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Creepin’ It Real: Mothman

by Audrey Harper

A creature of West Virginian folklore, the Mothman was first spotted by five men on November 12, 1966, while they were digging in a cemetery near the town of Clendenin. The men claimed to see a man-like creature fly low over the trees and heads.

A few days later, on November 15, 1966, two couples from Point Pleasant reported seeing a large, grey creature, who’s eyes glowed red when caught by car headlights. Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette told police officers that they’d seen a “large flying man with ten-foot wings” while driving near the site of a former World War 2 munitions plant.

Over the next few days, even more sightings started being reported. There were a couple of firemen who claimed to have seen a “large bird with red eyes.” Newell Partridge, a contractor, said that when he shined a flashlight on the creature, its eyes lit up like bicycle reflectors. Partridge also blamed his buzzing television and the disappearance of his dog on the creature.

So now we have a large man, with ten-foot wings and glowing red eyes who haunts Point Pleasant, West Virginia. But what is the Mothman, really? According to wildlife biologist Dr. Robert L. Smith, many of the descriptions and sightings point to attributes belonging to the sandhill crane. Dr. Smith believes that if one of these tall, seven-foot wingspanned cranes went off course in its migration, than many people might be scared and confused upon seeing one, as they are not native to the area.

And yet in December 1967, with the collapse of the Silver Bridge that resulted in the deaths of 46 people, the legend of the Mothman grew. Some claimed that sightings of the creature were somehow connected to the collapse of the bridge. Coincidentally, according to a Georgian newspaper, Russian UFOlogists believe that Mothman sightings in Moscow were connected to the Russian apartment building bombings in 1999.

Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand says that Mothman sightings have been widely reported via press, some claiming that the creature has something to do with UFOs, while others believe that it makes the old munitions plant its home. Brunvand notes that between 1966-67, there are at least 100 people who reported sightings, and still many more who were “afraid to report their sightings.” Brunvand also found elements common in both Mothman sightings and old folk tales, which indicate that the fear was triggered by something real, which got integrated into the folklore.

It’s also believed that many of the stories that came after the original reports were hoaxes. People just saw an owl or misidentified an airplane. Some constructions workers even tied flashlights to helium balloons. Yet there are still others who believe Mothman is an alien, or some other form of supernatural beast.

So whether or not you believe that there’s a giant moth-like man haunting West Virginia is up to you, but I’d suggest keeping your dogs inside and not going out to the munitions plant alone at night.

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