In 2002, Richard Gere starred in a horror film about a West Virginia town that experienced a strange number of supernatural sightings leading up to the collapsing of a local bridge, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. The film was based on disturbing real, otherworldly occurrences that took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia from 1966-1967. Still to this day, the numerous strange events and sightings of giant moth-like visitors go unexplained. Here is the actual story that influenced the film and legend.
On December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge, a suspension bridge connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed killing 46 people. Spanning the Ohio River, this eyebar-chain bridge, built in 1928, met its fate during rush hour as people were returning home from work and families were going into town to begin their Christmas shopping. What caused this well-traveled bridge to collapse wasn’t a mystery; a defect in one of the eye-bar links caused a crack to form which led to the catastrophe. The real mystery was the appearance of a strange visitor sighted several times by the citizens of Point Pleasant during the months leading up to the tragedy. This strange visitor was known as the Mothman.
The Mothman first made it into the news on November 16th, 1966 when the Point Pleasant Register reported “Couples See Man-Sized Bird…Creature…Something”. Point Pleasant residents Steve and Mary Mallette along with Roger and Linda Scarberry were driving near the McClintie Wildlife Reserve on West Virginia Route 62 when they crested a hill and came face-to-face with a creature they claimed was seven feet tall with large red eyes and a 10-foot wingspan. Swerving around the creature they attempted to drive away. However, seconds later, they found the Mothman was back in front of their car.
More frightened than ever, the two married couples headed back for town, traveling at almost 100 miles per hour. All the while, the creature cruised along the ground right behind them and, in some instances, swiftly soaring fifty feet above their car. As the car turned on a farm road, the creature once again managed to block their path. This time it laid in the road like a lump resembling a dead dog, as though it were waiting for someone to step out of the car and investigate. Not wanting to fall for what may have been a trap, they backed up and made their way back to town. Later that night, they returned to the farm road, this time with the Deputy Sheriff. The lump in the road was gone, but they did find “a strange pile of dust” in its place.
Yet, this wasn’t the first time someone had actually seen this strange being. On November 12, 1966, gravediggers working in Clendenin, West Virginia claimed to have seen the half-man half-moth creature flying through the trees just above their heads. In the coming months, reports of Mothman sightings flooded local papers. Many citizens reported hearing noises outside; when they went to investigate they found the creature’s red eyes glowing in their flashlights. Some residents even blamed the creature for their missing pets. One farmer told the Point Pleasant Register that his German shepherd went missing just after some giant beast with red eyes was seen on his property.
Wildlife experts believed a sandhill crane to be the most likely culprit. However, it doesn’t explain how the bird acquired a taste for dog meat, or why the sightings of the mysterious Mothman stopped right after the bridge collapse. This led many people to believe that the Mothman may have been there to warn the citizens of Point Pleasant. John Keel who wrote the book THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES in 1975 claims residents were experiencing precognitions and premonitions that the Silver Bridge was going to collapse. Some cryptozoology theorists even claim that the Mothman has been sighted before many more large scale tragedies around the globe, even 9-11.
To this day, the Mothman remains an unsolved mystery, but a mystery the citizens of Point Pleasant still celebrate once a year, in September, during the Mothman Festival. They’ve even erected a statue in the middle of town right outside the Mothman Museum, making Point Pleasant a great stop on your next road trip.
And be sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of this strange, yet real tale!