Mothman: The Mystery of the West Virginia Monster

It is November 15, 1966, 11:30 p.m. On that cold, clear night, a car with four people drove through a rather remote, confusing corner of West Virginia. Point Pleasant is the name of the next town and the locals call the area “TNT Area” – after the explosive trinitrotoluene, whose explosive power has become the benchmark for the strength of bombs and grenades.

Because here it is West Virginia Ordnance Works, a disused munitions factory from World War II. But it’s still about guns somehow: Young people from the hot rod scene meet on the spacious grounds, so fans of those fast cars from the 20s and 40s that are said to have been as dangerous as weapons – with what its name is probably also explained: Rod is a slang word for pistol.

Newspaper Article from the Mothman Museum: These four people were the first to sight the Mothman
Photo: The Mothman Museum

But it is not the young people in their daring boxes who suddenly give the vehicle occupants a real shock. But a being that you have never seen in your life before – and guaranteed never want to see again.

Huge figure with wings

It is a human-like shape: more than two meters in size and with angel-like wings, the span of which is probably three meters. But not enough: the creature, as one of the witnesses later reported, has large, round, glowing red eyes that resemble the taillights of a car and have an almost hypnotic effect. Arms and legs are muscular. The hands – remarkably long.

Apparently one of its wings got caught in a wire, it is reported, and the being, crouching on a hill, is trying to free itself from it. When he finally succeeds, it soars into the air, flapping its wings, raising clouds of dust, and following the car in which the monster’s witnesses flee in panic. Even inside the vehicle, the beating of the gigantic wings should be clearly audible.

That same night, the witnesses report the incident to the local sheriff, who searches the premises at around 2 a.m. but cannot find anything suspicious. And the press is also quickly informed. The next day an article appeared in the local newspaper “Point Pleasant Register”: “Couples See Man-Sized Bird … Creature … Something”.

This something, which is initially also called “Vogelmann (” birdman “) or Vogelmonster (” bird-monster “), will eventually become a legend as” Mothman “- based on Batman and his criminal opponent Killer Moth, with whom the German Translation – Mothman – but has nothing more to do.

Various Mothman views

Even after the first release, the monster was spotted by many people. Also from Linda Scarberry, the main witness. Once it even sits on the roof of their apartment building. As the number of sightings increases, the image of the Mothman becomes more concrete. Instead of feet, he is said to have sharp claws and a deep black skin color.

Mothman Museum

For Mothman fans: the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant
Photo: Tripadvisor

And of course the news of the flying monster also calls Ghostbuster on the scene – entire troops of ghost hunters search for the Mothman with weapons, searchlights and sniffer dogs. And find: nothing.

The story gets really scary when exactly 13 months after the first Mothman sighting, on Saturday, December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge between the towns of Point Pleasant and Kanauga collapses. 31 vehicles crash into the Ohio River, 46 people drown.

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Mothman Museum

The bridge collapse in the local press, newspaper articles in the Mothman Museum
Photo: Tripadvisor

Although the Mothman is not seen at the bridge, it is still associated with its collapse. Because in a legend of the indigenous inhabitants, the appearance of a similarly described being was a harbinger of misfortune and misery. It is now concluded that the sighting of the mothman on the TNT site announced the collapse of the bridge.

Is it a curse to blame?

Presumably, it is now speculated, the appearance of the Mothman is due to a curse, the chief Cornstal, who was murdered in 1777 at the time of the American independence movement, at Fort Randolph near Point Pleasant. Others believe the Mothman is an alien, a ghost, or the physical manifestation of a demon from beyond the grave. It is also said to have turned up exactly when the mysterious Men in Black were sighted.

All these speculations do not shed any light on the darkness surrounding the Mothman, but they do ensure that the flying monster is becoming more and more popular. It just seems like a matter of time before Hollywood knocks – and in 2002 the time will come. “The Mothman Prophecies” is the name of the thriller starring Richard Gere, based on the 1975 book of the same name by ufologist John A. Keel. What was initially regional becomes a national phenomenon: Mothman sightings suddenly occur in all parts of the USA.

Spoilers often claim that the alleged mothmans are just a big owl or a sandhill crane. And what actually caused the bridge to collapse can be read in the investigation report: material fatigue, micro cracks and subsequent rust on a load-bearing component.

Indeed, it was a great horned owl that that gunnery resident of Point Pleasant shot with his rifle, mistakenly assuming he was seeing the Mothman in person. After that the sightings subsided noticeably.

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But the legend lives on. This is ensured by the small town of Point Pleasant, which – in spite of all prophecies of doom – the Mothman brought no misfortune, but a wonderful source of income: the Mothman is a great tourist attraction. There is a Mothmann memorial, a Mothman museum and a Mothman festival. It takes place every year in September, lasts three days and is – as the organizers promise – fun for the whole family. This year, however, is canceled due to the corona pandemic.

The moth man as a case for “The three ???”

On July 17, 2020, episode 206 of the popular radio play series “Die Drei ???” was released. And in it that winged monster with the red eyes in Rocky Beach causes fear and horror. The three detectives Justus, Peter and Bob plunge into the investigation to unravel the secret of the moth man – with a surprising ending.

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