As with the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Chupacabra, you don’t need to have any real interest in strange creatures to know of Mothman. But, it does help! The controversy began on November 12, 1966. Although Mothman is so deeply tied to the city of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the first encounter – on November 12, 1966 – actually occurred in a graveyard near Clendenin, West Virginia, which is around 80 miles from Point Pleasant. The creature was described as being winged, brown in color, and humanoid. But, not all witnesses have identified the monster in such a fashion, which is the theme of this article.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia is a city of around four and a half thousand people. In 1774, the city became the site of a violent confrontation between the forces of Colonel Andrew Lewis and Native Americans from the Shawnee and Mingo groups, and overseen by Shawnee Chief Cornstalk. It was a bloody battle. Three nights after the bizarre affair at Clendenin, the roughly seven-foot-tall monster turned up at Point Pleasant, its large wings and red eyes prominent. The witnesses were Linda and Roger Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette. The specific place was the West Virginia Ordnance Works. Today, it’s called the McClintic Wildlife Management Area. It’s not surprising the friends hit the road at high speed and raced to tell the local cops of what had just gone down.
The beast was soon seen again. One of the witnesses was a man named Thomas Ury. At the time, he was driving along the city’s Route 62. Whereas some witnesses described Mothman taking to the skies in conventional fashion (in other words, by flapping its wings), others – including Ury – said that the monster just opened its wings and then rose vertically into the skies above and in a fashion very much like that of a helicopter. The wings apparently played no role at all in getting the creature off the ground. Whereas Ury said the creature was grey in color, the gravediggers at Clendenin were sure Mothman was brown in color.
Regular sightings continued all around Point Pleasant until practically the end of 1967. On December 15, the city’s Silver Bridge collapsed into the waters of the Ohio River, killing dozens of local people. It’s not surprising that many within Point Pleasant felt that Mothman had something to do with the terrible tragedy. Some saw Mothman as the cause of the disaster, while others suspected that Mothman was an entity that warned of – rather than caused – death and mayhem. People have claimed that sightings of Mothman came to a complete end after the collapse of the Silver Bridge. Not so. There were post-1967 reports. But, they were far less in number. On this latter point…
I have lectured at the annual Mothman Festival twice. On both occasions I have been on the receiving end of some very interesting stories. One such report came from a woman who saw what she believed to have been Mothman in 1988 – and on the fringes of the city. She, however, described to me something that very much resembled the legendary Thunderbird of Native American culture, a huge bird with brightly-colored feathers. Another told me of encountering, in 1971, what she was absolutely sure was nothing less than a living, flying pterodactyl – a creature that lived from the Triassic to the Cretaceous Period, and which spanned 228 to 66 million years ago. The location was extremely close to the encounter of the Scarberrys and the Mallettes in 1967.
So, what we have here is a creature that is described as variously having a grey color, a brown color, and bright, colored feathers. Some describe it as using its wings to take to the skies. Others said it bizarrely just opened its wings and rose into the sky with no effort at all. Some said it was humanoid in nature. Others said it was eagle-like or something akin to a pterodactyl. In light of all this weirdness, I’ll leave you with a controversial question to ponder upon: Is Mothman a shapeshifter?