The Mothman Legend

The Mothman legend is modern urban mythmaking at its finest. First spotted by a pair of gravediggers in November 1966, the man sized figure with demon wings, dark brown and green with glowing red eyes terrorized the area around Point Pleasant West Virginia.

Three days after rising and flapping away from the graveyard, the creature chased two young couples along a lonely country road.

The figure was spotted at least four more times, either lurking around homes or flying through the night sky, over the next ten nights. Dubbed “the Mothman” by a local newspaper writer, the creature soon stopped appearing and faded from interest.

In December 1967, the then 40 year old Silver Bridge connecting West Virginia and Ohio over the Ohio River collapsed under the weight of traffic. 46 people died in the tragedy. At the time no connections between the Mothman and the bridge collapse was made.  As usual with urban myths, it wasn’t until a clever writer seized on the story that the legend was really born. In this case, that clever writer was John Keel, in the book “The Mothman Prophecies” published in 1975, almost ten years after the first Mothman sightings. Keel’s work was based on a less well known book, “The Silver Bridge” by Gary Barker.

Both authors made the connection between the Mothman and the collapse of the bridge and also speculated that the Mothman might have been an alien.  Although the books reprt that  the skies were peppered with UFO sighting at the same time as the Mothman appeared, local newspaper archives do not report any such UFO encounters.

The connection between the Mothman sightings and the bridge tragedy is tenuous at best. Since the Mothman appeared a year before and over forty miles away from the Silver Bridge. “The Mothman Prophecies” by Keel was made into a movie in 2002 starring Richard Gere. Although based on a supposedly non-fiction book, the movie claims to be nothing more than science fiction or fantasy. One of the criticisms of the movie was that it attempted to turn the rather disjoined book into a single tight story line, which the movie failed to do in any real sense.

In short, the story of the Mothman is nothing more than a few fuzzy reports, mostly likely not even connected to one another, much less not connected to the collapse of a bridge miles and away and a year after the last reported sighting of the Mothman.

Sources:

Barker, Gray. The Silver Bridge. Clarksburg: Saucerian Books, 1970.

Keel, John A. The Mothman Prophecies. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1975.

Hyre, Mary. “Winged, Red-Eyed ‘Thing’ Chases Point Couples Across Countryside.” Athens Messenger. 16 Nov. 1966, Vol 61, Number 271: 1.

Nickell, Joe. “Mothman Solved.” Skeptical Inquirer Mailing List. Committee For Skeptical Inquiry, 31 Jan. 2002. Web. 23 Mar. 2008. <http://csicop.org/list/listarchive/msg00317.html&gt;

Phillips, J., Jensen, H. “Loaded with Cars, Big Span to Ohio Collapses in River.” Charleston Daily Mail. 16 Dec. 1967, Volume 149, Number 145: 1-3,6.

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