Last week for Mythical Monday, I shared a bit about my recent visit to Point Pleasant, West Virginia and my search for the legendary creature, the Mothman.
So where exactly do you find a Mothman?
I wanted to look in the area where he was originally spied by two young couples on November 15, 1966 – a secluded region about eight miles north of Point Pleasant, locally known as the TNT area. During WWII the tract of about 8000 acres was used to store ammunition in concealed underground igloos. In 1983 it was put on the government’s Superfund list because of hazardous contamination, and underwent cleanup. It is now part of a Wildlife Management Area, but is still somewhat restricted. More than one igloo has since exploded.
My husband and I spoke with the store owner of The Point, a café and Mothman Souvenir shop in Point Pleasant who told us the government had only that week started allowing people back into the area where Bunker No. 3 was situated. Apparently, there had been an explosion nearby and the region had been closed off for some time. Bunkers 1-3 are where we wanted to head. Not only had the Mothman been seen in those areas, but there were reports of other supernatural happenings. Voices were heard, questions were sometimes answered by a disembodied voice and more than one photograph had captured a ghostly orb.
The man at the store gave us a hand-drawn map showing how to reach the TNT area. We got directions that included “past the fairgrounds” and turn right “at the Christmas tree farm.” He told us the turn off looked like a driveway but was actually a road. At that point we were to set our odometer and drive back precisely 1 mile and 2 tenths.
We would pass several turnoffs on the way but were looking for one with an orange and green guard rail near a pond (there are ponds scattered throughout the TNT area). He advised we lock our car when walking back to the igloos – not that anyone ever bothered his, but it was a deserted area. He shared his own stories about visiting the igloos, including showing us a photo his wife had captured of an orb in one. Given the igloos are dark inside, I couldn’t create a logical reason for the “thing” to be there. He showed us an enlargement with features that resembled a face. Was I creeped out? Yeah, a little, but I still wanted to see the TNT area.
The first thing we came to was the sign welcoming us to the McClinic Wildlife Management area, a 2500 acre site of dense forests and steep hills which encompasses the TNT region. Nothing like driving into a deserted region and being greeted by a graffiti scrawled sign. Given the contamination that once ran rampant in the area, it was easy for my writer’s mind to conjure up visions of a zombie apocalypse.
We started back the road and began looking for the guard rail our guide had told us about. There were several turnoffs, each overgrown and barred by a dilapidated one-arm gate or guard rail. Nothing here was indicative of “welcome.” If anything, it screamed “keep out.” It many ways it felt like entering another world, one of dense greenery and overgrown foliage. There was something almost primeval about it. Perhaps it had to do with the ominous hush of the place, as if a thousand unseen eyes were watching our progress.
By that time, I remembered John Keel describing the strange feelings he had when visiting the TNT area in his book THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. There is definitely a sense of “something” lingering there. A kind of slow creepiness that seeps under your skin.
When we hit the preset mile mark on our odometer, we pulled over at the opening, discovering a makeshift gate with orange paint, but nothing green.
Our friend at the store told us we’d also see a sign with a word painted on it, but he couldn’t remember what it said. We found this sign, either someone’s names or perhaps a government marker for a specific region?
Given there was a pond in the distance, we assumed we were at the right place and walked a short distance back the “trail” (said very loosely). The air rippled with occasional birdsong, but the overall hush was nearly tangible. And intensely creepy.
I knew we were probably a good walking distance from the bunkers. Hubby was in shorts and I was wearing capris, neither of us dressed for a trek through tick and chigger-infested woods. I also started thinking about how remote and isolated the area was, and decided I didn’t want to venture any further. Call me a wuss, but it was far too quiet! It was enough for me to actually see the TNT area where the Mothman had originally been spotted and which John Keel had wrote about extensively in his book.
So we climbed back in hubby’s Grand Cherokee and continued driving, pulling off occasionally to check the various openings. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed as if the surroundings grew denser and quieter the further we progressed. Cars have been known to stall on this road without explanation, a situation Mr. Keel experienced himself.
After a while I started wondering how far we’d driven. Everything looked much the same – green, overgrown and inherently wild. We only saw one other vehicle during our exploration, a battered old pick-up truck parked at one of the “openings.” Somehow, that lone vehicle made the whole thing even spookier.
Who else was back here? What if our vehicle stalled and wouldn’t restart like so many others? Would our cell phones work if we needed help?
Did I share these thoughts with my husband?
Was I creeped out?
Finally, I said I’d seen enough and we took our time heading back, stopping to snap more photos along the way. The pick-up truck remained parked where we’d passed it, blanketed in an unnatural hush. Near the entrance we stopped to grab a photo of the groundwater treatment facility, bracketed behind barbed wire. It so effortlessly reflected the underlying oppressiveness of the area.
As secluded as it was, the TNT region was the highlight of the trip for me. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like in the pitch dark of night when the Mothman was sighted in 1966. It’s still easy to recall the feeling and hush of that place, a sense I never would have known otherwise and which I hope to translate into my novel. Did I find the Mothman there? No, but I did get to experience his lair.
As for the Mothman himself, I had to be contented with the towering metal statue in Point Pleasant’s town square created by artist and sculptor, Bob Roach. John Keel was there for the unveiling in 2003 (sadly, Mr. Keel passed away in July 2009 at the age of 79).
My visit to Point Pleasant is something I’ll remember fondly. It was interesting discovering a new area, friendly people, a beautiful riverfront park and the lingering taint of a legend that is the town’s claim to fame. Overall, I would definitely take a research trip again. There’s nothing like experiencing a topic you intend to write about first hand.
Now all I have to do is start writing my novel. I haven’t stopped making notes since I came back! And I even brought home a friend for daily inspiration . . .