The Mothman is a mysterious human-like creature with bat wings that terrorized West Virginia in the mid-1960s. Sightings and activity were at a peak from 1966 to 1967 but continue to be reported today.
Mothman activity has indirect vampiric associations. No blood-drinking attacks have been reported, but there was one incident in 1967 in which a UFO exhibited an intense interest in a Red Cross bloodmobile.
Sightings of Mothman began abruptly in mid-November 1966. On November 12, five men preparing a gravesite for a burial near Clendenin saw something that looked like a brown man with wings lift-off from the trees nearby. On November 14, glowing red eyes were reported in Salem, West Virginia. On the night of November 15, two married couples were driving late at night near Point Pleasant and reached on old abandoned TNT plant. They saw that the door to the plant seemed to have been ripped off its hinges. They saw a huge man-creature six to seven feet tall with hypnotic red eyes and wings folded on its back. Terrified, they sped off in their car. But the creature took flight and was able to keep up with them, even though they were travelling nearly 100 miles an hour. The creature suddenly broke off its pursuit and vanished.
With that, a rash of bizarre phenomena began, as well as numerous sightings of the creature, which was dubbed Mothman, after the cartoon character Batman.
According to some early sightings, Mothman did not seem to have a head, but had eyes set near the tops of its shoulders. Some witnesses recalled seeing a head, but one without features. Some said the wings were not feathered, while others said the wings had small patches of feathers. Mothman shuffled on human-like legs and made a strange, high-pitched squeaking noise. The entity could take off straight up into the air without moving its wings. It flew as though gliding, without flapping its wings.
The creature chased cars driving near the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds, the location of an abandoned World War II ammunition dump. Local wildlife authorities opined that people were seeing an owl or a sandhill crane, but witnesses insisted their descriptions were true.
Other mysterious phenomena included UFO activity, electrical and telephone disturbances, poltergeist phenomena, phantom dogs, other mysterious creatures, phantom people, and sinister “men in black,” who are dark, cadaverous, mechanical-like men who harass UFO contactees and threaten them to keep silent. Numerous dogs disappeared and wild animals were found mutilated—activity that was linked to Mothman, though no one ever caught the creature in the act.
The supernatural activity attracted the attention of John A. Keel, a leading authority on UFOs and anomalies.
Keel travelled to West Virginia to investigate. According to Keel, at least 100 persons had sightings of Mothman. In his book The Mothman Prophecies (1975), Keel gives his first-person report of a bizarre incident where a UFO chases down a Red Cross bloodmobile loaded with blood:
On the night of March 5 , a Red Cross Bloodmobile was travelling along Route 2, which runs parallel to the Ohio River. Beau Shertzer, twenty-one, and a young nurse had been out all day collecting human blood and now they were heading back to Huntington, West Virginia, with a van filled with fresh blood. The road was dark and cold and there was very little traffic. As they moved along a particularly deserted stretch, there was a flash in the woods on a nearby hill and a large white glow appeared. It rose slowly into the air and flew straight for their vehicle.
“My God! What is it?” the nurse cried.
“I’m not going to stick around to find out,” Shertzer answered, pushing his foot down on the gas. The object effortlessly swooped over the van and stayed with it. Shertzer rolled down his window and looked up. He was horrified to see some kind of arm or extension being lowered from the luminous thing cruising only a few feet above the Bloodmobile.
“It’s trying to get us!” the nurse yelled, watching another arm reach down her side. It looked as if the flying object was trying to wrap a pincers-like device around the vehicle. Shertzer poured on the horses but the object kept pace with them easily. Apparently they were saved by the sudden appearance of headlights from approaching traffic. As the other cars neared, the object retracted its arms and hastily flew off.
Both young people rushed to the police in a state of hysteria. The incident was mentioned briefly on a radio newscast that night but was not picked up by the newspapers.
In cases like this we have to ask: Did the UFO really intend to carry off the Bloodmobile? Or was it all a sham to “prove” the UFOs interest in blood. Later I tried to check to find out if any Bloodmobiles had actually vanished anywhere. The Red Cross thought I was a bit nuts.
But I often found myself seriously wondering if we only hear about the people who get away!
The sightings and bizarre phenomena continued into 1967, but began to wane toward the end of the year. On December 15, 1967, a tragedy took place: the 700-foot Silver Bridge that crossed the Ohio River at Point Pleasant collapsed around 5 P.M., sending dozens of vehicles into the river. Forty-six people were killed; two bodies were never recovered. In addition, strange lights were seen in the sky, and people reported encounters with mysterious men. People linked the bridge collapse to Mothman, though no direct evidence ever could be found.
Keel opined that Point Pleasant was a “window” area, a place for periods of time another reality can bleed through to ours, where it, manifests as supernatural phenomena. Explanations put forward by others are toxic chemical spills or chemical experiments by companies or the military; a 200-year-old Native American curse on the town of Point Pleasant; a mutant strain of the sandhill crane; a creature summoned by occult ritual.
The curse is attributed to a Shawnee warrior chief, Cornstalk, whose forces were defeated in 1774 in an ambush by Virginia militiamen. According to lore, as Cornstalk lay dying he cursed the area for 200 years. The description of Mothman is similar to other humanlike, bat-winged creatures reported elsewhere, such as the Coventry Street Vampire.
In 2001, Sony Pictures released The Mothman Prophecies, based on Keel’s book, starring Richard Gere as John Klein, based on Keel himself. An annual Mothman Festival was started in 2002 in Point Pleasant.
- Keel, John A. The Mothman Prophecies. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975.
- Taylor, Troy. “Mothman, the enigma of point pleasant.” Available online. URL: http://www.prairieghosts.com/moth.html. Downloaded on August 2, 2003.
- “The Mothman, the Legend of Point Pleasant, WV: History.” Available online. URL: http://www.mothmanlives.com/
mothmanhistory.html. Downloaded on April 23, 2004.
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 2005 by Visionary Living, Inc.
For a full year beginning in November 1966, more than a hundred people in the Ohio River Valley, most of them living in West Virginia, said they had sighted a winged, apparently armless man, roughly 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1m) tall, either flying in the air or standing on the ground with its wings folded. Many witnesses said that the being’s eyes were red and unusually large and frightening, that its wingspan was approximately 10 feet (3m), and that its wings did not flap while it was flying. Some reported that it made a squeaking sound, but others said it was completely silent. Based on witness descriptions the day after the first sighting, the media dubbed the creature “Mothman” for its resemblance to a villain that had recently appeared in an episode of a popular television show of the time, Batman.
One possible explanation for sightings of Mothman is that people with very active imaginations were constructing memories based on the Batman episode. However, this creature might have been what was seen as early as 1960 or 1961 by a woman who reported the sighting years later. Furthermore, the 1966 to 1967 sightings were by credible witnesses—including National Guardsmen, firemen, and pilots—who were often in groups when the sightings took place. For example, five men in a cemetery near Clendenin, West Virginia, saw a brown, flying, humanlike figure on November 12, 1966, and four women saw a similar figure on Route 33 in Ohio on December 7, 1966.
The first sightings to attract media attention occurred on the night of November 15, 1966; the first of these involved building contractor Newell Partridge. Partridge later reported that he was inside his home in Salem, West Virginia, when, at around 10:30 P.M., his television screen suddenly went dark and then started displaying strange lines, after which the television set began making equally strange noises. His dog then began howling on the porch, and when he went outside he saw the glowing eyes of a strange beast. Newell ran back inside, and he never saw his dog again. Perhaps not coincidentally, a few hours later two couples, driving together in a car, spotted the body of a dog by the side of a road, and shortly thereafter they saw a winged creature standing near an abandoned explosives plant near Point Pleasant, West Virginia (roughly 90 miles [145km] from Salem). As they sped away from the scene, they noticed that the dog carcass had disappeared.
The two panicked couples drove immediately to the sheriff’s office, and Deputy Millard Halstead, who knew and trusted all four of the witnesses, went to the explosives factory to look for the creature. He failed to find it, but he did note that his car radio began screeching and making strange noises as soon as he approached the scene. The next day Halstead’s boss, Sheriff George Johnson, held a press conference to address people’s concerns about the winged man, and local reporters shared the story with the world.
After hearing about Mothman, an investigator of anomalous phenomena, John A. Keel, went to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to interview witnesses beginning in December 1966. He chronicled all of the sightings and subsequently wrote about his investigation in various articles and books, most notably The Mothman Prophecies, published in 1975. Keel reported that around the time of the Mothman sightings, UFOs were often seen near the factory, both at night and during the day. In fact, by Keel’s calculations, more than a thousand UFO sightings occurred between the fall of 1966 and the end of 1967, with the largest number occurring in March and April 1967. In addition, Keel noted that some phenomena associated with UFO sightings were also associated with the Mothman sightings. Specifically, appliances, radios, and cars often suddenly and inexplicably stopped working in places where sightings had occurred or just before they occurred, and some people claimed to have suffered from eye troubles and/or skin irritations as a result of looking at Mothman.
Local authorities, however, ignored any suggestions that Mothman sightings were connected to UFO sightings, though because so many credible people witnessed the creature, they did not consider the Mothman sightings to be a hoax. Instead, unwilling to accept the idea that a flying man was terrorizing the Ohio River Valley, they suggested that the witnesses had actually seen some ordinary animal and mistaken it for a flying man. For example, a biologist from West Virginia University, Robert Smith, said that the creature was probably a sandhill crane, a large bird with long legs and red colouring in the eye area. Other experts suggested that the witnesses had seen some other type of bird, such as an owl, or some kind of bear. The witnesses themselves, however, insisted that they had seen no ordinary animal, and Keel dismissed all of these theories. Instead, he theorized that whatever phenomenon was responsible for the presence of UFOs in the area was also responsible for the appearance of Mothman.
Keel also made a connection between the Mothman sightings and a disaster that occurred in the area right after the sightings stopped. At 5:05 P.M. on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge, which went from Point Pleasant across the Ohio River to Gallipolis, Ohio, suddenly collapsed, sending forty-six cars into the water and killing over thirty people. That same night twelve UFOs were spotted flying above some woods outside of Point Pleasant. While Keel does not blame the UFOs for collapsing the bridge, he says that UFO sightings and reports of strange events, unusual forces, and mysterious creatures often go hand in hand, and he suspects that they are all part of one experience, whether this experience is a real one or an otherworldly one.
In any case, after the bridge collapse, the creature was never again seen in the Point Pleasant area, though similar beings have occasionally been reported elsewhere throughout the world. The timing of Mothman’s disappearance from West Virginia exactly a year after the sightings began has led some people to suggest that the creature is a harbinger of death. From this idea came the notion of the so-called Mothman death curse, whereby someone who sees the Mothman is destined to die within a year after sighting the creature. In fact, some people suspect that other mysterious creatures sighted in some places before a natural disaster, such as a bridge collapse, have been the Mothman in a different form.
- John A.Keel
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning