Who - or what - is the Mothman?

A supernatural phenomenon that terrorised an entire city in the 1960s, the Mothman of Point Pleasant, USA, has long captured the collective imagination... but who - or what - is it?

By: The College of Psychic Studies.   Posted

When two young couples headed out on a double date one chilly autumnal evening in 1966 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, USA, the last thing they expected to encounter was a supernatural being chasing their car. Terrified, they went to the police. Interviewed separately, they each described the same thing: A large, winged creature with glowing red eyes and a distinct humanoid shape. 

Throughout 1966 and 1967, multiple eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the sinister winged creature in the vicinity of Point Pleasant. These sightings coincided with other strange occurrences and events, including the collapse of the Silver Bridge, which linked Point Pleasant with Gallipolis, Ohio. The accident resulted in the tragic loss of 46 lives. Many hold the Mothman responsible for the incident. So who - or rather, what - is the Mothman of Point Pleasant?

Who saw the Mothman of Point Pleasant?

Eyewitness accounts of the Mothman phenomenon mainly stem from the events that took place in Point Pleasant during the late 1960s. Here are some of the more notable eyewitness testimonies:

The Scarberry and Mallette sighting: On November 15, 1966, two young couples - Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette - encountered a strange creature near an old munitions factory known as the TNT area. They described it as a large, grey creature with huge wings and red eyes. The creature followed their car as they tried to drive away.

Marcella Bennett: On the same night, Marcella Bennett also reported seeing the Mothman. She described similar features: a large winged creature with glowing red eyes. Bennett was reportedly so terrified that she dropped her baby before retrieving it and running back into the house. 

Newell Partridge: Partridge, a resident of Salem, West Virginia, claimed to have encountered the Mothman of Point Pleasant and strange phenomena in the weeks leading up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge in December 1967. He reported seeing a 'large bird with red eyes' near his home and experienced electrical disturbances.

Various other eyewitnesses: Numerous others claimed to have seen the Mothman during this period, reporting similar descriptions of a large, winged creature with glowing red eyes. Some of these accounts were reported to local authorities and documented in newspapers.

A myriad of theories

The Mothman legend has sparked various theories and explanations over the years, ranging from the supernatural and paranormal to more mundane explanations. Here are some of the prominent theories proposed:

Cryptid or unknown species: One of the most straightforward theories suggests that the Mothman is an unidentified species of animal or cryptid. This theory speculates that the creature could be a large bird, a misidentified owl, or a new species altogether that has yet to be discovered by science.

Psychic phenomena: Some researchers have proposed that the Mothman could be a manifestation of psychic or paranormal energy. This theory suggests that the creature could be an omen or a psychic projection linked to impending disasters, such as the collapse of the Silver Bridge. Others suggest that the Mothman could be a tulpa - an entity created through collective belief and thought. According to this theory, the Mothman could have been 'created' by the collective fear and fascination of the local community.

    Owl theory: Some researchers and skeptics propose that many Mothman sightings could be attributed to large owls, such as the barn owl or the barred owl. These birds have reflective eyes that could appear red or glowing under certain lighting conditions, potentially explaining the glowing eye aspect of the Mothman sightings.

    UFO connection: Some theories tie the Mothman sightings to UFO and extraterrestrial activity. It is suggested that the Mothman could be an alien entity or a being associated with UFO encounters, possibly explaining its mysterious nature and ability to vanish quickly.

    Interdimensional being: This theory delves into the idea that the Mothman is an interdimensional being that occasionally crosses over into our reality. This could explain its ability to appear and disappear suddenly, as well as its seemingly supernatural characteristics.

      Mass hysteria: Another theory suggests that the Mothman phenomenon could have been fueled by mass hysteria. The high tension and fear surrounding the Cold War and other global events of the time might have contributed to the spread of exaggerated or fabricated accounts.

      Further research

      The Mothman legend has since become a part of American folklore and has been the subject of numerous books, documentaries, and films. Some theories suggest that the Mothman is a cryptid—a creature that has not been scientifically proven to exist—while others view it as a paranormal or extraterrestrial entity. Here are some of the more notable contributions:

      The Mothman Prophecies (1975) by John A. Keel 
      This book, published in 1975, is one of the most well-known and influential works on the Mothman phenomenon. Author John Keel investigates the sightings and other strange occurrences in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and explores the idea of paranormal phenomena and the unexplained.

      The Mothman Prophecies (2002), directed by Mark Pellington, starring Richard Gere 
      This film is loosely based on John Keel's book of the same name. It follows a journalist investigating strange occurrences and Mothman sightings in a small town, delving into the supernatural and mysterious.

      Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend (2002) by Donnie Sergent Jr. & Jeff Wamsley 
      This book offers a comprehensive look at the Mothman phenomenon, featuring eyewitness accounts, historical context, and interviews with individuals who experienced the events in Point Pleasant. The authors aim to provide a balanced perspective on the legend.

      The Mothman: A Real-Life Saga (2002) by Loren Coleman
      Loren Coleman, a well-known cryptozoologist and researcher of mysterious creatures, delves into the Mothman phenomenon in this book. He presents eyewitness testimonies, newspaper reports, and photographs to analyse the events surrounding the Mothman sightings.

      The Mothman of Point Pleasant (2017), directed by Seth Breedlove
      This documentary film explores the Mothman legend and the events that occurred in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, during the late 1960s. It combines interviews, eyewitness accounts, and historical context to examine the phenomenon.

      The Mothman's Photographer: The Work of an Artist Touched by the Prophecies of the Infamous Mothman by Andrew Colvin (2006)

      This book focuses on the experiences of a photographer who captured images of the Mothman and other strange phenomena. It provides a visual perspective on the legend.

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