“Couples See Man-Sized Bird… Creature… Something”. That is how it all began in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on November 16th, 1966. The Mothman flew into the public’s perception and settled there, becoming folklore in his own right.
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After the original sightings in Point Pleasant, the Mothman took wing, with a great deal of help from the national press, and spread out across America and then into the world. However, it is in his birthplace and home that he remains the most famous.
A yearly festival held in honor of the Mothman began in 2002 and the 12-foot-tall metallic statue of the being, created by sculptor Bob Roach, was unveiled in 2003. Shortly after this in 2005, the town opened the Mothman Museum and Research Center run by Jeff Wamsley. It’s clear to see that Point Pleasant has a fond spot in its heart for the mythological Mothman and is hoping that you will come visit and share in the story.
Popularized by the book The Mothman Prophecies written in 1975 by John Keel, the Mothman legend links some supernatural events with the sightings of the figure and even draws a link to the Silver Bridge collapse of 1967. The book was made into a film in 2002 starring lead actor Richard Gere, which furthered the stories reach.
The sightings themselves began in 1966. On November 12th, five grave diggers at the Clendenin cemetery in West Virginia saw what they believed to be a flying man right above their heads from a nearby tree. This has been quoted by many as the first official sighting, which would later become the Mothman legacy. The next major sighting was the one that inspired the newspaper headline at the start of this article; on November 15th, 1966, two couples, Linda and Roger Scarberry and Mary and Steve Mallette, went to the police claiming that they had seen a large shadowy figure with eyes that glowed red in the light of their headlights. The large winged man-like creature with giant wings followed their car while they were out driving near the location of an old munitions plant known as “the TNT area.” After this, there were frequent Mothman sightings all over the town; he was even blamed for a local farmer’s dog disappearing.
Wildlife biologist Dr. Robert Smith from the University of West Virginia claims that there is a much simpler explanation, namely that all the reports from sightings fit the appearance of the large Sandhill crane, an American bird almost as tall as a man with wings that span up to 7 feet. The most interesting link, however, is that the Sandhill crane’s eyes are ringed by a circle of reddish coloring. It’s possible that a crane just like this was not recognized as it is foreign to the region and may have become lost and distressed after wandering from its migration route.
The Mothman ran riot over Point Pleasant and West Virginia until, tragically, the Silver Bridge collapsed claiming 46 people's lives. After this catastrophe all sightings of the being seemed to stop. Either the town came to its sense in the wake of a true disaster or the Mothman really was in some way connected to the tragedy. Some believe he was sent to warn the town folk of the looming threat. Some believe he caused it with a sonic flap of his wings. Others still believe he was the reincarnated and vengeful spirit of Shawnee leader Chief Cornstalk, who was treacherously murdered in Point Pleasant in 1777. Whatever you believe, it’s an interesting slice of history and the associated museum and statue are certainly worth a visit.