Before I jump into today’s legend, I want to mention I’m also visiting with Sara-Jayne Townsend, sharing a post about fear. And that’s a perfect segue for my Mythical Monday topic. 🙂
Even if you don’t live in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, you’ve probably heard of the Mothman. Much like Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman, this semi-human creature has reportedly been seen by numerous eyewitnesses. Most of the sightings, many documented, occurred during the mid-1960s.
In 1965, a woman told police her son had come in from playing and reported seeing an angel in the yard.
On November 15, 1966, Roger and Linda Scarberry, along with friends Steve and Mary Mallette, were driving toward Point Pleasant when they saw a large white creature, close to seven feet tall, standing on the side of the road. According to the four friends, the being had wings folded behind its back and red eyes that glowed in the darkness. It took to the air and followed their car as they drove. They described it to police as a ‘’flying man with ten foot wings.’’
Newell Partridge also saw the Mothman later that same night. He was watching TV when the screen suddenly went blank and emitted a loud whining noise, like a generator winding up. Outside, his dog Bandit, began howling. Partridge grabbed a flashlight and hurried to investigate.
Shining the beam around, he spied a creature near his barn, its eyes “two red circles which looked like bicycle reflectors.” Bandit raced after the creature while Partridge darted inside to grab a gun. He later told reporters he was certain the creature had not been an animal. It frightened him so baldy, he thought better of returning outside and slept with the gun by his bed throughout the night. In the morning, he discovered Bandit had disappeared. Tracks in the mud indicated his dog had run ‘round and ‘round in a mindless circle, as if chasing his tail.
Two days later, Partridge was reading the local paper when he stumbled over an article detailing what Roger Scarberry, his wife, and friends had witnessed the night Bandit disappeared. Scarberry reported seeing the body of a large dog on the side of the road during their drive into town. When he and the others left, returning by the same route, the body was gone.
Bandit never returned and Partridge never saw the dog again.
The bulk of Mothman sightings occurred from 1966 to 1967. During that period over 100 people reported seeing the creature, most on a tract of land about five miles north of Point Pleasant in an area locally known as the TNT Area. During WWII it was used to store ammunition and is located adjacent to what is now a wildlife management station. Densely forested with steep hills, wetlands and tunnels, it’s a virtual labyrinth of secluded hiding places.
Many believe the Mothman sightings of ’66 and ’67 were an omen of looming catastrophe.
Tragedy struck on the bitterly cold day of December 15, 1967. Rush hour traffic was at its peak when the Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant to Kanauga, Ohio, abruptly collapsed. Thirty-one cars fell into the icy waters of the Ohio River, resulting in forty-six deaths. Two of the victims were never found, their bodies forever claimed by the frigid river.
Were the Mothman’s appearances and the collapse of the bridge related?
An eyebar-chain suspension bridge built in 1928 and named for the color of its aluminum paint, the Silver Bridge was not well-maintained and was known to sway in strong winds. The mayor at the time even banned its use during parades. Later analysis revealed the bridge collapse was caused by a small, 0.1 inch defect in a single eyebar—a straight metal bar with a hole at each end for connecting to other bars in the chain.
Scientific and rational scrutiny aside, it’s interesting to note sightings of the Mothman virtually stopped after the Silver Bridge collapse. Had the creature been trying to warn of impending danger?
Skeptics claim the Mothman may have been a sandhill crane, a bird that can reach a height of over three feet, with a six-foot wingspan. Given the wetlands and wildlife refuge nearby that may be a legitimate argument, but cryptozoologists and many residents of Point Pleasant believe otherwise.
If you visit the small town, don’t be surprised by the sight of an imposing stainless steel Mothman statue leering down at you. You can find “Mothy” in downtown Point Pleasant’s Gunn Park, a reminder of the brief span during the 1960s when sightings were rampant. You can also take part in the annual Mothman festival, held every September. Whatever you do, I caution against visiting the TNT Area. Who knows what danger lurks among the concrete munitions igloos and densely treed hillsides?
Harbinger of doom, or messenger sent to warn of danger, the Mothman legend continues today. I’m intrigued by it so much I’m already planning a novel!