One of the most fascinating cryptozoological (or more likely than not paranormal) cases of 20th century comes to us from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and involves a flying fiend known to terrified locals as the Mothman. This legendary being is said to be a large, headless humanoid, which some claim is an oracle of doom.
Scores of books, articles and documentaries have been made about the mysterious entity known as the Mothman and its 13 month reign of terror over Point Pleasant and the surrounding areas. In fact there have been so many eyewitness reports of bizarre events occurring during that time frame that it would be virtually impossible to chronicle them all in a single expose, but it is our goal here to present a general overview and offer the reader a chance to pursue more information on their own.
While the sighting from which this notorious monster garnered its initial burst of fame occurred in 1965 — when a woman who lived along the seemingly monster infested Ohio River (see the GREEN CLAWED BEAST and LOVELAND FROGMEN reported that her son had seen what he described as an “angel” outside their home — it is commonly agreed that the first modern encounter with this creature took place in early 1964.
The eyewitnesses in question were a father and daughter who were driving down Route 2, toward the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds in West Virginia. The duo claimed that a man-like figure stepped out onto the road in front of their car on the isolated stretch of road. As they approached the silhouetted form, the young woman hit the brakes, skidding to a halt.
What she and her father later testified that they saw illuminated in the headlight’s gaze was as dreadful as it was unbelievable. The creature was larger than a man, its skin a dull, pewter gray, but far and away its most fascinating feature was its head… or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Where its head should have been there was nothing but an empty space, yet nestled into the pectoral area of the creature’s torso were two, red eyes, maliciously searing in the darkness.
Suddenly, a pair of gigantic wings unfurled from the beast’s back, covering almost the entire span of the road. The young woman behind the wheel barely had time to stifle a scream before the Delphian enigma soared straight up, disappearing into the darkness above.
Thus begins the legend of one of the most celebrated (and controversial) Avian-Anomalies in the annals of Fortean science. Although similar creatures have been described throughout the world — the British OWLMAN and the CRIMEAN WAR MONSTROSITIES perhaps being the most notable – – the story of the American Mothman is far and away the most complex and celebrated of the bunch.
This odd story doesn’t pick up again until 1965, when new reports of enormous butterflies and a “brown man with moth-like wings” began to filter out of Point Pleasant. Young lovers were stalked in a secluded LOVER’S LANE known as the TNT Area, and a pair of couples even testified that the beast chased them back into the town, making ominously dives at their speeding vehicle all the way to the police station.
Over the course of the next year this small village — and over 100 of its inhabitants — was caught in a maelstrom of terror inspired by this bizarre being. Locals began to attribute numerous animal — and even a few human — deaths to the thing.
It wasn’t long before droves of Journalists, TV crews and curiosity seekers alike descended upon this once obscure nook of West Virginia, creating a media-frenzy which did nothing to help alleviate the tension already plaguing this once peaceful community.
While newspaper headlines made the critter a local legend, it would not be until famed author and paranormal investigator, John A. Keel, came to town and penned the now classic “The Mothman Prophecies,” that the creature’s status was elevated from a regional rumor into a full blown supernatural phenomenon.
In 2002 Richard Gere was cast in the role of a Keel-like journalist (John Klein) in The Mothman Prophecies movie that was adapted from the aforementioned tome. This condensed and much fictionalized account of Keel’s extraordinary experiences while in Point Pleasant during the Mothman flap introduced this weird incident to the theater going public as well as whole new generation of paranormal buffs.
The movie also exposed the tip of the iceberg when it came to some of the other weird events that surrounded the Mothman encounters, such as disembodied voices, alleged alien (or perhaps inter-dimesional contact) and, perhaps most disturbingly, run-ins with ostensibly OUT OF THIS WORLD entities popularly known as Grinning Men.
Other odd proceedings that the movie (perhaps wisely) chose to ignore were numerous UFO sightings, BIGFOOT face-offs, cattle mutilations, reported poltergeist activity and visits from malevolent, sharp featured Men in Black; who drove classic vehicles, were clad in terminally outdated fashions and plagued Mothman witnesses with continuous threats and stalking.
These reports have inextricably linked the evidently cryptozoological elements of the Point Pleasant phenomenon with both the fields of parapsychology and ufology, forcing numerous investigators to speculate that the creature which tormented this tiny town was not necessarily of earthly origin.
If the Mothman wasn’t a biological or even alien entity, then was it something more ethereal? Was it an insidiously intelligent being sent to warn, observe or (even more terrifyingly) cause a tragedy that cost no less than Forty-six souls their very lives in what has been put down as an appalling accident?
The entire uproar came to an abrupt — and chillingly tragic — conclusion on December 15, 1967, when the 700-foot long Silver Bridge, which spanned the Ohio River, collapsed during rush hour traffic and plunged 67 people into the frigid water. Forty-six of those who plummeted into the icy depths that bitter eve perished.
Is the Mothman to blame for this devastation or has a unique, winged humanoid been maligned beyond redemption by a series of awful coincidences?
Although we here at American Monsters choose to focus on what we believe to be genuine biological entities rather than possibly paranormal manifestations, it seems as though there can be little doubt that the Mothman and his eccentric comrades tread that fuzzy line between the unknown and the utterly unbelievable.
Rob Morphy is an artist / journalist / filmmaker / designer / crypto chronicler / pod host / cult movie lover and co-founder of American Monsters.