Mothman: about the mystery


Tim Bertelink

Artist, Tim Bertelink, shares his interpretation of Mothman.

Grace LaGuardia, The Delphi Staff

On November 15, 1966, an unidentified creature was seen flying above the wilderness near Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

The unknown creature had a humanoid body, a ten-foot wingspan and red eyes that shone “like bicycle reflectors” in the dark.

Four individuals reported that the creature pursued their car as they drove through a stretch of woods known as the “TNT area,” which had served as an explosive manufacturing and storage facility during World War II.

Soon after their initial report, new sightings began to suddenly occur, with some believing the creature to be a paranormal entity or “harbinger of doom.” Or so goes the legend of the notorious ‘Mothman,’ a cryptid-turned-beloved-sensation who has captured the interest of countless creatives, self-proclaimed investigators and Internet-goers.

The small town where the creature was supposedly first sighted even holds a yearly festival to celebrate the legend, drawing in any who are interested in the unexplained (or in purchasing Mothman merchandise from various artists and vendors).

However, to attempt to understand the truth behind Mothman, you must travel back—long before the creature’s modern resurgence, to the aforementioned wave of sightings that supposedly began on one autumn night fifty-five years ago.

The first reported sighting of Mothman occurred in November of 1966,  when two young couples driving through Point Pleasant’s “TNT Area” were purportedly chased by the creature.

According to their reports, the seven-foot-tall entity moved at a speed of over one hundred miles per hour.

In the following year, various other residents of the Point Pleasant area informed authorities that they had supposedly seen the creature.

This string of sightings would come to a head in late 1967, upon the December 16 collapse of the Silver Bridge, which connected Point Pleasant to Gallipolis, Ohio. The incident would result in the deaths of 46 people, and some individuals claimed to have seen the Mothman near the bridge prior to the collapse— solidifying the creature’s reputation as a harbinger of disaster. 

Several theories have emerged in the years following the initial Mothman incidents— some more plausible than others.

Starting with the most outlandish, certain Mothman theorists claim that the creature is actually an alien, demon, or angel, which would explain the “precognitive abilities” it apparently displayed before the Silver Bridge collapse.

More realistically, the Mothman has been suggested to be nothing more than a misidentified bird. Owls, having a similar silhouette to what has been described as Mothman, are a likely suspect.

Additionally, an owl’s large eyes may have been what spurred the idea of the “glowing eyes” by reflecting red in the light of the car— something called the red eye effect, which can be seen in many flash photos of humans and animals alike.

Regardless of whether or not the Mothman is real, the cultural impact it has left on the world of the paranormal is not to be underestimated.

This creature has been at the center of over fifty years of mystery and intrigue, has sparked a multitude of fascinating debates and theories and has become nothing short of a legend.