The Terrifying Tale of West Virginia's Legendary Specter: The Mothman

Sightings of the Mothman are said to leave witnesses with a deep sense of dread.

POINT PLEASANT, WV- JUNE 07: "The Legend of the Mothman" statue
Photo: The Washington Post / Getty Images

In November 1966, gravediggers working in a cemetery in Clendenin, West Virginia, spotted a strange, man-like figure in the trees above their heads.

A few days later, two young couples from Point Pleasant reported a large creature with 10-foot wings whose eyes "glowed red" chased them while driving near a former military munitions site outside town.

Sightings of what area newspapers dubbed the "Mothman" continued throughout the following year, often leaving witnesses with a deep sense of dread. Many locals believed the Mothman lived in a vacant nuclear power plant outside Point Pleasant, perhaps an escaped product of some secret government experiment.

However, the sightings abruptly stopped in December 1967 after a horrific tragedy in Point Pleasant. The Silver Bridge—which carried U.S. Route 35 over the Ohio River—collapsed under the weight of heavy rush hour traffic, killing 46 people. Was it just a coincidence?

Later attributed to a fault suspension chain, the collapse didn't stop the conspiracy theories from spreading. In 1975, writer John Keel wrote a book titled The Mothman Prophecies, linking the bridge collapse with the Mothman sightings. In it, Keel suggested that the sightings were bad omens about the impending bridge collapse.

In 2002 the book was turned into a movie starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney, and the spooky West Virginia legend exploded onto the national stage.

The small town of Point Pleasant fully embraced its most famous resident, welcoming the annual Mothman Festival in 2002, installing a 12-foot metallic statute of the creature in 2003, and opening the Mothman Museum and Research Center in 2005.

WATCH: "The Gray Man," South Carolina Ghost Said to Warn Locals Before Hurricanes, Appears Ahead of Florence

There is no way to truly determine what exactly haunted the skies of Point Pleasant in the mid-1960s. Some credit the sightings to the migration of Sandhill Cranes, while others believe it was a large owl that wasn't native to the area.

Though Mothman sightings have decreased significantly since the 1960s, photos of a Mothman-like creature taken by a man driving through Point Pleasant made headlines in 2016. The Mothman has also been spotted in Chicago, leading some to believe he relocated to the Windy City. Or, perhaps, there is more than one Mothman in our midst.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles