• Anastasia Bale

The Mothman of Point Pleasant

Do you know anything about Mothman?

Mothman is having a bit of a popularity boom right now, and so in order to share the love with everyone, we wanted to cover it here as well!

The History

Mothman is a cryptid from West Virginia- Point Pleasant, to be specific. It is a 7 ft. tall, bipedal flying creature/alien. Witnesses say it appears to be a big tall, dark man that sprouts wings from its back and has large glowing red eyes and it likes to chase people. The first sightings took place from November 12, 1966 to December 15, 1967. The Point Pleasant Register was the first newspaper to publish a report on the creature, titling the article "Couples see man-sized bird....creature...something." Their article was then picked up by the national press, and thus the story of the Mothman spread across the US.

Mothman really started to gain some popularity traction thanks to Gray Barker in 1970, and even more in 1975 by John Keel, who wrote a book titled The Mothman Prophecies. The book claimed that there were supernatural events related to the sightings and that there was a connection between it and the collapse of the Silver Bridge.

There is also a movie by the same name- The Mothman Prophecies- based on the book, starring Laura Linney and Richard Gere.

On November 12, 1966, five men were digging a grave in a cemetery near Clendenin, West Virginia. They claimed to have seen a man-like figure flying low over them from the trees overhead. Shortly after, on November 15th, 2 young couples from Point Pleasant- Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette told police that they saw a large gray creature with glowing red eyes in the headlights of the car. The creature was described as a "large flying Man with 10 ft. wings" and it followed their car to an area outside of town that was known as "the TNT area" because it was the site of an old WWII munitions plant.

Over the next few days, other people reported similar sightings. 2 volunteer firemen saw it and described the creature as a "large bird with red eyes". Since these sightings, people have seen this creature countless times in the US. Some think it's a harbinger of doom or cataclysmic events, others think it's an alien with connections to UFO's and the Men In Black, and of course, others think it's a hoax or product of mass hysteria.

Many locals believed at the time, that the Mothman lived in a vacant nuclear power plant on the outskirts of the town-- in the TNT area-- which was home to a top secret government facility where nuclear weapons were tested. People began to believe that this being was a harbinger of doom or of terrible events. Nothing cemented this in their minds quite like the Silver Bridge Incident.

The Silver Bridge Incident

In 1967, the sightings came to an abrupt halt. A terrible tragedy had occurred in Point Pleasant. The Silver Bridge collapsed on December 15, 1967. During the flood of holiday rush hour traffic, the bridge collapsed under the weight of travelers. 31 vehicles fell to the river below. 46 people were killed and 9 were injured in the tragedy and 2 of the bodies were never recovered.

While the whole incident would be attributed to a faulty eyebar suspension chain and poor bridge maintenance, the conspiracy theories ran wild. Enter John Keel and his book.

Keel believed that the accident was no coincidence. He believed that the Mothman sightings in Point Pleasant were premonitions of the impending bridge collapse. He would also go on to link the creature to UFO's and Men In Black. The sightings weren't unique just to West Virginia though. Alleged sightings have taken place all over the world. People believe it was seen at Chernobyl before the reactor disaster, before the planes struck on 9/11, before the H1N1 Swine flue outbreak in 2009, and before the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukashima, Japan. At least 55 people have reported sightings in Chicago between 2011 and 2017. (Nerdist 2020)

In order to capitalize on the fascination around this story, the Mothman Festival was born. The first festival was held in 2002. It all started because the local government started brainstorming the eternal question of "how do we get people to come to our town?" and of course, what better draw...than Mothman.

The festival averages 10-12k people annually. There is a 12 ft. tall metal statue of Mothman that is shown every year since 2003, created by sculptor and artist Bob Roach. There is also a Mothman Museum and Research Center that opened in 2005. The festival is every 3rd weekend in September and there are guest speakers, vendors, pancake eating contests, and hayrides through the local areas.

(Fun fact: in June 2020, a petition was started to replace all confederate statues in the US with Mothman. Within one month, there were over 2k signatures.)

Alternative Theories

Local scientists think that it is nothing more than a large heron. Dr. Robert Smith of West Virginia University believes that people saw a large Sandhill crane, which is a fairly large bird with a roughly 10 ft. wingspan and red eye markings. It isn't native to the area but they do sometimes make their way into the state. 28 of these were spotted in West Virginia from January 2017 to August 2019.

Others took this theory and ran with it some more and theorized that toxins from that TNT area had mutated a sandhill crane, thus accounting for the glowing appearance and huge size. Another bird theory? Owls. For having relatively small bodies, owls can have some big wingspans and their eyes will glow red when caught in the light. It could be entirely possible that a large owl spooked some people years ago and started the whole thing.

Historical Lore

The various descriptions of the Scree (Skree) of Culloden appear to be very similar to Mothman...

"On the eve of a battle that changed Scotland’s history, a bizarre incident was a horrifying omen of the slaughter to follow. On 15 April 1746 at Culloden Moor in the Highlands, a regiment of British soldiers under the command of the Duke of Cumberland were looking to suppress an uprising of Jacobite rebels attempting to overthrow the house of Hanover. the scots were championing their challenger, bonnie Prince Charlie.

At the Scottish camp that night the air was suddenly filled with spine-chilling screams, and the troops saw a monstrous, harpy-like apparition hovering overhead. It resembled a great bird with leathery bat-like wings, burning red eyes – and the head of man. Later dubbed the skree, the creature seems to have been more than just a pre-battle hallucination.

A reliable eyewitness was Lord George Murray, a general renowned for his level-headedness. The horrendous apparition eventually departed and was never seen again. The next day’s battle brought disaster for the Scots – with the skree had gone the hopes of the Young Pretender and the Stuart dynasty. The Skree's arrival was no doubt intended to be warning since the Jacobites were slaughtered in a bloody battle the next day, losing some 1500 men."

The next skree appearance took place during WWI, according to Karl Shker in his book "from flying toads to snakes with wings".

"It reputedly appeared in the sky above a 500 strong group of royal scots men and officers about to catch a train at Larbert railway station that would being their journey to the Flanders fields. Alarmed by such as ill omen, the men had to be forced at gunpoint by their officers to mount the train. the train crashed later that same day and caught fire, killing 227 passengers and injuring 246 more." (“Encounters with Flying Humanoids” 2010)

The Quintinshill Rail Disaster

At 6.49 am on Saturday 22 May 1915 a Liverpool-bound troop-train carrying half (498 all ranks) of the 7th (Leith) Battalion, The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) (7RS) collided head on with a local passenger train, which had been ‘parked’, facing north, on the south-bound main line at Quintinshill, just North of Gretna, to allow a following express to overtake it.

Normally the local train would have been held in one of the loops at Quintinshill but both of these were already occupied by goods trains. The troop train overturned, mostly onto the neighbouring north-bound mainline track and, a minute later, the Glasgow-bound express ploughed into the wreckage causing it to burst into flame. The ferocity of the fire, and consequent difficulty of rescuing those trapped in the overturned and mangled carriages, was compounded by the fact that most of the carriages were very old, made of wood and lit by gas contained in a tank beneath them.

Between the crash and the fire a total of 216 all ranks of 7RS and 12 others, mostly from the express but including the driver and fireman on the troop-train, died in, or as an immediate result of what was, and remains, Britain’s worst railway disaster.

Only 83 of the bodies were ever identified. the remaining 133 could not be identified, or were literally cremated in the firestorm of the wreckage. A board of inquiry was convened and found a series of failings that combined to result in this tragedy. the worst was the failure of 2 signalmen on duty in the Quintinshill box who failed to alert the troop train to the local passenger train waiting in it's path. both men were charged and appeared before the high court in Edinburgh on sept 24 1915 and were found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to periods of imprisonment, one of them with hard labor. (“Quintinshill Train Crash | The Royal Scots” 2019)

Harbinger of doom or just a really big weird bird, we don't know, but we're glad you joined us for the ride! If you want to hear some other stories, tune in here for our episode covering Mothman!


Anastasia & Loren

Wait To Panic Podcast

Wait To Panic is a true crime and paranormal podcast where two friends take turns telling stories that just might make your skin crawl. New episodes are released every Sunday at 2 PM.


Museum: https://www.mothmanmuseum.com/mothman-museum.html

Wikipedia Contributors. 2020. “Mothman.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. October 12, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothman.

“What Is the Mothman and Why Are We So Obsessed? - Nerdist.” 2020. Nerdist. 2020. https://nerdist.com/article/mothman-why-we-are-so-obsessed/.

Gerhard, Ken. “Skree.” Essay. In Encounters with Flying Humanoids: Mothman, Manbirds, Gargoyles & Other Winged Beasts, 220–21. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2013.

“Quintinshill Train Crash | The Royal Scots.” 2019. The Royal Scots. 2019. http://www.theroyalscots.co.uk/quintinshill-train-crash/.

“Mothman Statue.” 2013. Atlas Obscura. July 2013. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mothman-statue.