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I live in West Virginia, and for some reason this state is a hot bed for strange encounters. From the previously posted Vegetable Man to the Flatwoods Witch, the mountain state is full of monsters, none of which are more famous than The Mothman of Point Pleasant.
It all started on November 12, 1966 with a town over in Clendenin. Grave diggers were working into the late hours when they saw something large take off from a thicket of trees. They swore it wasn’t just a big bird. It looked like a man, a man with wings.
After that, Mothman was seen numerous times in different places throughout West Virginia. Most of the sightings seemed to occur around an old munitions factory called the West Virginia Ordinance Works or as the locals called it, the “TNT”.
The TNT area was overgrown and dotted with storage buildings made of concrete and dozens and dozens of abandoned tunnels. It was also, in the 1970s, said to be so polluted that it could be labeled a disaster site. This actually ties in with a local legend as to the Mothman’s origins.
Some people believe that the Mothman was actually a bird that was mutated by the chemical runoff from the plant. Now, this theory doesn’t really hold much water since no chemical used in the creation of gunpowder has been known to cause genetic mutation. However, there are those who believe that to this day.
It was the TNT area that played stage to the closest look anyone has ever had of the Mothman. On November 15, 1966, four friends were cruising through the TNT. Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Marry Mallette had no idea what they would come across that night.
As accounts go, it was Linda who spotted the creature first. She saw a pair of glowing red eyes further up the road. When the headlights washed over the creature, they all stared in shock. Over 7 feet tall, it stood on two legs. Its body was covered in a gray/brown hide and its wings were folded.
The four were horrified of the creature. Many who have claimed to see the Mothman state that it makes them feel scared, as if it were malevolent. Some even become sick at the sight with an illness that lasts for several days.
They turned their car to speed away and panicked as the monster gave chase. It rose up into the air with a 10-15 foot wingspan and followed right along with the car, which was supposedly going 100 mph.
Where there were dozens and dozens of sightings, even a few encounters with the Men In Black (who were keen on having witnesses keep their mouths shut,) everything seemed to come to a head with the collapse of the Silver Bridge.
On December 15, 1967, the suspension bridge collapsed and sent 31 cars into the freezing water. Sadly, 46 were killed, and while 9 survived, they were injured. Many claim to have seen the Mothman flying over the bridge before it collapsed. After the tragedy, the sightings mysteriously stopped.
There has been a photo circulating around this case for years which at first glance adds some credence to Mothman being at the scene of the bridge but upon closer inspection the supposed image is just part of the bridge itself.
Now there have been tons of theories as to what the Mothman actually is. Anything from the previously mentioned mutated bird to a sand hill crane…
and an owl…
However it seems a little hard to confuse an owl with a 7 foot tall human like creature. There is another odd connection between West Virginia’s Mothman, with that of Cornwall England’s Owlman (which was seen in 1976). The two sound nearly identical in terms of appearance, and with the time-frame so close together it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that they might be one and the same. (The fact that they were seen so far apart could play into the idea of migration.)
Something that did stand out to me was the long held belief by people in and around Point Pleasant that the area suffers from a curse. Legend has it that a Native American chief called Cornstalk was murdered near where the town stands today. He was killed along with his children in an act of betrayal and cursed the land.
Interestingly enough, there is a Shawnee myth about the Waupee which could explain the Mothman. The legend tales of a lonesome man who fell in love with a star maiden. They had a son and were invited to the star chief’s home in the sky. There they took the gift of a hawk feather and spread their great wings to soar across the sky. (While a beautiful story, it doesn’t fully explain the creature. However, it goes to add credence to the idea that this being has been seen before. Myths and legends were often used to explain the explainable, after all.)
My take on the Mothman is one of hope. The creature itself ended up breathing life back into the town of Point Pleasant after the book The Mothman Prophecies and the movie with the same name came out. The little town used the monster to put themselves on the map and have become a mecca in the cyptozoological scene. While sightings have all but died out, in one town at least, the hope that something is out there is still strong.