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The Mothman legend centers around a horrific event that took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia on December 15, 1967. On that cold December evening, at around 4 p. m. , the U. S. Highway 35 Bridge, known as the Silver Bridge, collapsed. The Silver Bridge connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Kanauga, Ohio. Thirty-seven vehicles were on the Silver Bridge when it collapsed, sending 31 of those cars into the cold river water. Forty-six people perished and nine were seriously injured.
For 13 months prior to the incident, residents in the Point Pleasant area had witnessed sightings of a man-sized bird creature called the Mothman. Many claimed to have seen the Mothman not far from the bridge, and some believe that this creature was involved either directly or indirectly with the bridge’s collapse. Shortly after the Silver Bridge collapsed there were a couple of sightings, then the Mothman seemed to have quietly disappeared. The first Mothman sighting occurred in the early 1960s, when a woman driving her car near the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds stopped to avoid hitting what she thought was a man in the road.
The figure turned to face her, its eyes glowing red from the headlights. It spread two large, thin wings and took to the air. Another sighting took place in 1965. A woman living on the banks of the Ohio River informed police that her son had come in from playing and told her that he had seen an angel in the yard. A year later, a doctor’s wife reported seeing what she described as a giant, thin butterfly. And in November of the same year, five men digging a grave reported seeing a brown human being with wings fly out of the trees. Later that same month, Mr. nd Mrs. Scarberry and their friends the Mallettes were driving towards Point Pleasant when they saw a tall figure on the side of the road in an area known as TNT. They told officials that it stood at least seven feet tall. They also stated that it had large wings folded behind its back. As they drove on, the figure took to the air and flew above the car. They reported the incident to the Mason County Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff returned to the scene with the four witnesses, but although his radio acted up, nothing else was seen or heard.
The TNT area became known as the home of the Mothman. TNT is a large tract of land covered in many concrete “igloos” that were used to store ammunition during World War II. The TNT land tract sits adjacent to the 2,500-acre McClintic Wildlife Station. The whole area is covered in dense forest and steep hills and is riddled with tunnels, making it the perfect hideout. Only three sightings were recorded in 1967. Then in 1968 the Mothman reemerged with a vengeance. It was said to have been seen several times on Jericho Road.
The Mothman made its last reported appearance on September 18, 1968, when several people witnessed the winged figure, again in the TNT area. Long-time residents of Point Pleasant say that the Mothman sightings, UFO sightings and encounters with “men in black” are all somehow related. Meanwhile, researchers, investigators and monster hunters have descended on the small town. Between 1966 and 1967, all told over 100 people stated that they saw the winged Mothman. All reports had the creature standing close to seven feet tall, with bat like wings used to glide rather than flapping.
Reports also say that the Mothman’s eyes were near the top of its shoulders. By 1969, most of the sightings had come to an end, and the Mothman faded away just as quietly as it had appeared. However, the Mothman’s legacy lives on in Point Pleasant. In the middle of the Gunn Park, in the center of Point Pleasant, stands an imposing stainless steel statue by local sculptor Robert Roach. Every year in September, the Mothman Festival is held, drawing thousands to the small local community. One of the highlights of the festival is the eerie TNT-area haunted hayride.
The TNT area is literally unchanged since the Mothman sightings from throughout the 1960s. Who or what was the mysterious Mothman, and what was behind the mysterious events that took place in Point Pleasant in that time period? Whatever the creature’s nature, many historians believe that it was not a hoax. There were just far too many credible witnesses to dismiss it in this way. Yet whatever the Mothman is or was, it has marked its place in West Virginia’s rich and diverse history and traditions.