1966. Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Roger Scarberry was driving just outside town one dark and lonely night in November when something strange spooked him. Inside Mason County Courthouse, they heard the screeching tyres of a speeding car coming to a halt. Through the doors burst Scarberry, his wife and two friends, who told a most frightful tale to Deputy Millard Halstead. Scarberry had been driving through a nature preserve near to Point Pleasant when the group spotted something unusual. They were near an old abandoned Second World War munitions factory, a gloomy, dusty and forgotten old relic. The car stopped just outside the gates. They saw a pair of glowing red lights in the factory, bold and bright against the darkness. Suddenly, those lights began to move rapidly toward the car. Soon, it became apparent the ‘lights’ were eyes, part of a figure as dark as the night. Without warning, this seven-foot tall man-like creature leapt from the ground into the air and took flight, its huge wings revealed by the moonlight. The frightened group ran to their car. Scarberry scrambled to start the engine. When it did kick into life, he floored it. He soon hit 100-miles-per-hour, but all the while, the creature, the two red dots, followed them effortlessly. As he drove into town, the creature flew away. But the terror was far from over…
Deputy Halstead wondered what all the panic was about. “Flying man!” screamed Scarberry and the others, not far behind him. Halstead believed it was no hoax. A small town like that, everyone knew everyone, and he knew the group well. “I’ve known these kids all their lives,” he said. “They’d never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took them seriously.”
Later that night, local building contractor Newell Partridge had a strange encounter with the creature. He was at home in Salem, 90 miles from Point Pleasant, alone watching the television when the screen suddenly turned black. An unusual pattern then filled the screen, like nothing Partridge had seen before. All of a sudden, a loud, whining noise sounded outside, a monotonous drone that ended as soon as it had begun. Partridge’s dog, Bandit, started barking with great vigour. Partridge headed outside, wrapped up in confusion and panic. He followed Bandit, who ran eagerly into the barn. And in that barn were two red eyes, shining brightly through the darkness. They moved gracefully through the air and flew away. Bandit gave chase, refusing to stop. Partridge ran back to his house to get his gun, but he was overcome with fear.
He didn’t head back outside that night. He slept with a gun by his side. When the Sun rose, he soon realised that Bandit hadn’t returned. He was never seen again. A few days later, Partridge read about the incident at the munitions factory in a local paper. In the paper, one of the group said that, whilst they were driving back into town, desperately fleeing the glowing red dots chasing them, she spotted the dead body of a large dog just outside town. Whilst it couldn’t have been Bandit, Partridge became convinced that what Scarberry and his group saw was what he saw, and that it had killed Bandit.
A press conference was called a week later. In that time, many others had come forward with their own sightings and tales to tell. Scarberry and his group were at that press conference and they repeated their story to the media. The Deputy once again vouched for the group. He said he had no reason to doubt them, a belief most of the press agreed with. They soon were publishing stories of a creature they had dubbed ‘Mothman’.
Many investigators turned their trained eyes toward the munitions factory. What a perfect place for some unknown creature to dwell. Abandoned. Littered with concrete domes and a labyrinth of old tunnels. And as for the nature preserve next door, well, much of that was inaccessible. Dotted with steep ridges, hills and large bodies of water. The preserve of hunters, fishermen and teenagers looking for a good time…
Marcella Bennett owned one of the few houses in the area. She saw a red light in the sky, late in the November of 1966. “It wasn’t an airplane. I couldn’t figure out what it was,” she said. She decided to drive the short distance to the house of a friend, Ralph Thomas. As she got out of her car, her baby in her arms, she saw a figure near her car. “It seemed as though it had been lying down,” she said. “It rose up slowly from the ground. A big grey thing. Bigger than a man, with terrible glowing eyes.”
With blood pumping rapidly through her veins, she ran as fast as she could into the house of Thomas. Bennett, Thomas and his family were gripped with fear and hysteria. They could hear the creature shuffling about on the porch. They turned out the lights, but nothing could deter it. And then they saw something that chilled them to the bone. Those glowing red eyes peering through the window, staring right at them. The stare of something evil. The police were called, but the sirens drove the creature away. Bennett later said that the same creature visited her home, and that she could hear it screaming whilst it peered through her windows, too.
And still, this wasn’t the end. For years to come, more and more sightings of the strange beast were reported. On December 15th, 1967, Silver Bridge, over the Ohio River, connecting Point Pleasant to Gallipolis, collapsed suddenly during rush hour, causing the deaths of 46 people. That night, there were multiple reports of bright red lights darting across the sky in all directions. Thereafter, Mothman was never seen again, leading many to believe it caused the bridge collapse. Indeed, many have said that they saw a mysterious figure atop the bridge minutes before it collapsed. Whatever Mothman was, we know it was no hoax.
The sheer number of credible witnesses prove that there was something haunting Point Pleasant. Some say it’s a bird, perhaps a crane, although witnesses are adamant that it was no bird. Perhaps in the panic and confusion, what started as a few mysterious and unexplained sightings of something strange, maybe a teenage prank, became something uncontrollable. Mass hysteria and suggestibility, enflamed by a heightened sense of dread, combined to create a legend. Something that has still never really been explained.
Just what was Mothman? Nowadays, it’s little more than a folkloric legend, honoured with a statue. But back in the ‘60s, it was very much real. A most frightful beast that terrified Point Pleasant for many years. But as for what people actually saw, well, that will forever remain a mystery…
So I’ll give this creature a 166 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 8th in the list of 38, with the Basilisk still bottom and the Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.
The Mothman. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
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