|Posted on April 2, 2011 at 8:14 PM|
MOTHMAN: ONE OF THE MOST BIZARRE "PSEUDO-CRYPTIDS" EVER REPORTED - PART 1
The Mothman [originally called the "Big Bird"] is a creature reportedly seen in the Charleston and Point Pleasant areas of West Virginia from November 12, 1966, to December 1967. The word "Mothman" was an invention by an Ohio newspaper copyeditor, after the first news stories of the "Big Bird" sightings appeared. Most observers describe the Mothman as a winged, man-sized creature with large reflective red eyes and large wings. The creature was sometimes reported as having no head, with its eyes set into its chest.
A number of hypotheses have been presented to explain eyewitness accounts, ranging from misidentification and coincidence, to paranormal phenomena and conspiracy theories.
The first sighting which received publicity, though, was one in 1965. A woman was driving along Route 2, near the Ohio River, with her father. As she neared the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds, a large man-shaped figure walked out onto the road. As the woman slowed her car, the figure spread two large wings and took off. Ironically, the witness did not report the incident—"Who would believe us, anyway?"
A woman living near the Ohio River related how her son had told her one day of seeing "an angel" outside. She thought nothing more of it until about a year later.
In the summer of 1966, a doctor's wife in the same general area said that she had seen a six-foot-long thing resembling a "giant butterfly". On November 12, five gravediggers saw something which looked like a "brown human being" fly out of the trees near Clendenin. One of the witnesses, Kenneth Duncan, said that they watched the creature for almost a minute.
On the 14th of the month, Salem resident Newell Partridge saw two red objects hovering above a field. His German Shepherd, Bandit, took off into the field and was never seen by Partridge again.
The next night, November 15, two young, married couples from Point Pleasant, Roger and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette, were traveling late at night in the Scarberrys' car. They were passing the West Virginia Ordnance Works, an abandoned World War II TNT factory, about seven miles north of Point Pleasant, in the 2,500 acre (10 km² McClintic Wildlife Management Area, when they noticed two red lights in the shadows by an old generator plant near the factory gate. They stopped the car, and reportedly discovered that the lights were the glowing red eyes of a large animal, "shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big wings folded against its back", according to Roger Scarberry. His wife commented on its huge red eyes, "like automobile reflectors."
Terrified, Mr. Scarberry, who was driving, took off in his car toward Route 62, with the creature supposedly chasing them at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. It didn't seem to flap its wings at all, and its wingspan was over ten feet. Mrs. Mallette said that it made a squeaking sound, "like a big mouse."
However, as quoted in Keel's The Mothman Prophecies, the Scarberrys, despite driving at such excessive speeds and being chased by the creature, claimed to have noticed a dead dog on the side of the road, and in fact made such accurate note of its location that they claimed to have gone back the very next day and looked for it.
Explanations for how they were able to make so accurate a mental note at a time of such great distress, or why they would go back to look for the dead dog, are not included in Keel's book.
The creature continued flying alongside their vehicle up to the city limits. They then drove to the Mason County courthouse to alert Deputy Millard Halstead, who later said, "I've known these kids all their lives. They'd never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took them seriously." He then followed Roger Scarberry's car back to the secret ex-U.S. Federal bomb and missile factory, but found no trace of the strange creature. However, Deputy Halstead said that as he passed the spot where they had initially seen the figure, his police radio made a sound similar to a speeded-up record.
The following night, on November 16, several armed townspeople combed the area around the TNT plant for signs of the Mothman. Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley, and Mrs. Marcella Bennett, with her infant daughter Teena in tow, had gone to visit their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Thomas, who lived in a bungalow among the igloos (concrete dome-shaped dynamite storage structures erected during WW-II) near the TNT plant. The TNT Area, which seemed to be a sort of home for the "Mothman," as it was quickly dubbed by the press, is a large tract of sparsely populated land adjacent to the 2,500 acre McClintic Wildlife Station. The entire area is covered with dense forest, steep hills, and riddled with tunnels. The igloos were now empty, some owned by the county, others by companies intending to use them for storage.
On the way there, they watched a red light which circled the TNT Area. At about 9:00 pm, when the car pulled up in front of the Thomas's, it disturbed something. It seemed as if it had been lying down. It rose up slowly from the ground. A big gray thing, bigger than a man, with terrible glowing red eyes.
The witnesses ran to the Thomas home, where they were let in by the three children, the figure shuffling along behind them, coming onto the porch and looking through the window. Mr. Wamsley called the police, but the thing had, of course, vanished by the time they arrived. Mrs. Bennett, who lives at the edge of Point Pleasant, says she has heard the creature on other occasions. She describes the sound it makes as "like a woman screaming."
The same day was the setting for a much publicized report by a man in Salom who found his dog dead in a field, having apparentally been taken by the mothman. The story's origin and factuality is disputed however.
Paul Yoder and Ben Enochs, two firemen, said they had seen Mothman in the TNT Area on the 18th.
Richard West, of Charleston, called the police on November 21. A winged figure was sitting on the roof of his neighbor's house, he said. The six-foot tall figure had a wingspan of six or eight feet and red eyes. It took off straight up, "like a helicopter."
On November 24, four people allegedly saw the creature flying over the TNT area.
Tom Ury was driving along Route 62, near the TNT Area, on the morning of November 25. He saw a large, grayish figure standing in a field. Then it spread two large wings, lifted straight into the air, and flew over Ury's car at an altitude "three telephone poles high"—probably about 50 or 60 feet—as he sped toward the Point Pleasant sheriff's office.
On November 26, Mrs. Ruth Foster of Charleston, West Virginia reportedly saw Mothman standing on her front lawn near her porch, but the creature was gone by the time her brother-in-law went out to investigate. Her description tallys with Richard West's.
The same day, people in Lowell, Ohio, saw several large birds flying over Cat's Creek. The three witnesses followed the birds in their car and said that they were "...dark brown with some light flecks. Their breasts were gray and they had five- or six-inch bills, straight, not curved like those of hawks or vultures." The birds seemed to have reddish heads.
And still more sightings came. On November 27, on the way home from church, Connie Carpenter saw a grayish figure standing on the golf course near Mason. The creature took off and flew straight towards her car. She was one of few who actually saw the creature's face, although her description—"It was horrible"—doesn't help much.
Another sighting took place that same night in St. Albans, where two girls saw the creature near a junkyard. The creature flew after them.
On December 4, five pilots at the Gallipolis, Ohio, airport saw some sort of giant bird flying at about 70 miles per hour. Its wings weren't moving, and unlike other witnesses they commented on a long neck.
Mabel McDaniel (coincidentally, mother of Linda Scarberry, one of the first witnesses) saw Mothman on January 11, 1967. Mrs. McDaniel said that at first the creature looked like "an airplane, then I realized it was flying much too low. It was brown and had a wingspread of at least ten feet."
In March, an Ohio man claimed his car was chased by a flying creature.
The last sighting seems to have come on November 2, shortly after noon. Mrs. Ralph Thomas (from Bennett's sighting) heard a "squeaky fan belt" outside her home and saw a "tall gray figure" moving among the concrete domes in the TNT Area.
Scattered sightings continued for several years afterwards. In 1968, especially, a number of hairy humanoids with glowing eyes were seen on Jerrico Road. And on September 18, people in the TNT Area supposedly saw Mothman once more—putting in his last appearance, it seems.
But no discussion of the Mothman phenomenon would be complete without recounting the story of the Silver Bridge. The Silver Bridge, so named for its aluminium paint, was an eyebar chain suspension bridge built in 1928 that connected the cities of Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio over the Ohio River. On December 15, 1967 at about 5pm, the Silver Bridge collapsed. Shoppers and others coming home with Christmas trees strapped to their roofs were stopped in a traffic jam on the main span when one of the massive "eye-bar" links supporting the structure failed and sent 37 cars and trucks plunging into the frigid waters of the Ohio River. Forty-six people died in the holiday season tragedy. It was the biggest disaster ever to hit Point Pleasant.
Investigation of the bridge wreckage pointed to the failure of a single eye-bar in a suspension chain due to a small manufacturing flaw. Of course, it was only a matter of time before people began to connect this disaster with the Mothman sightings. Was Mothman some sort of warning sign of the impending disaster?
AFTER THE EVENT
A large collection of first-hand material about the Mothman is found in John Keel's 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies, in which Keel lays out the chronology of the Mothman and what he claims to be related parapsychological events in the area, including UFO activity, Men in Black encounters, poltergeist activity, Bigfoot and black panther sightings, animal and human mutilations, precognitions by witnesses, and the December 15, 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge spanning the Ohio River.
Keel's first book was the basis of a 2002 film, "The Mothman Prophecies", starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Debra Messing, and Will Patton, directed by Mark Pellington. A companion book called The Eighth Tower, also released in 1975, was derived from material edited from The Mothman Prophecies by the publishers.
In the May-June 2002 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, journalist John C. Sherwood, a former business associate of UFO hoaxer Gray Barker, published an analysis of private letters between Keel and Barker during the period of Keel's investigation. In the article, "Gray Barker's Book of Bunk", Sherwood documented significant differences between what Keel wrote at the time of his investigation and what Keel wrote in his first book about the Mothman reports, raising questions about the book's accuracy.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, in conjunction with Sony/Screen Gems studio and as noted in the documentary film by David Grabias, "In Search of the Mothman", served as one of the fictional movie's two publicity spokespersons (Keel being the other, although Keel's involvement was limited by health concerns).
Andy Colvin, a photographer and documentary filmmaker who claims to have seen the Mothman, has produced two books and a reality series on Mothman called "The Mothman's Photographer", featuring John Keel and almost 50 witnesses. Colvin's sister took a snapshot of him in 1973 that allegedly shows a Garuda in the background.
There are several theories concerning the Mothman phenomenon.
One of the early theories is that the Mothman was a misidentified Sandhill Crane, which, in the late 1960s had been a problem in surrounding regions. Sandhill cranes have an average wingspan of 5.3 feet (up to 7 feet), average overall length of 39 inches and have the general appearance described, glide for long distances without flapping, and have an unusual shriek. Other theories suggest the possibility of the Mothman being a Barn Owl, an albino owl, or perhaps a large Snowy Owl (based on artists' impressions). Skeptics suggest that the Mothman's glowing eyes are actually red-eye caused from the reflection of light, from flashlights, or other light sources that witnesses may have had with them.
Quite a few people believe that the Mothman is some kind of mutation from all of the chemicals and pollution at the TNT area. This could be a valid explanation since the EPA had declared the area an environmental disaster!
John Keel claimed that Mothman was related to parapsychological events in the area, including UFO activity, Men in Black encounters, poltergeist activity, Bigfoot and black panther sightings, animal and human mutilations, precognitions by witnesses, and the December 15, 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge spanning the Ohio River.
In Episode 2 of the short-lived TV series "X-Testers", the researchers on the show attempted various ways to duplicate various photographs of what is said to be Mothman on bridges. The researchers concluded that a recent photo of an unidentified object on the bridge is possibly just a black garbage bag, and earlier photos are possibly just camera tricks.
Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand cited elements in common between many Mothman reports and much older folk tales, and noted: "Something real may have triggered the Mothman scares, but the stories—whatever their sources—also incorporated existing folklore."
NEXT: THE CRYPTOZOOLOGIST'S THEORY ON THE IDENTITY OF THE MOTHMAN.....