that
Mothman was related to parapsychological events in the area,
including precognitions by
witnesses, and the December 15, 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge spanning the Ohio River.
- Misidentified bird
One of the early theories is that the Mothman was a misidentified Sandhill Crane, which, in
the late 1960s had been a problem in surrounding regions. Sandhill cranes have
an average wingspan of 5.3 feet (up to 7 feet), average overall length of 39
inches and have the general appearance described, glide for long distances
without flapping, and have an unusual shriek. Other theories suggest the
possibility of the Mothman being a Barn Owl, an albino owl, or perhaps a large Snowy Owl (based on artists'
impressions). Skeptics suggest
that the Mothman's glowing eyes are actually red-eye caused from the reflection of
light, from flashlights, or other light sources that witnesses may have had with
In Episode 2 of the short-lived TV series X-Testers, the researchers on the
show attempted various ways to duplicate various photographs of what is said to
be Mothman on bridges. The researchers concluded that a recent photo of an
unidentified object on the bridge is possibly just a black garbage bag, and
earlier photos are possibly just camera tricks.
Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand cited elements in
common between many Mothman reports and much older folk tales, and noted:
"Something real may have triggered the Mothman scares, but the stories-whatever
their sources-also incorporated existing folklore."
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