The Legend Behind West Virginia’s Mysterious Mothman

Mothman emerging from the woods?

The Mothman legend is commonly said to center around a horrific event that took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia on December 15, 1967. On that cold December evening, at around 5.00 p.m., the U.S. Highway 35 Bridge known as the Silver Bridge collapsed. The Silver Bridge connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Kanauga, Ohio. Thirty-seven vehicles were on the Silver Bridge when it collapsed, sending 31 of those cars into the cold river water. Forty-six people died and a further nine were seriously injured.

Silver Bridge following the disaster

For at least 13 months prior to the incident, residents in the Point Pleasant area had witnessed sightings of a man-sized, bird-like creature that has since become known as the Mothman. Many claimed to have seen the Mothman not far from the bridge, and some believe that this creature was involved either directly or indirectly with the bridge’s collapse. After the Silver Bridge collapsed, the sightings dried up; the Mothman seemed to have quietly disappeared.

Forty-six people were killed in the disaster; was the Mothman responsible?

The first Mothman sighting possibly occurred in the early 1960s, when a woman driving her car through a park known as the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds slowed after she saw a figure in the road, she reported. According to the woman, the figure had two large wings and took to the air.


Image: d burlz123

Many people claim to have seen the mysterious being.

Another supposed sighting took place in 1965. A woman living close to the Ohio River informed police that her son had come in from playing and told her that he had seen an angel.

A year later, a doctor’s wife apparently reported seeing what she described as a giant butterfly. And in November of the same year, five men digging a grave reported seeing a brown being with wings fly out of some nearby trees.

Image: Unknown


The Mothman is always seen with large wings.

Later that same month, Mr and Mrs Scarberry and their friends the Mallettes were driving towards Point Pleasant when they saw a tall figure on the side of the road in a location known as the TNT area. They told officials that the figure stood at least seven feet tall. They also stated that it had large wings folded behind its back. As they drove on, the figure took to the air and flew above the car. They reported the incident to the Mason County Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff then returned to the scene with the four witnesses, but although his radio acted up, nothing else was seen or heard.

Image: wv culture

Grass-covered mound in the TNT area

The TNT area became known as the home of the Mothman. TNT is a large tract of land covered in many concrete “igloos” that were used to store ammunition during World War II. The TNT land tract sits adjacent to the 3,500-acre McClintic Wildlife Station. The whole area is covered in dense forest and steep hills and is apparently riddled with tunnels, making it the perfect hideout.

Only a few sightings were recorded in 1967; then in 1968, the Mothman reemerged. It is said to have been seen several times on Jerrico Road. Then the Mothman made one of its last reported appearances in September, 1968, when several people witnessed the winged figure, again in the TNT area.


With over 100 similar sightings, is the Mothman more than a legend?

Long-time residents of Point Pleasant say that the Mothman sightings, UFO sightings and encounters with “men in black” are all somehow related. Meanwhile, researchers, investigators and monster hunters have descended on the small town.

Between 1966 and 1967, over 100 people stated that they saw the winged Mothman. Reports generally had the creature standing between five and seven feet tall, with bat like wings. The reports also have it that the Mothman’s eyes – often described as glowing red – are near the top of its shoulders.

There’s even a museum devoted to the Mothman.

Reporter John Keel began collecting information on Mothman sightings in December of 1966. Keel compiled reports that pointed to a problem with televisions and phones that began in the fall of 1966. Lights had been seen in the skies, particularly around the TNT area, and cars that passed along the nearby road sometimes stalled without explanation. Keel and his fellow researchers also uncovered a number of short-lived poltergeist cases in the Ohio Valley area. Locked doors opened and closed by themselves, strange thumps were heard inside and outside of homes, and unexplained voices were perceived in the night wind.


Image: Marada


A shining Mothman statue with glinting eyes stands in Point Pleasant.

James Lilly’s family, who lived just south of the TNT area, were so bothered by the bizarre events that apparently they finally moved to another neighborhood. Keel was convinced that the incidents in the intense period of activity were all connected.

By 1969, most of the sightings had come to an end, and the Mothman seemed to fade away. However, its legacy lives on in Point Pleasant. In the middle of the Gunn Park, in the center of Point Pleasant, stands an imposing stainless steel statue by local sculptor Robert Roach.

Image: Sonja

The annual festival draws thousands of Mothman fans.

Every year in September, the Mothman Festival is held, drawing thousands to the small local community. One of the highlights of the festival is the eerie TNT-area haunted hayride. The TNT area is literally unchanged since the Mothman sightings from throughout the 1960s.

Who or what was the mysterious Mothman, and what was behind the mysterious events that took place in Point Pleasant in that time period? Whatever the creature’s nature, some believe that it was not a hoax. There were just far too many credible witnesses to dismiss it in this way. John Keel believed that Point Pleasant was a “window,” a place marked by long periods of strange incidents.

Yet whatever the Mothman is or was, it has marked its place in West Virginia’s rich and diverse history and traditions.