Written By: Naomi
Trigger Warning: Mentions of mass tragedies
West Virginia, November 15th, 1966, two Point Pleasant couples drive down a dark road. They go over a ridge and the headlights of the car catch something standing in front of them, a large 6-7 ft tall grey winged creature with large red glowing eyes that were 6 inches apart. The creature clumsily moved to avoid the light of the car but the witnesses could see it had a 10 ft wingspan once it began to follow them at an alarming speed, flying over 100 miles per hour. They were chased on the outskirts of town known as the “TNT area”, an area used in WWII as an munitions factory, before it disappeared into a field. The entire situation had been absurd but all the passengers in the car agreed in seeing the same thing, and that it could not have been a figment of their imagination regardless of how the newspapers in the small town would take it. The Point Pleasant Register released the story the following day titled, “Couples See Man-Sized Bird ... Creature ... Something."
This was not the first time the creature had been spotted, in fact it had been spotted three days earlier by five gravediggers in Clendenin, West Virginia. They spotted a man-like figure swoop down from the trees and fly low over their heads, moving tree to tree. Over the following days the papers would follow up and say that five others also had seen this creature, including two volunteer firefighters who described it as a large bird with red eyes. One of the most interesting sightings was of Newell Patridge who lived near Salem, West Virginia; He claimed that while he was home he saw strange symbols flash across his TV screen before a mysterious sound was heard outside his home. When he went outside to investigate his flashlight reflected off two large red eyes resembling bicycle reflectors staring at him. Partridge’s dog later went missing.
Attempting to calm the public the Sheriff and a wildlife biologist told the press that the creature was likely a sandhill crane since they grow to be almost as tall as an average adult male and the skin around its eyes is a bright red. This convinced many due to the early sightings of the creature being described as “bird like”. People tried to rationalize that the crane was unrecognizable to natives because it had abandoned its migration path and wasn’t a local bird or that the crane was deformed from living near the “TNT area” since the bunker in this area might have been leaking toxic chemicals into the environment and affecting wildlife. Others in Point Pleasant decided the creature was simply the creation of a prankster who was very committed and was using the old bunker in the “TNT area” where most of the sightings took place to hide out. Locals were calling the unknown creature “The Bird” but an nameless copy editor for one of the papers titled the creature “Mothman” after a character in the Batman series that was popular on TV at the time which caught on like wildfire with national media who began to pick up the story causing panic to set in and locals would see Mothman in every bird or large animal they came across long after the prankster had ended his shenanigans in this theory.
However, tragedy stuck that would take any lightheartedness away from sightings of Mothman. People continued to report seeing Mothman for a little over a year, it is believed over 100 people saw Mothman during this time period with many more afraid to come forward with their sightings but there is not much foundation to this claim. There was a suspension bridge called the Silver Bridge which had been constructed in in 1928 over the Ohio River to connect Pleasant Point, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio. At the time of construction the typical family car weighed 1,500 lbs and commercial trucks had a weight limit of 20,000 lbs. By the late 1960’s these nearly tripled - the family car now weighed about 4,000 lbs and commercial trucks 60,000lbs. Bumper to bumper traffic was an everyday occurrence now on the Silver Bridge which put stress on the out of date eyebars - if one failed, it would spell disaster and cause the entire bridge to collapse. There had been a defect in one eyebar of the bridge, about a 1 inch crack had been repeatedly stressed and corroded until the fateful evening of December 15th, 1967. At 5pm, during rush hour traffic, the bridge collapsed in less than one minute sending cars into the frigid waters. 7 people were found dead having been crushed or drowned while 41 were missing, later the death count would total 46 which made it the highest death toll related to a bridge failure in history. The failure of the bridge put the town on the national radar yet again and so some believed the bizarre sightings of Mothman had somehow been connected to the freak collapse of the Silver Bridge giving him the new titles of Harbinger of Doom or an Angel of Death.
Accounts of seeing Mothman begin to diminish and he faded into a simply a story used to scare kids and teenagers by saying that he would attack the roofs of parked cars, backed up by a handful of hoaxes.
In 2016 the Mothman legend would find new life, the show Paranormal Witness aired an episode titled, The Mothman Curse. In it a couple named John and Krystle took a day trip to Pleasant Point. The shops they visited around their hotel had articles on the infamous Mothman reporting that he lived in the old bunker in the “TNT area”. John and Krystle were interested in adventure and the mysterious creature so they decided they would visit the spot outside of town,one of the shop owners told them that the bunker was also haunted and they recommended them to take audio recordings of the interior of it since people had been known to capture voices. With a new flare of excitement, they rushed to the abandoned munition site.
The site that has come up over and over in this legend is 8,000 acres of land that was home to an ammunition manufacturing facility that once employed a few thousand people during the peak of its life. For the safety of the employees explosives were kept in bunkers that were covered in a layer of earth to disguise them, they were scattered strategically around the facility so they would disappear like hills in the forested landscape and were referred to as TNT igloos. After the war the facility was abandoned and the bunkers left behind have been taken back by nature, the land was converted into a wildlife preserve and landfill. In the 80’s it was discovered that the bunkers had been leaking explosive byproducts that contaminated the land with hazardous waste. Today it is used as a site for fishing and hunting but it still has not been cleaned up and remains on a federal list of hazardous locations. To emphasize how dangerous this location is, one of the bunkers that contained 20,000 lbs of unstable material suddenly exploded in 2010 (NPR).
Jeff and Krystal enter one of the abandoned bunkers and immediately the air feels off. They do a round of questions as they record and decide to leave. The sound of flapping could be heard from deeper in the bunker as they did so. Upon returning to their car they review the audio from the bunker and discover they had caught a deep voice that says, “I'm here”. Having enough of the mysterious town, they are more than happy to make the 4 hour drive home to Maryland. But their torment was only beginning. Once home Krystal begins to receive a flood of calls from a blocked number that, when she does answer, she is only met with silence or a strange chirping sound on the other end. Then hand prints with long claws left in a black sooty material appear on the walls in their home. One night Jeff’s truck went dead on his way home and like our first story, the headlights of his truck land on a black figure in the road that scurries out of sight in an animal like fashion. At the same time Krystal is at home and receives another call, but this time she is met with raspy voices like those that they heard in the audio recording. The shadowed creature appears closer and closer to their home: it would move past their windows, the cabinets in their kitchen swung open from an unseen force that also tossed their glasses, it would also twist and throw their silverware around the room. Deciding enough was enough they go back to the bunker to confront the Mothman and ask to be left alone but once inside Jeff is lifted into the air and and thrown against a wall.
They return home and continue to be tormented until it reaches a breaking point. Jeff is once again returning home when a large black winged creature lands in front of his truck, stares him down, and then rushes his truck, it jumps onto the hood then launches itself into the air. Krystal receives a final call from the blocked number that tells her:
“ I'm going to eat your light”
A black sludge like material begins to be thrown around at the couple from thin air. They flee the home and when they return the entire inside has been coated in the substance. They sold the house and moved away hoping to leave whatever was there behind.
Mothman's descriptions often match the descriptions of different monsters or demons people have seen while they are experiencing sleep paralysis. Does this mean that Mothman is a common creation of the human mind when in a panicked state or that he is a being with powers that we can not comprehend, and in a league similar to shadow people or the hat man? Those who believe Mothman is or supernatural or paranormal origins, would argue that it would not be a far stretch given the strange incidents that surround the town.
Pleasant Point actually has the highest number of documented UFO activity in the United States, far exceeding that of even Roswell. In 1952 there was an incident where in one evening 3 separate spacecraft were documented crashing and a being known as the “Flatwoods Monster” would be seen. 1952 was a year where Pleasant point had 1,501 reports of UFO’s - 1,134 of them coming in the months of July, August, and September.
Mothman being a supernatural being similar also explains the towns dread when the Silver Bridge collapsed. Most shadow people are seen as bad omens, negative energy, can sense when bad things will happen, or are blamed for causing bad luck. Before the collapse people in Pleasant Point experienced precognition that the bridge was going to fail, they would see horrible, and accurate images of what was going to happen. There is a theory that Mothman has often been seen just before tragedies all over the world.
On September 10th, 1978 in Freiburg, Germany a group of miners were barred from entering the mine they were supposed to work in by a large solid black figure with glowing red eyes that they believed was wearing a trench coat. Upon closer inspection they realized that the trench coat was actually large black wings. It screeched at them making them flee the area and prevented them from working. An hour later the miners felt a seismic rumble and saw smoke shoot out of the opening to the mine as it collapsed. Had the men gone to their regular posts most of them would have died in the collapse, the creature was named the Freiburg Screecher and considered a protector but perfectly matched the description of the Mothman.
2011 a witness also claims that they saw a huge black creature, with large black wings and blood red glowing eyes fly over him and screech before perching on the Nuclear Power plant in Fukushima, Japan and not breaking eye contact with him as it flew away. Later the witness would see that the plant exploded and that the Mothman had been warning him.
In the days leading up to 9/11 there were multiple reports of a large black winged creature flying near the towers and on the day of the attack, eye witnesses claim to have seen a creature flying parallel to the plane before it hit. These witnesses later also reported that they were approached by men in black and told to stop talking about what they had seen.
And for the largest nuclear accident in history, scientists and workers for the Chernobyl nuclear plant claimed to have seen a black bird like creature with red glowing eyes flying around the plant in 1985. They then began to receive a series of harassing phone calls and terrible nightmares leading up to the explosion in 1986. On the day of the accident, the same creature was seen flying around the smoke which would have killed any regular being as the smoke was a huge plume of radiation. Townspeople of the nearby town Pripyat saw the creature in their town as well and after the explosion, the town was exposed to huge amounts of radiation. The creature was called the “Black bird of Chernobyl”
In the days before the Xiaon Te Dam Disaster in January 1926, a black figure described as a man dragon flew around the villages and would hover over the Xiaon Te Dam. The Dam collapsed and flooded the villages killing 15,000.
The Mexican Swine Flu outbreak of 2009 was preceded by sightings of Mothman in La Junta, Mexico. Witnesses heard him screeching from an orchid near a cemetary and had reportedly chased a child for a number of blocks and screeched the entire way
Eerily similar to the Silver Bridge, Mothman was seen before the Minneapolis, Minnesota I-35 Bridge collapse in 2007.The bridge had been opened the same year the Silver Bridge collapsed. Mothman was seen flying around and flapping his wings in the area around the bridge for a month before it collapsed during rush hour traffic killing 13 people and injuring 145 others.
in 1999 there were Mothman sightings in Moscow before the Russian apartment buildings which killed 300 and injured 1000 more.
These cases could argue that Mothman was attempting to protect the victims in these situations.
In 2011, residents of Chicago began to report a giant winged humanoid which grew in numbers until it peaked in 2017. The physical description of height and wingspan matched that of Mothman, but those in Chicago were reporting the creature with red, yellow, orange and sometimes green eyes. Most sightings had been around lakes in Chicago but after 2017 the sightings have ceased once again.
Pleasant Point hosted it’s first Mothman festival in 2002 and since then it has continued to grow as a large tourist attraction that they do annually on the third weekend of September where they host a pancake eating contest, have vendors, and take people on hayrides of notable locations. There is a 12 foot tall statue of Mothman in town and the official Mothman Museum and research center opened in 2005.
I leave you with lots of questions and no answers as to what exactly Mothman is, if he is a curious creature who wants to know what we are, if he is an omen of death that wants to torment us, or if maybe he is 100% moth made of dust who just likes to fly at lights like the rest of them and accidentally terrify drivers at the same time. Mothman is alive and well and was seen last November by the O’ Hair International airport in Chicago so keep an eye out and if you see anything strange let us know!
Sources: History Channel, Open University, SYFY: Paranormal Witness, All That’s Interesting, The Mothman Wiki, NPR.org , WBEZ 91.5 Chicago, The 13th Floor, The Register Herald, and Unknown Explorers