This past weekend, me and good friends, Lyle Blackburn and Ken Gerhard (both well known cryptozoologists) headed off to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, for the annual Mothman Festival. Well, I say that, but for the last three years the gig was shut down and the thousands of people were no more. We all know why. But, the festival was finally back last weekend. And the three of us were up for it. We were ready for a journey from Texas to Point Pleasant of approximately 1,000 miles. And, every year we do that mammoth journey back, too. As for the event, it's filled with fun, laughs, intrigue, mystery and more. And, of course, there's something else, too: thousands of people all enthused by the entertainment. But, before we get to the matter of the gig itself, l'll share with you a summary of the history of the Mothman enigma. There can be few people reading this who have not at least heard of the legendary Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, who so terrorized the town and the surrounding area between November 1966 and December 1967, and whose diabolical exploits were chronicled in the 2002 Hollywood movie starring Richard Gere: The Mothman Prophecies, so named after the book of the same title written by Mothman authority John Keel.
A devil-like, winged monster with glowing, red eyes, Mothman’s appearance came quite literally out of nowhere and, some say, culminated in high tragedy and death. But what was the Mothman of Point Pleasant? And how did the legend begin? To answer those questions we have to go back to the dark night of November 12, 1966, when five grave-diggers working in a cemetery in the nearby town of Clendenin were shocked to see what they described as a “brown human shape with wings” rise out of the thick, surrounding trees and soar off into the distance. Three days later, the unearthly beast surfaced once again. It was at the highly appropriate time of the witching-hour when Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette – two young, married couples from Point Pleasant - were passing the time away by cruising around town in the Scarberrys’ car. As they drove around the old factory, the four were puzzled to see in the shadows what looked like two red lights pointing in their direction. These were no normal lights, however. Rather, all four were shocked and horrified to discover that, in reality, the “lights” were the glowing, self-illuminating red eyes of a huge animal that, as Roger Scarberry would later recall, was “…shaped like a Mothman, but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big wings folded against its back.”
Not surprisingly, they fled the area at high speed. Unfortunately for the Scarberry’s and the Mallette’s, however, the beast seemingly decided to follow them: as they sped off for the safety of Point Pleasant, the winged monster took to the skies and shadowed their vehicle’s every movement until it reached the city limits. The four raced to the sheriff’s office and told their astounding story to Deputy Millard Halstead, who later stated that: “I’ve known these kids all their lives. They’d never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took them seriously.” And even though a search of the area by Halstead did not result in an answer to the mystery, the Mothman would soon return. Early on the morning of November 25, yet another remarkable encounter with the mysterious beast took place, as John Keel noted: “Thomas Ury was driving along Route 62 just north of the TNT area when he noticed a tall, grey manlike figure standing in a field by the road. ‘Suddenly it spread a pair of wings,’ Ury said, ‘and took off straight up, like a helicopter. It veered over my convertible and began going in circles three telephone poles high.’”
Keel reported that Ury quickly hit the accelerator. Nevertheless, Ury added: “It kept flying right over my car even though I was doing about seventy-five.” Over the next few days more sightings surfaced, including that of Ruth Foster of nearby Charleston – who saw the winged monster late at night in her garden, and who said: “It was tall with big red eyes that popped out of its face. My husband is six feet one and this bird looked about the same height or a little shorter, maybe.” Needless to say, the local media had a field day with the story. Tales of what were referred to as the “Bird-Monster” hit the headlines; while both the skeptics and the police ensured that their views and opinions on the matter were widely known. Dr. Robert L. Smith, Associate Professor of Wildlife Biology in the West Virginia University’s Division of Forestry, expressed his firm opinion that Mothman was nothing stranger than a large sandhill crane. This hardly satisfied the witnesses, however. In response to Dr. Smith’s assertion, Thomas Ury said: “I’ve seen big birds, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
As for the local police, they offered stern warnings to any and all would-be monster hunters contemplating seeking out the mysterious creature, as the Herald Dispatch newspaper noted: “Sheriff [George] Johnson said he would arrest anybody caught with a loaded gun in the area after dark [and] warned that the scores of persons searching the abandoned powerhouse in the TNT area after dark risked possible serious injury.” In the weeks and months that followed, further encounters with the bizarre beast were reported; however, they were overshadowed by a tragic event that occurred on December 15, 1967. It was on that day that Point Pleasant’s Silver Bridge (so named after its aluminum paint) that spanned the Ohio River and connected Point Pleasant to Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed into the river, tragically claiming forty-six lives. Interestingly, after the disaster at the Silver Bridge, encounters with the Mothman largely came to a grinding halt. And while a down-to-earth explanation most certainly circulated – namely, that a fatal flaw in a single eye-bar in a suspension chain was the chief culprit – many saw, and still continue to see to this very day, the cause as being directly linked with the ominous and brooding presence of the accursed Mothman.
Now, with that all said, let's get back to the matter of the Mothman Festival. It was on last Friday night that we hit the road for a good time and to see the latest news on the matter of Mothman. As I mentioned, the journey is a huge one (each way) but we love it. And there's a great time on the way and back. By the time we got into town, people were already enthusiastic: vendor tables were already in place, cool, color posters of the legendary monster were there for just about everyone. Buttons, great artwork and more. The three of us set up our own tables and it wasn't long before I was given a few stories of Mothman sightings from the early 1970s. That's right: some new, intriguing information of giant birds flying over the Ohio River late one night. The local media arrived, and there were more than a few lectures for just about everyone. Indeed, there was a great list of lecturers. There was Mark Muncy on "Holler Monsters;" And, Zach Bales on "Where Legends Run Deep;" and me on Mothman-type creatures in the U.K. Lyle addressed the matter of "Top 10 Cryptids;" Ken focused on "Flying Monsters;" Joe Perdue and Ron Lanham were on the "UFO connection;" Anthony & Deena Holmes on "Amityville Horror;" and, finally, there was Bill & Jack Kousoulas on "Bridging the Tragedy."
There were a number of excellent film screenings: The Mothman Legacy, Bloodlines: The Jersey Devil Curse; Return of the Mothman; and Mothman. We're not finished though: there were bands playing, competitions, hay-rides around the area - and, of course, anyone and everyone could have their photo taken with Mothman - well, not quite the real deal. It was close enough though. For me, the highlight of the weekend was The Mothman Legacy, an excellent Blu-Ray documentary that presented fascinating information - much never seen before - and for one and all. And, of course, there was an absoloute mountain of great food, a lot of it smothered in melted cheese. Just the way I like it! There is something else, also: that the Mothman Festival brings people together, the chance for great fun and adventure, and for the kids to run around and play - and all due to the fiery-eyed monster of Point Pleasant. But, we're still not done. The weekend was a long one - just how we all liked it.
Of course, there is no denying there is still a sense of menace in the area that occasionally surfaces - something that you cannot really miss. And, particularly after the sun has set and the sky has gone dark. After all, the terrible collapse of Point Pleasant's Silver Bridge - just before Christmas 1967 - and that led to the many drownings, will never be forgotten. And, there is no way that the Mothman will ever go away - of course. There is, however, another issue, too. Namely, that the legend of the Mothman - and the festival, too - has led other people, from Point Pleasant, to come forward with their stories. For example: the West Virginia city of Point Pleasant is inextricably linked to the legend of the red-eyed Mothman, that flying fiend which terrorized the people of Point Pleasant from late 1966 to December 1967. In 2012, though, it was black eyes – rather than red eyes – which caused so much terror for one woman, who we’ll call “Marie.” Although Marie’s BEC encounter occurred in 2012, she did not speak about it until two years later. She was in her mid-twenties when she had an encounter she was destined to never, ever forget. There is no doubt that the fear in Marie’s face was as clear as it was obvious when she related the facts to me at the 2014 Mothman Festival - which is held in Point Pleasant every September, and which attracts people in their thousands.
Marie worked irregular hours in her job. As a result, on a Saturday night, shortly after 11:00 p.m., she was stretched out on her couch, in front of the TV, after a ten-hour-long stint at work. She had got herself a pizza and a couple of cans of beer. All was good. For a while. Marie practically flew off the couch with fear as there was a loud knock on the front door of her second-floor apartment. She thought: who the hell could that be at this time of night? It was a very good question. Marie carefully crept silently to the door and looked through the spy-hole, her breathing already slightly labored. There were two boys, staring back at her, and both wearing black hoodies. She asked if they were okay. No reply. That wasn’t a good sign: Marie put the chain on the door and then opened it the couple of inches that the chain would allow. Two things immediately struck Marie – and filled her with fear: their skin was as white as a sheet of paper. One of them, in a monotone and blank fashion, demanded “food.” Perhaps energy, like a parasitic creature.
Not surprisingly, Marie slammed the door, and ran to the furthest wall in the living room. Her mind was in a whirlwind of confusion and fear. After a few minutes, she again crept to the door and looked through the spyhole: the boys were still there. Most disturbing of all, the pair clearly reacted when Marie looked at them – even though she had done so in complete silence. Then, something even more terrifying happened: the pair of “children,” suddenly shimmered – like a “heatwave,” said Marie – and transformed into a pair of bipedal, lizard-like monsters. In seconds, they were swallowed up by a sudden, black nothingness outside the door and were gone. It’s hardly surprising that when she was satisfied that all was okay, Marie fled her apartment and went to stay with her mother for the next three days, who lived in nearby Ohio. It has to be said that this story would not have been revealed were it not for the Mothman Festival.
And, now, we almost come to the end: namely, that 2,000 miles round-trip journey back to Dallas! But, I have no problems or issues. All I can say is that the yearly Mothman Festival is great. Check it out and have some good fun there!