Couples see Man-Sized Bird…Creature…Something
This was the front-page headline readers of the Point Pleasant Register woke up to on November 16, 1966. Over the course of the following year, many residents of the greater Ohio River Valley reported seeing this same ominous creature, said to have glowing red eyes, a sculpted, helmet-like cranium, and the tattered wings of a giant moth. Other news outlets picked up on the story and the legend grew.What was messing with the television reception and causing dogs to disappear in and around Point Pleasant? Was it a large sandhill crane–a bird described as the size of a grown man with red eyes–out of its migration pattern? Or possibly an otherworldly moth-like creature? During that year, over a hundred reports were logged and paranoia ran rampant in the small town.
On December 15, 1967 the Silver Bridge that connected Point Pleasant, WV to Gallipolis, OH, collapsed during rush hour traffic. A single eye-bar in a suspension chain failed and the Silver Bridge fell into the Ohio River, killing 46 people that evening. Two of the bodies have never been found. After the tragedy, for the most part, the Mothman seemed to disappear from the area. But there have been reported sightings in other parts of the world. In 1975, John A. Keel wrote the book The Mothman Prophecies which later spawned the 2002 movie of the same name starring Laura Linney and Richard Gere.
The book has led many to believe the Mothman was a prophet of doom, a figure arriving in Point Pleasant to warn residents that harm was to come their way. Fifty-two years later, the Mothman is a cottage industry, but now he is a harbinger of cotton candy and curly fries. Every September for the last 18 years, the town has hosted a festival to honor this spooky doom-predicting winged creature. Even though the event is light-hearted, after speaking to a few residents, I get the feeling they do not find humor in the myth.
One local antique shop owner described to us the feeling of isolation that was felt in the town after the bridge collapsed. You were stuck here until they finally borrowed a ferry boat from a neighboring town, he said. For better or worse, they seem to believe their fellow townspeople saw something that petrified them. However, if they did not take this marketing opportunity someone else surely would. Thus, the Mothman Museum and festival were born.At the festival, you’ll find no shortage of t-shirts, mugs, stickers, badges, taxidermized gewgaws, and sweet treats. There are also local enthusiasts costumed as superheroes, Ghostbusters, and Star Wars characters. One can mingle with an elected court of royals, musicians, and expert speakers in all things paranormal. You want to know more about Sasquatch and eat your weight in ice cream? Come to Point Pleasant and enjoy the sites. Point Pleasant is a throwback to a different time with its functioning Main Street, a Piggly Wiggly grocery store and an old timey hotel, the Lowe, which is said to be haunted (of course). If you’re staying, ask for room 314, “the Pi Room,” a local shop owner advised. The town also offers the opportunity to take in the history of the region at nearby Tu-Endie-Wei State Park. The location is integral to the tragic story of Shawnee Leader Chief Cornstalk, as the place where he was both defeated in battle in 1774, murdered in 1777, and interred for at least the third time in 1954. I have to say that while I wish I were a Mulder, I am a Scully. I did not see anything that would make me believe that the Mothman was real, however, I do believe that the people who reported seeing the creature believed. If possible, the residents of Point Pleasant have managed to find a silver lining in such a sad event. Overall, I thought it was a perfect weekend road trip and I recommend the festival to anyone who wants a touch of the weird in their street fair.
Getting there: Point Pleasant is around three-and-a-half hours drive from metro Pittsburgh, so yes–it’s debatable whether this counts as “in orbit.” The Mothman Festival is held annually on the third weekend of September.