Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Myths And Legends: Mothman


Mothman is a legendary creature first reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Usa.

On Nov. 12, 1966, five men who were digging a grave at a cemetery near Clendenin, WV claimed to see a man-like figure fly low from the trees over their heads, one of the witnesses, Kenneth Duncan, said that they watched the creature for almost a minute. This is often attributed as the first known sighting of what would become known as the Mothman. Others claim the first sighting came earlier 1960's. A woman was driving along Route 2, near the Ohio River, with her father. As she neared the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds, a large man-shaped figure walked out onto the road. As the woman slowed her car, the figure spread two large wings and took off. Ironically, the witness did not report the incident stating "Who would believe us, anyway?".

Another earlier sighting was in 1965, a woman living near the Ohio River related how her son had told her one day of seeing "an angel" outside. She thought nothing more of it until about a year later. In the summer of 1966, a doctor's wife in the same general area said that she had seen a six-foot long thing resembling a "giant butterfly". On the 14th November, Salem resident Newell Partridge saw two red objects hovering above a field. His German Shepherd, Bandit, took off into the field and was never seen by Partridge again.


Shortly thereafter on November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant, Roger and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette, along with their young cousin, Lonnie Button, were travelling late at night in the Scarberrys’ car. They were passing the West Virginia Ordnance Works, an abandoned World War II TNT factory, about seven miles north of Point Pleasant, in the 2,500 acre McClintic Wildlife Management Area, when they noticed two red lights in the shadows by an old generator plant near the factory gate. They stopped the car, and reportedly discovered that the lights were the glowing red eyes of a large animal, “shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big win gs folded against its back,” according to Roger Scarberry. Terrified, they drove toward Route 62, where the creature supposedly chased them at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. "It was shaped like a man, but bigger," said Mr. Scarberry. "Maybe six and a half or seven feet tall. And it had big wings folded against its back."

Mr. Scarberry, who was driving, took off in his car at "better than a hundred miles per hour," the figure spread its wings and flew after the car. It didn't seem to flap its wings at all, and its wingspan was over ten feet. Mrs. Mallette said that it made a squeaking sound, "like a big mouse." The four also noted that a dead dog had been lying by the side of the road, but was gone when they returned. They went to the offices of the Mason County sheriff and reported their sighting. Deputy Millard Halstead returned to the TNT Area with the four, and said that as he passed the spot where they had initially seen the figure, his police radio made a sound similar to a speeded-up record.


During the next few days, other people reported similar sightings. Two volunteer firemen who sighted it said it was a "large bird with red eyes". Mason County Sheriff George Johnson commented that he believed the sightings were due to an unusually large heron he termed a "shitepoke". Contractor Newell Partridge told Johnson that when he aimed a flash-light at a creature in a nearby field its eyes glowed "like bicycle reflectors", and blamed buzzing noises from his television set and the disappearance of his German Shepherd dog on the creature. Wildlife biologist Dr. Robert L. Smith at West Virginia University told reporters that descriptions and sightings all fit the Sandhill Crane, a large American crane almost as high as a man with a seven foot wingspan featuring circles of reddish colouring around the eyes, and that the bird may have wandered out of its migration route.

The TNT Area, which seemed to be a sort of home for the "Mothman," as it was quickly dubbed by the press, is a large tract of land. Small concrete "igloos" dot the landscape, used during World War II to store ammunition. The TNT Area is adjacent to the 2,500 acre McClintic Wildlife Station. The entire area is covered with dense forest, steep hills, and riddled with tunnels. The area is also sparsely populated. One of the families living in the area is that of Ralph Thomas. On the 16th November, at about 9:00 pm, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley, Mrs. Marcella Bennett, and Mrs. Bennett's daughter, Tina, were visiting the Thomas'. On the way there, they watched a red light which circled the TNT Area. When the car pulled up in front of the Thomas', it disturbed something. "It seemed as if it had been lying down. It rose up slowly from the ground. A big grey thing. Bigger than a man, with terrible glowing red eyes."


The witnesses ran to the Thomas home, where they were let in by the three children. The figure shuffled along behind them, coming onto the porch and looking through the window. Mr. Wamsley called the police, but the thing had, of course, vanished by the time they arrived. Mrs. Bennett, who lives at the edge of Point Pleasant, says she has heard the creature on other occasions. She describes the sound it makes as "like a woman screaming." Paul Yoder and Ben Enochs, two firemen, said they had seen Mothman in the TNT Area on the 18th. Richard West, of Charleston, called the police on November 21. A winged figure was sitting on the roof of his neighbor's house, he said. The six-foot tall figure had a wingspan of six or eight feet and red eyes. It took off straight up, "like a helicopter."

Tom Ury was driving along Route 62, near the TNT Area, on the morning of November 25th. He saw a large, grayish figure standing in a field. Then it spread two large wings, lifted straight into the air, and flew over Ury's car at an altitude "three telephone poles high" probably about 50 or 60 feet. The next day, Mrs. Ruth Foster of St. Albans said the creature was standing in her yard near her porch. Her description tallies with West's. The same day, people in Lowell, Ohio, saw several large birds flying over Cat's Creek. The three witnesses followed the birds in their car and said that they were "dark brown with some light flecks. Their breasts were grey and they had five or six-inch bills, straight, not curved like those of hawks or vultures." The birds seemed to have reddish heads.


Still more sightings came. On November 27th, on the way home from church, Connie Carpenter saw a greyish figure standing on the golf course near Mason. The creature took off and flew straight towards her car. She was one of few who actually saw the creature's face, although her description, "It was horrible", doesn't help much. Another sighting took place that same night in St. Albans, where two girls saw the creature near a junk-yard. The creature flew after them. On December 4th, five pilots at the Gallipolis, Ohio, airport saw some sort of giant bird flying at about 70 miles per hour. Its wings weren't moving, and unlike other witnesses they commented on a long neck.

Mabel McDaniel (coincidentally, mother of Linda Scarberry, one of the first witnesses) saw Mothman on January 11, 1967. Mrs. McDaniel said that at first the creature looked like "an aeroplane, then I realized it was flying much too low. It was brown and had a wingspread of at least ten feet." In March, an Ohio man claimed his car was chased by a flying creature.


The last sighting seems to have come on November 2nd, shortly after noon. Mrs. Ralph Thomas (from Bennett's sighting) heard a "squeaky fan belt" outside her home and saw a "tall grey figure" moving among the concrete domes in the TNT Area.  Scattered sightings continued for several years afterwards. In 1968, especially, a number of hairy humanoids with glowing eyes were seen on Jerrico Road. And on September 18, people in the TNT Area supposedly saw Mothman once more, putting in his last appearance, it seems. In late 1966, when the Mothman reports started to die down, other phenomena started up in the area. Several UFOs were seen near Point Pleasant, animals were mutilated in surrounding areas, and Mothman witnesses reported poltergeist and "men in black" phenomena. This has led many a researcher to speculate on a connection between Mothman and UFOs.

But no discussion of the Mothman phenomenon would be complete without recounting the story of the Silver Bridge. On the evening of December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge, which crossed the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, collapsed in rush-hour traffic. Over forty-six cars fell into the river. It was the biggest disaster ever to hit Point Pleasant. Of course, it was only a matter of time before people began to connect this disaster with the Mothman sightings. Was Mothman some sort of warning sign of the impending disaster? Was the entire saga somehow connected with the UFOs seen in the area?


New Haven farmer Ernest Adkins reported something very odd in April of 1969. He found his eleven-week-old beagle lying dead in his front yard. "There was no evidence the dog died in a fight," Adkins said. What made it strange was the fact that the dog's chest was chewed open, and its heart was lying outside. Not surprisingly, most scientists scoffed at this theory. They said it was probably just some normal kind of bird; the favoured culprit was a sandhill crane. These large birds have reddish patches on their heads (accounting for Mothman's "red eyes") and a large specimen would reach roughly the size attributed to Mothman. But other birds were found in the area that could account for the sightings. In July of 1967, several boys found a large vulture near New Haven. And at Gallipolis Ferry, a farmer shot a rare bird , an Arctic snow owl. The owl was two feet tall and had a five-foot wingspan. 

Ufologist Jerome Clark writes that many years after the initial events, members of the Ohio UFO Investigators League re-interviewed several people who claimed to have seen Mothman, all of whom insisted their stories were accurate. Linda Scarberry claimed that she and her husband had seen Mothman "hundreds of times, sometimes at close range", commenting, "It seems like it doesn’t want to hurt you. It just wants to communicate with you. " Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman claims that sightings of Mothman continue, and told USA Today he re-interviewed witnesses who said Mothman was "a huge creature about 7 feet tall with huge wings and red eyes" and that "they could see the creature flapping right behind them" as they fled from it. 



Some ufologists, paranormal authors, and cryptozoologists believe that Mothman was an alien, a supernatural manifestation, or an unknown cryptid. In his 1975 book "The Mothman Prophecies", author John Keel claimed that the Point Pleasant residents experienced precognitions including premonitions of the collapse of the Silver Bridge, unidentified flying object sightings, visits from mysterious or threatening men in black, and other bizarre phenomena. However, Keel has been criticized for distorting established data, and for gullibility. Skeptic Joe Nickell says that a number of hoaxes followed the publicity generated by the original reports, such as a group of construction workers who tied red flash-lights to helium balloons. Nickell attributes the Mothman reports to pranks, misidentified planes, and sightings of a barred owl, an albino owl, suggesting that the Mothman's "glowing eyes" were actually red-eye effect caused from the reflection of light from flas-hlights or other bright light sources. The area lies outside the snowy owl's usual range and locals, unfamiliar with such a large owl, could have misidentified the bird.

Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand notes that Mothman has been widely covered in the popular press, some claiming sightings connected with UFOs, and others claiming that a military storage site was Mothman's "home". Brunvand notes that recountings of the 1966-67 Mothman reports usually state that at least 100 people saw Mothman with many more "afraid to report their sightings", but observed that written sources for such stories consisted of children's books or sensationalized or undocumented accounts that fail to quote identifiable persons. Brunvand found elements in common among many Mothman reports and much older folk tales, suggesting that something real may have triggered the scares and became woven with existing folklore. He also records anecdotal tales of Mothman supposedly attacking the roofs of parked cars inhabited by teenagers.


Point Pleasant held its first Annual Mothman Festival in 2002 and a 12-foot-tall metallic statue of the creature, created by artist and sculptor Bob Roach, was unveiled in 2003. The Mothman Museum and Research Centre opened in 2005 and is run by Jeff Wamsley. The Festival is a weekend-long event held on the 3rd weekend of every September. There are a variety of events that go on during the festival such as guest speakers, vendor exhibits, and hay-ride tours focusing on the notable areas of Point Pleasant.

Mothman has been the feature of many books, music, video games, TV shows such as "The X-files", "Lost Tapes" . Also it's featured in film, such as ""The Mothman Prophecies" starring Richard Gere and also documentaries.


Mothman continues to be sighted, with sightings even being seen on 9/11. I'm very skeptical with this cryptoid but I must admit that it's story intrigues me.

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