FOLKLORE & URBAN LEGENDS: THE MOTHMAN
Point Pleasant is a small town in West Virginia with fewer than five thousand residents. Many of the resident families have lived there for generations, resulting in a close community where everyone knows each other.
Native American tribes believed the area carried bad omens. When members of a tribe would venture into the surrounding forest, they reported seeing a large bird-man flying overhead. These sightings would continue with European settlers through the 1940’s.
As modern society progresses, we expect these strange stories to fade away. Nevertheless, from 1966 to 1967 the sightings intensified, resulting in one of the most recognized urban legends.
The first of these sightings took place in late November 1966.
Four teenagers were driving through the back roads of Point Pleasant. While driving past an old ammunitions plant, they witnessed what appeared to be a tall man standing on the roadside. He had no discernable head, large wings folded on his back. As they drove past, the man began to open his wings and chase car.
It matched their speed as they reached 90mph, before disappearing.
A few days later, two bikers were riding through the same area, when they saw strange red lights on the roof of an abandoned power plant building. They decided to investigate, but as they got closer, they realized the red lights were actually a pair of glowing red eyes. The creature watched them briefly before spreading its large wings and flew away.
In the following weeks, there were dozens of sightings. All of the eyewitness accounts described a 6ft tall creature, with large wings and glowing red eyes.
Things only got stranger. After the creature surfaced, UFO sightings began as well.
In urban legends, there are stories of a creature lurking through the forest, or flying through the night sky. What make the Mothman legend so unique are the other strange sightings surrounding its appearance. In the following year, there were upwards to 100 Mothman sightings, and countless sightings of UFO’s.
In December 1967, the strange occurrences surrounding the town peaked. Mothman sightings suddenly increased, and reports of “men in black” with strange behavior began to gain attention. They began showing up on the doorsteps of eyewitnesses, threatening them not to discuss recent events.
On December 15, 1967, the 40-year-old Silver Bridge of Point Pleasant collapsed. Causing the deaths of roughly 50 people. Everyone was affected. Because of the size of the small town, almost everyone had known someone who died.
After the tragedy, Mothman sightings diminished significantly.
It wasn’t until years after the collapse, when reports surfaced stating the Mothman had been seen on the bridge that night. There are some who speculate the creature is a bad omen, a symbol of an impending tragedy. While others think the creature was trying to warn the residents.
Recently, the legend has made headlines again. There’s been a significant increase in Mothman sightings throughout the Chicago area. More than twenty-one sightings have been reported since April 2017.
The Mothman is back.
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Looking for more strange stories? Check out the legend of the Wendigo !
*Major inspiration for this post is the 2017 documentary The Mothman of Point Pleasant; Directed by Seth Breedlove.