Mysteries, Oddities, and Everything Strange: Mothman


Bridget Vaughan, Staff Writer

Mothman: The Flying Monster of West Virginia

At the very western edge of West Virginia lies a small town known as Point Pleasant. This town would fade into obscurity, one of many uncharted residential areas across the United States, if not for the rumored existence of a flying man soaring over its treetops. Mothman, a devilish creature with a name inspired by the likes of superheroes, has frightened residents and tourists alike as the search for its true identity continues. 

The first notable recorded encounter with the Mothman came from the likes of two couples: Linda and Roger Scarberry and Mary and Steve Mallette. On November 15, 1996, the four were adventuring out into the surrounding wilderness, only to be bombarded by a towering monster with enormous wings. The four fled the creature in their vehicle, believing they were being chased by the man with wings, and after confirming what they had seen, reported the odd event to the police. Over the next couple days after the couples’ report, there were countless sightings, including an account from a Newell Partridge where he illuminated a creature in the woods with eyes that glowed feverishly. Soon after, Partridge reported his dog to have disappeared, and he concluded it to be the fault of the creature he had encountered earlier. Others claim Mothman has actively fled from them, shying away from the light of headlights.

The most well known action attributed to the Mothman is the collapse of a local bridge known as the Silver Bridge. A buildup of traffic and an outdated construction plan caused the bridge to completely collapse, sending all the cars on it plunging into the water below. In total, 46 people lost their lives in the tragic incident. This occurred on December 15, 1967, nearly a year following the first Mothman sighting, and attention was brought to the coincidence. Ever since, locals have attributed the disaster as being the cause of the mysterious Mothman.

Mothman’s title has no merit when it comes to its description. Most reports describe it as more of a “winged man” with arms and legs. Its wingspan can vary between accounts, but most agree they are quite massive. One unchanging trait of the Mothman is its gigantic red eyes. Whether they glow by themselves or with light, hollow or full, large or small, their blood red appearance is the most prominent aspect of most firsthand sightings. It is fuzzy and has almost clawed hands and feet, appearing more mammal than insect.

Most of the popularity surrounding Mothman is Point Pleasant’s celebration of the creature. The town hosts an annual festival known as the Mothman Festival, with crowds flocking in by the thousands. Local restaurants serve Mothman sweets and Mothman pizza. There is a Mothman museum that welcomes all to learn about its secrets. There is even a 12 foot tall Mothman statue located on 4th Street to commemorate the winged beast. Locals even went as far as to petition statues of local political figures to be removed and replaced with Mothman monuments. The Mothman fever is contagious, as even its frightening aura cannot deter the curiosity and excitement of tourists.

Now what exactly is Mothman? Many biologists and nature experts believe to have cracked the case. Dr. Robert L Smith proposed the presence of a sandhill crane. These birds clock in at 5 feet tall and have red flesh ringing their eyes, which can easily be mistaken for a giant swooping creature in the dead of night. Nearby the sighting area, there is a dated WWII bunker that was utilized to create weapons and ammunition, known as the “TNT Area”, and it can be hypothesized that the uncontrolled materials within these areas seeped out into the wilderness around it and mutated local species, including the sandhill crane. Sandhill cranes are not native to West Virginia, so it would have to be a stray loner who was abandoned during migration. UFOs, pranksters, paranoia, and aliens have all been considered as explanations for the odd creature.

Is Mothman a real beast haunting the residents of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, or is it the result of human fears and paranoia? Is Mothman a chaos causer or a wilderness dweller, something of deeper origins or simply a freak of nature? Until we collect more evidence of Mothman’s existence and behavior, these questions will be unanswered.