Field Guide Friday – Mothman
This is one of Ankhie’s favorite cryptids – as featured in many cable television spook shows and bad movies. What makes Mothman so compelling is the passionate conviction – and still tangible fear – of those who have encountered it. Well, that and the now famous tragedy that coincided with the first wave of Mothman sightings in West Virginia. Truly creepy.
Here’s what paranormal researcher and cryptozoologist Deena Budd has to say about Mothman (including her own strange experience) in The Weiser Field Guide to Cryptozoology:
Mothman of West Virginia
Before seeing the movie, The Mothman Prophecies, in 2002, I, like most Americans, had not even heard of the creature. After I saw the movie, I became curious and did some research. It is still difficult for me to determine whether the Mothman was benevolent or malevolent.
In the Ohio River Valley, near the Chief Cornstalk hunting grounds, a father and daughter were amazed to see a huge man with wings fly into the air in 1961. Then, a couple of weeks after Halloween, on November 12, 1966, five men working in a local cemetery near Clendenin, West Virginia, saw a “brown human being” take off, flying over their heads, from a cluster of trees.
On November 15, a man-sized beast with large mothlike wings and big glowing red eyes was reported in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, by the Scarberrys and the Mallettes. Driving by an abandoned World War II TNT factory near Point Pleasant, the two couples noticed “two red lights” in the darkness by the factory gate. When they stopped their vehicle, they saw the lights were “the glowing red eyes of a large animal, shaped like a man, but bigger, flesh-colored, with big wings folded against its back.” Mrs. Scarberry remarked that its eyes dominated the head, and if you looked closely at the eyes, they had a hypnotic effect.
Mrs. Scarberry went on to tell of the creature’s wing being caught and the creature attempting to free itself with its “really big” hands. She believed the creature was very scared. When it managed to free the wing, it ran into the abandoned building.
A few minutes later, when the Scarberrys and the Mallettes were driving down Route 62 on their way back to town to tell the authorities, the creature began chasing them. Flying above the ’57 Chevy at speedometer-burying speeds, making odd squeaking sounds, the Mothman pursued them all the way to the city limits, then flew off.
The next night, a posse combed the area, looking for the winged man. Two couples living near the TNT plant reported seeing the Mothman behind their parked car. It was in a recumbent position, then rose up from the ground. Large and gray, with glowing red eyes, it watched them through the windows from their porch as they called the police.
A week later, Mothman was witnessed flying over the region by four people. The next day after that, a witness reported seeing the creature standing in a field before “it spread its wings and flew alongside his car” until he reached the city limits.
One unusual sighting reported by Newell Partridge, a building contractor in Salem, West Virginia, included some odd details. He was watching television one night when the screen went dark. A “weird pattern filled the screen” and he heard “loud, whining sounds from outside.” Bandit, his canine companion, started barking and whining. When the contractor walked outside, Bandit was near the barn. When Partridge focused his flashlight in that direction, he saw “two red circles that looked like bicycle reflectors.” They were moving in the darkness and scared Partridge enough that he went back into the house and didn’t come out until morning. Bandit was gone and was never seen again.
During November and December 1966, and all through the following year, there were more than a hundred sightings of Mothman reported from West Virginia. The creature was always described as having a 10-foot wingspan, large glowing red eyes, and provoked an accompanying feeling of dread. One witness dropped her infant baby when confronted by the Mothman. Mary Hyre, a reporter for the Messenger, a newspaper based in Athens, Ohio, investigated the Mothman sightings. One weekend during the investigation, she received more than five hundred phone calls regarding “strange lights in the skies.” On a night in January 1967, Mary was working late, when an odd little man walked into her office. “He was very short and had strange eyes that were covered with thick glasses. He also had long, black hair, cut like a bowl haircut.” He had dark skin, looked “vaguely Oriental,” and was wearing a black suit and tie. The little man seemed to have some type of speech impediment; he asked about UFO sightings in the area. Ms. Hyre was very frightened of the man; “he kept getting closer and closer” to her and stared at her “almost hypnotically.”
At one point, he picked up a pen from her desk and didn’t seem to realize what the object was. Then, he “grabbed the pen, laughed loudly, and ran out of the office.”
Reports from witnesses in the area indicate that the little man made several visits to homes whose owners had reported odd lights in the sky. He claimed to be a news reporter, and everyone he visited said he made them feel very uneasy.
A few weeks after that, when Hyre was on a street near her office, she saw the same man. When he saw her watching him, he appeared to become distraught and jumped in a big black car that “suddenly came around the corner.”
An increase in UFO sightings and “funny red lights” in the sky was reported in the area during the time of the Mothman, leading many to believe the creature might be an alien.
Point Pleasant is located between two wildlife management areas, and the empty TNT plant has “miles of subterranean tunnels” running under the buildings. What a perfect place for the creature to make its home while in the area!
After the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River collapsed on December 15, 1967, killing forty-six people, because of a manufacturing flaw, the creature seems to have disappeared from the area. Many of the people who died had been principal Mothman witnesses, leading many to believe that the creature had been trying to warn of the danger. There are some who think it might have been responsible for the disaster.
Although documented sightings are not recorded after December 15, there were a few reports that officials seemed to “brush off ” because they were dealing with the bridge catastrophe.
In December 1966, investigator and reporter John Keel talked to many witnesses in the area and compiled information that included a number of poltergeist cases and other unexplained occurrences, such as cars stalling for no reason. Keel was certain all this activity was related to the Mothman sightings.
Mothman was reported in Texas shortly after his disappearance from the Point Pleasant area, and I believe I might have had an encounter with the creature in New Mexico in the early 1980s. I was planning to explore an abandoned house about a half-hour north of Socorro one night. As we walked onto the porch and started through the front door, I glanced up and saw two large red eyes hovering in midair above me. Not easily frightened, and always ready for a ghostly investigation, I inexplicably became terrified! We ran to the vehicle and left immediately!
Later that night, after my friend and I had parted, I was driving home alone. I still felt more terrified than I had ever felt in my life. Appropriately, John Fogerty’s song, “Bad Moon Rising,” began playing on the radio. I kept glancing in my rearview mirror, certain those red eyes were going to be looking back at me from my backseat. I arrived home safely. It was late, and I went right to bed. A little while later, I awakened to find my bed vibrating. That had never happened before, and I was still frightened from my earlier encounter. I looked around my room to see if anything else appeared to be vibrating, but my bed was the only piece of furniture moving in the room. I huddled against the headboard for an hour or so, too scared to reach over and turn on my bedside lamp, certain something was going to grab my arm. The bed continued to vibrate.
Suddenly, something tugged on my covers twice. Two very hard tugs. That did it! I jumped up so that I was standing on my bed. I reached over from the standing position and turned on the lamp, and then jumped off and away from the bed, running through the house, turning on lights as I ran. I found my Bible in my box of books and proceeded to read from it as I walked through the house. I interspersed words of warning with the Bible verses, telling whatever it was that this was my house and I wasn’t leaving. As I did this, I began to feel less frightened and much stronger. Eventually, my fear lessened enough that I returned to the vibrating bed. Putting my Bible under my pillow, leaving the lights on, I finally fell asleep! The bed was still vibrating. The next morning, when I awakened, the bed had stopped vibrating, and whatever was causing the vibration did not return.
When I think back, I can’t imagine how I was able to fall asleep. I honestly felt that I was stronger than whatever was causing this, and that it was important to show that I wasn’t afraid. Monsters seem to feed on our fear.