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!
What a fascinating legend! I have never heard of mothman before. How intriguing.
I knew about the Mothman, but I didn’t know all the details and I certainly didn’t know about the Silver Bridge. I was completely riveted while researching this one. Story ideas keep spinning around in my head!
Wow Mae… I could totally see you creating an awesome story out of this legend. Like Jessi, I have never heard about the Mothman. Very interesting.
I’m beginning to realize what a geek I am. I must watch too many movies on the ScyFy channel, LOL. Although Richard Gere also made a movie (that I believe) was based on the book, The Mothman Prophecies. I guess this particular legend wasn’t as well known as I thought, another reason why it’s a great topic for a novel. I’m jazzed 🙂
Thanks, Loni. This one keeps screaming my name, LOL!
Very creepy, Mae. You nailed this one. I was riveted.
I had heard the name Mothman mentioned before, but I knew virtually nothing about it. It makes the time I drove through West Virginia at night all the creepier. 🙂
I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Wait, I think I was out of West Virginia by the time it got dark. Still creepy. 🙂
Actually, there have been Mothman sightings in other areas of the country, but the ones that have received the most attention are those in Point Pleasant. So, even if you were out of West Virginia, you still could have been in Mothman territory.
I agree…very creepy!
I think I first heard about this legend from the Richard Gere movie. I remember later catching a documentary on the Discovery Channel about the bridge that collapsed.
I’m going to have to look up that documentary and see if it’s available online. I just found out about the Richard Gere movie while researching the Mothman, and think I’ll definitely rent it. I’ve also ordered the book, The Mothman Prrophecies. I can’t wait!
I was just randomly flicking through the TV channels years ago when that documentary was on. That bridge scene from the film is frightening. Though the idea of mothmen making phonecalls to Richard Gere was a bit daft 🙂
This was fascinating, Mae. I’ve never heard the story before. You retell these legends so well.
Aww, thanks so much, Stanalei. I love doing these posts and, this one especially, resonated with me. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
I hope to never run into the Mothman. I also hope he doesn’t give me nightmares tonight. 😉 You know, you could totally be Chloe Lane from Smallville with the “Wall Of Weird” you’re able to create. (I mean that in the best way possible…she was one of my favorite characters on the show)
Hey, I stuck with that show for the first year or two. She was the blond girl on the school paper, right? I love it….Mae Clair’s Wall of Weird, LOL. I do love delving into all the strangeness out there. This legend especially has me hooked. Thanks for dropping by and checking out the Mothman!
Yup! That was her. 🙂
What a great urban legend or real life sighting story to base your new book on, Mae! It sounds like something you can really have fun writing and go all out to make the Mothman a character we all fall in love with. Can’t wait to see what you do with his background story and all the rest of it! Great idea! Oh my– the heroine is going to really have her hands full with this man.. er, mothguy…
You know how I get with those legends, Venice 🙂 In this case, I’m going to keep the Mothman story as close to the legend as posible but toss in some new characters to round out the mix. I keep waffling back and forth on my hero and heroine and their histories but I’ve jotted a few notes. I never did learn how to outline but, in this case, I think I might have to put a bit more thought into backgrounds before I actually start writing. I can’t wait, though. This legend has really latched onto my muse and refuses to let go!
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