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Mothman, in West Virginian folklore, is a humanoid creature reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area from November 15, 1966, to December 15, 1967. The first newspaper report was published in the Point Pleasant Register, dated November 16, 1966, titled "Couples See Man-Sized Bird ... Creature ... Something".[1] The national press soon picked up the reports and helped spread the story across the United States. The source of the legend is believed to have originated from sightings of out-of-migration sandhill cranes or herons.[2][3]

An artistic impression of Mothman.

The creature was introduced to a wider audience by Gray Barker in 1970,[4][5] and was later popularized by John Keel in his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies,[6] claiming that there were paranormal events related to the sightings, and a connection to the collapse of the Silver Bridge. The book was later adapted into a 2002 film, starring Richard Gere.[7]

An annual festival in Point Pleasant is devoted to the Mothman legend.[8]


On November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant—Roger and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette—told police they had seen a large black creature whose eyes "glowed red", standing at the side of the road near "the TNT area", the site of a former World War II munitions plant.[9][10][11] Linda Scarberry described it as a 'slender, muscular man' about seven feet tall with white wings. However, she was unable to discern its face due to the hypnotic effect of its eyes.[12] Distressed, the witnesses sped away, reporting that the creature flew after their car, making a screeching sound. It pursued them as far as Point Pleasant city limits.[9]

Mothman statue located in Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Over the next few days, more people reported similar sightings after local newspapers covered it. Two volunteer firemen who saw it said it was a "large bird with red eyes". Mason County Sheriff George Johnson believed the sightings were due to an unusually large heron he termed a "shitepoke". Contractor Newell Partridge told Johnson that when he aimed a flashlight at a creature in a nearby field, its eyes glowed "like bicycle reflectors". Additionally, he blamed buzzing noises from his television set and the disappearance of his German Shepherd dog on the creature.[2] Wildlife biologist Robert L. Smith at West Virginia University told reporters that descriptions and sightings fit the sandhill crane, a large American crane almost as tall as a man with a seven-foot wingspan and reddish coloring around its eyes. The bird may have wandered out of its migration route, and therefore was unrecognized at first because it was not native to this region.[2][3]

Batman and his antagonist Killer Moth are varyingly cited as influences for the term "Mothman"

Due to the popularity of the Batman TV series at the time, the fictional superhero Batman and his rogues gallery were prominently featured in the public eye. While the villain Killer Moth did not appear in the show, the comic book influence of both him and Batman is believed by some to have influenced the coinage of the name "Mothman" in the local newspapers.[13][14]

Following the December 15, 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge and the death of 46 people,[15] the incident gave rise to the legend and connected the Mothman sightings to the bridge collapse.[2][16][17]

According to Georgian newspaper Svobodnaya Gruziya, Russian UFOlogists claim that Mothman sightings in Moscow foreshadowed the 1999 Russian apartment bombings.[18]

The Mothman Prophecies (2002) is a major motion picture, loosely based on the 1975 book of the same name by John Keel.

In 2016, WCHS-TV published a photo purported to be of Mothman taken by an anonymous man while driving on Route 2 in Mason County.[19] Science writer Sharon A. Hill proposed that the photo showed "a bird, perhaps an owl, carrying a frog or snake away" and wrote that "there is zero reason to suspect it is the Mothman as described in legend. There are too many far more reasonable explanations."[3][20]


Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand notes that Mothman has been widely covered in popular press, with some claiming sightings connected with UFOs, and others suggesting that a military storage site was Mothman's "home". Brunvand notes that the recountings of the 1966–67 Mothman reports usually state that at least 100 people saw Mothman with many more "afraid to report their sightings." However, he points out that these written sources for such stories consisted of children's books or sensationalized or undocumented accounts that fail to quote identifiable persons. Brunvand found elements in common among many Mothman reports and much older folk tales, suggesting that something real may have triggered the scares and became woven with existing folklore. He also records anecdotal tales of Mothman supposedly attacking the roofs of parked cars occupied by teenagers.[21]

Conversely, Joe Nickell says that a number of hoaxes followed the publicity generated by the original reports, such as a group of construction workers who tied flashlights to helium balloons. Nickell attributes the Mothman stories to sightings of barred owls, suggesting that the Mothman's "glowing eyes" were actually red-eye effect caused from the reflection of light from flashlights or other bright light sources.[20][10] Benjamin Radford points out that the only report of glowing "red eyes," was secondhand, that of Shirley Hensley quoting her father.[22] One of the prevailing hypotheses associated with the Mothman at the time of the original sightings was that it was a misidentified sandhill crane, due primarily to the size of the bird as well as the "reddish flesh" around the crane's eyes.[23] Daniel A. Reed examined the migration patterns and historically reported sightings of Sand Hill Cranes in the area of Point Pleasant, West Virginia and proposed that, in cases where eyeshine was not noted, it was statistically more likely that witnesses were seeing and misidentifying a Great Blue Heron instead.[24]

According to University of Chicago psychologist David A. Gallo, "55 sightings of Mothman in Chicago during 2017" published on the website of self-described Fortean researcher Lon Strickler are "a selective sample". Gallo explains that "he's not sampling random people and asking if they saw the Mothman – he's just counting the number of people that voluntarily came forward to report a sighting." According to Gallo, "people more likely to visit a paranormal-centric website like Strickler's might also be more inclined to believe in, and therefore witness the existence of, a 'Mothman'."[25]

Some pseudoscience adherents (such as ufologists, paranormal authors, and cryptozoologists) suggest the Mothman could be an alien, a supernatural manifestation, or a previously unknown species of animal. In his 1975 book, Keel claimed that Point Pleasant residents experienced precognitions including premonitions of the collapse of the Silver Bridge, UFO sightings, visits from inhuman or threatening men in black, and other phenomena.[26]

Festival and statues[edit]

Point Pleasant held its first Annual Mothman Festival in 2002. The Mothman Festival began after brainstorming creative ways to attract visitors to Point Pleasant. The group organizing the event chose the Mothman to be the center of the festival due to its uniqueness, and as a way to celebrate its local legacy in the town.[27]

According to the event organizer Jeff Wamsley, the average attendance for the Mothman Festival is an estimated 10–12 thousand people per year.[27] A 12-foot-tall metallic statue of the creature, created by artist and sculptor Bob Roach, was unveiled in 2003. The Mothman Museum and Research Center opened in 2005.[28][29][30] The festival is held on the third weekend of every September, hosting guest speakers, vendor exhibits, pancake-eating contests, and hayride tours of locally notable areas.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

Derived from Keel's story[edit]

Other appearances[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Couples See Man-Sized Bird...Creature...Something". Point Pleasant Register. Point Pleasant, WV: WestVA.Net, Mark Turner. November 16, 1966. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Associated Press (Dec 1, 1966). "Monster Bird With Red Eyes May Be Crane". Gettysburg Times. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Palma, Bethania (25 November 2016). "Mothman About Town". Snopes. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  4. ^ Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 33 (Pennsylvania State University, Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. 2009)
  5. ^ Gray Barker, The Silver Bridge (Saucerian Books, 1970). Reprinted in 2008 entitled The Silver Bridge: The Classic Mothman Tale (BookSurge Publishing). ISBN 1-4392-0427-6
  6. ^ Keel, John A. The Mothman Prophecies (2002). ISBN 0-7653-4197-2 (Originally published in 1975 by Saturday Review Press)
  7. ^ Meehan, Paul (2009). Cinema of the Psychic Realm: A Critical Survey, p. 130. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-3966-9
  8. ^ "Mothman Festival".
  9. ^ a b Coleman, Loren (1 December 2001). Mothman and Other Curious Encounters. Cosimo, Inc. ISBN 978-1-931044-34-9.
  10. ^ a b Nickell, Joe (2004). The Mystery Chronicles: More Real-Life X-Files. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 93–. ISBN 978-0-8131-2318-9. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  11. ^ "Munitions Risk Closes Part of Wildlife Area Again". Archived from the original on 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
  12. ^ Sergent, Donnie; Wamsley, Jeff (2002). Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend. Mothman Lives Pub. ISBN 978-0-9667246-7-7.
  13. ^ Cassandra Eason (2008). Fabulous Creatures, Mythical Monsters, and Animal Power Symbols: A Handbook. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-0-275-99425-9.
  14. ^ Richard Moreno (6 August 2013). Myths and Mysteries of Illinois: True Stories of the Unsolved and Unexplained. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-1-4930-0231-3.
  15. ^ LeRose, Chris. "The Collapse of the Silver Bridge". West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  16. ^ a b Associated Press (Jan 19, 2008). "Mothman' still a frighteningly big draw for tourists". Toronto Star. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  17. ^ "Eight People Say They Saw 'Creature'". Williamson Daily News. Williamson, WV. United Press International. Nov 18, 1966. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  18. ^ Lobkov, Denis (23 May 2002). Призраки катастроф. Zheltaya Gazeta via Svobodnaya Gruziya (in Russian). (English translation of the article.)
  19. ^ Pierson, Fallon (November 21, 2016). "Man photographs creature that resembles legendary Mothman" of Point Pleasant". WCHS-TV news. WCHS. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  20. ^ a b Elbein, Asher (26 October 2018). "Is the Mothman of West Virginia an Owl?". Archived from the original on 27 October 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  21. ^ Brunvand, Jan Harold (1994). The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 98–. ISBN 978-0-393-31208-9.
  22. ^ Radford, Benjamin (May–June 2020). "Investigating Mothman's Red Eyeshine". Skeptical Inquirer. 44: 29–31.
  23. ^ "Monster Bird with Red Eyes may Be Crane". The Gettysburg Times. December 1, 1966.
  24. ^ Reed, Daniel (July–August 2022). "The Mothman and the Crane: A Contemporary Perspective". Skeptical Inquirer. 46 (4): 52–56.
  25. ^ Terry, Josh (2018-01-17). "People Keep Seeing the Mothman in Chicago". Vice.
  26. ^ Clark, Jerome (2000). Extraordinary Encounters: An Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrials and Otherworldly Beings. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio, ISBN 1-57607-249-5, pp. 178–179.
  27. ^ a b "Mothman Festival returns Sept. 21–22". – The Point Pleasant Register. 2019-09-06. Archived from the original on 2021-12-05. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  28. ^ "Mothman Statue, Point Pleasant, West Virginia". Retrieved 2023-11-16.
  29. ^ Moran, Mark; Sceurman, Mark; Lake, Matt (2008). Weird U.S. The ODDyssey Continues – Your Travel Guide to America's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, p. 260. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 978-1-4027-4544-7
  30. ^ ""Legend of the Mothman" plaque on the base of the statue". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
  31. ^ "How Fallout 76 became a haven for Mothman, Jersey Devil, and other creepy cryptids". 2024-03-27. Retrieved 2024-04-02.

External links[edit]