“Mothman”, as the strange creature came to be called, is perhaps one of the strangest creatures to ever grace the annals of weirdness in America.
The weird events connected to the Mothman began on November 12, 1966 near Clendenin, West Virginia. Five men were in the local cemetery that day, preparing a grave for a burial, when something that looked like a “brown human being” lifted off from some nearby trees and flew over their heads. The men were baffled. It did not appear to be a bird, but more like a man with wings. A few days later, more sightings would take place, electrifying the entire region.
Late in the evening of November 15, two young married couples had a very strange encounter as they drove past an abandoned TNT plant near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The couples spotted two large eyes that were attached to something that was “shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six or seven feet tall. And it had big wings folded against its back”. When the creature moved toward the plant door, the couples panicked and sped away. Moments later, they saw the same creature on a hillside near the road.
It spread its wings and rose into the air, following with their car, which by now was traveling at over 100 miles per hour. “That bird kept right up with us,” said one of the group. They told Deputy Sheriff Millard Halstead that it followed them down Highway 62 and right to the Point Pleasant city limits. And they would not be the only ones to report the creature that night. Another group of four witnesses claimed to see the “bird” three different times!
Another sighting had more bizarre results. At about 10:30 on that same evening, Newell Partridge, a local building contractor who lived in Salem (about 90 miles from Point Pleasant), was watching television when the screen suddenly went dark. He stated that a weird pattern filled the screen and then he heard a loud, whining sounds from outside that raised in pitch and then ceased. “It sounded like a generator winding up” he later stated. Partridge’s dog, Bandit, began to howl out on the front porch and Newell went out to see what was going on.
When he walked outside, he saw Bandit facing the hay barn, about 150 yards from the house. Puzzled, Partridge turned a flashlight in that direction and spotted two red circles that looked like eyes or “bicycle reflectors”. They moving red orbs were certainly not animal’s eyes, he believed, and the sight of them frightened him. Bandit, an experienced hunting dog and protective of his territory, shot off across the yard in pursuit of the glowing eyes. Partridge called for him to stop, but the animal paid no attention. His owner turned and went back into the house for his gun, but then was too scared to go back outside again. He slept that night with his gun propped up next to the bed. The next morning, he realized that Bandit had disappeared. The dog had still not shown up two days later when Partridge read in the newspaper about the sightings in Point Pleasant that night.
One statement that he read in the newspaper chilled him to the bone. Roger Scarberry, one member of the group who spotted the strange “bird” at the TNT plant, said that as they entered the city limits of Point Pleasant, they saw the body of a large dog lying on the side of the road. A few minutes later, on the way back out of town, the dog was gone. They even stopped to look for the body, knowing they had passed it just a few minutes before. Newell Partridge immediately thought of Bandit, who was never seen again.On November 16, a press conference was held in the county courthouse and the couples from the TNT plant sighting repeated their story. Deputy Halstead, who had known the couples all of their lives, took them very seriously. “They’ve never been in any trouble,” he told investigators and had no reason to doubt their stories. Many of the reporters who were present for the weird recounting felt the same way. The news of the strange sightings spread around the world.
The press dubbed the odd flying creature “Mothman”, after a character from the popular Batman television series of the day.The remote and abandoned TNT plant became the lair of the Mothman in the months ahead and it could not have picked a better place to hide in. The area was made up of several hundred acres of woods and large concrete domes where high explosives were stored during World War II. A network of tunnels honeycombed the area and made it possible for the creature to move about without being seen. In addition to the manmade labyrinth, the area was also comprised of the McClintic Wildlife Station, a heavily forested animal preserve filled with woods, artificial ponds and steep ridges and hills.
Much of the property was almost inaccessible and without a doubt, Mothman could have hid for weeks or months and remained totally unseen. The only people who ever wandered there were hunters and fishermen and the local teenagers, who used the rutted dirt roads of the preserve as “lover’s lanes”.Very few homes could be found in the region, but one dwelling belonged to the Ralph Thomas family. One November 16, they spotted a “funny red light” in the sky that moved and hovered above the TNT plant. “It wasn’t an airplane”, Mrs. Marcella Bennett (a friend of the Thomas family) said, “but we couldn’t figure out what it was.”
Mrs. Bennett drove to the Thomas house a few minutes later and got out of the car with her baby. Suddenly, a figure stirred near the automobile. “It seemed as though it had been lying down,” she later recalled. “It rose up slowly from the ground. A big gray thing. Bigger than a man with terrible glowing eyes.”Mrs. Bennett was so horrified that she dropped her little girl! She quickly recovered, picked up her child and ran to the house. The family locked everyone inside but hysteria gripped them as the creature shuffled onto the porch and peered into the windows. The police were summoned, but the Mothman had vanished by the time the authorities had arrived..
By this time, most of the sightings had come to an end and Mothman had faded away into the strange “twilight zone” from which he had come… but the story of Point Pleasant had not yet ended. At around 5:00 in the evening on December 15, 1967, the 700-foot bridge linking Point Pleasant to Ohio suddenly collapsed while filled with rush hour traffic. Dozens of vehicles plunged into the dark waters of the Ohio River and 46 people were killed. Two of those were never found and the other 44 are buried together in the town cemetery of Gallipolis, Ohio.
The collapse of the Silver Bridge made headlines all over the country and Mary Hyre went days without sleep as reporters and television crews from everywhere descended on the town. The local citizens were stunned with horror and disbelief and the tragedy is still being felt today.