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

Sightings of the winged creature 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 being chased by a large creature with 10-foot wings whose eyes "glowed red" while driving near a former military munitions site outside town.

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

The sightings came to an abrupt halt in December 1967, however, after a horrific tragedy in Point Pleasant. The Silver Bridge—which carried U.S. Route 35 over the Ohio River—collapsed on under the weight of heavy rush hour traffic, killing 46 people.


The fact that the collapse was later attributed to a faulty suspension chain didn't stop the conspiracy theories. 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 actually 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.

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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 that it was a large owl that wasn't native to the area.

Though Mothman sightings have decreasing 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 in recent years, leading some to believe that he's relocated to the Windy City. Or, perhaps, there is more than one Mothman in our midst.

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