This page chronicles the quest of a group of journalism students to investigate the mystery behind the mothman in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
Josh Davis, Laura Flood, Dan Matarazzo and Isaiah Rosier
Are You There Mothman?
By Laura Flood
It is an eerie quiet that fills Main Street. Walking “down town” Point Pleasant W.Va, it feels as if one has just journeyed into a David Lynch film. Signs for the local antique and coffee shops that say “we’re open” fill the empty side walk.
Jerry Kolsterman of Beaver Creeks, Ohio has come to Point Pleasant to find just one thing. It something that he can’t find in any of the antique shops, no, what he is looking for is answers; answers about the mothman.
“I am here looking for the mothman. I mean you have to believe that something is out there, why would there be so many stories if it wasn’t real,” said Kolsterman.
Point Pleasant is home to the mothman folk legend. According to local lore the mothman acts as an omen. The creature made its first appearance in 1966 when a local couple went to the old abandoned World War II TNT bunkers hidden in the woods. The couple reported seeing a creature with red eyes and large wings. News of the mothman was short-lived, but in 1967 the mothman would become infamous.
In 1967, Point Pleasant had one of the nation’s biggest tragedies of the time. The Silver Bridge, that connected West Virginia to Ohio collapsed, killing over 40 people. It was said that the mothman was spotted before the fall.
The creature sparked a national fascination. Newspapers from all over flocked towards the small West Virginia town. In the early 2000s, the mothman would make news again, this time as a feature film starring Richard Gere. Once again the town was swarmed with questions about the existence of the mothman.
Instead of pushing their bizarre history to the side, many locals embraced the legend. The main advocates of the “I believe club” are the storeowners that occupy Main Street.
“Yeah something is there,” said Bob Landrum, a local shop owner. “But 1966 is incorrect for the first sighting. I did research on the topic, and you can do it, too, it was actually in the early 1700s before Ohio was settled.”
For anyone like Kolsterman who is looking for answers about the mysterious creature Landrum is the person to talk to. With his shop in the heart of town, Landrum has become one the main stops for mothman hunters. Landrum’s passion for the legend is made obvious by the paintings on his walls. He can tell you all the history on the topic as well as accounts of the mothman.
“Yeah I have seen it, that’s how I know something is up there. You see seven different Indian tribes used roam that land, and the bunkers were placed on top of an Indian burial ground, said Landrum.
Point Pleasant has a deep history in Indian culture. The Shawnee tribe used the land to harvest corn.
With the old World War II TNT bunkers being part of the military some believe that the military is behind the mothman, and that the government is well aware of what is happening up in the bunkers.
“You see the bunkers were closed to the public, now why would the government do that? They recently opened three, but you better believe they are still up there,” said Landrum. “I have gotten many letters telling me not to go up into those bunkers, many government agents walk through that door telling me to stop.”
Government conspiracy, supernatural mothmen, and an Indian burial ground, attract supernatural hunters.
“I believe in everything, I believe that there is something called monster shock that people experience. You see, when someone sees something strange their bodies and minds going into a state of shock and it is our responsibility to talk them out of that shock,” said Kolsterman
Monster shock or not, Kolsterman was determined to find the mothman. Landrum provided Kolsterman with a hand-drawn map of the old bunkers. With the map in hand, Kolsterman and his friend went into the deep woods of Point Pleasant for the hunt.
The drive to the bunkers is not a long one, but easy to get lost. With every turn Kolsterman was getting one step closer to finding his answers. Finally, he pulled up to the path where the bunkers are located.
“There it is, the green and orange graffiti, he (Landrum) said that would mark the spot,” said Kolsterman.
Finding the bunkers required a small hike down a path that had been overgrown with plant life and swamp on the opposite side. The silence was even more deafening, and the sense of isolation was in the air.
Finally Kolsterman reached the first bunker.
“There it is! Are you ready?”
He excitingly opened the door and walked into the cement dome. Every move made echoed throughout the building. There it was. The mothman. Painted on the wall by some teenagers who had clearly used the bunker for a party.
With no luck in the first bunker, Kolsterman hiked his way to the second. Once again there was no sign of the mothman. Holding out hope Kolsterman continued to go to the third. With opening of the door his excitement disappeared from his face, because sadly there is no moth man.
“He is here, just because we didn’t see him doesn’t mean he isn’t real.”
No one can say for certain if there is or is not a mothman. For those who have seen him, they will die believers; for those who want to believe, they flock towards town; and for those who are skeptical, Point Pleasant worth the trip just to hear the eye witness accounts.
Tragedy on the Silver Bridge
By Isaiah Rosier
“Those who lost their lives are remembered.”
These words, which commemorate the Silver Bridge collapse, are inscribed in Point Pleasant, W.Va., along with the names of those killed in the disaster.
On December 15, 1967, at about 5 p.m., the town of about 6,000 suffered a tragedy. During rush-hour traffic, the bridge suddenly buckled and collapsed, the result of an eye-bar fracture caused by stress and corrosion.
Thirty-one vehicles fell into the icy waters of the Ohio River. Forty-six people were killed, 19 of whom were from West Virginia, and nine were injured.
“The Silver Bridge collapse was one of the worst in history,” said Allison Rollins, a 21-year-old native of Point Pleasant. “When they talked about the bridge failure in Minnesota on the news, they brought up Point Pleasant.”
The catastrophe took an unnatural twist when residents began to claim that they had spotted the mothman, a great, winged creature, on the top of the bridge just before its collapse.
The mothman had been seen by hundreds of Point Pleasant natives and visitors in the 13 months leading up to the bridge collapse. Some say that the mysterious creature came as a messenger, trying to warn residents of the town of the impending disaster. Others blame the beast for the accident. Still others deny the being’s existence.
Jeremy Pitchford, an Ohio native who works at the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, said that the Silver bridge collapse prompted the bridge creators, General Corp. and American Bridge Co., to reevaluate the integrity of similar bridges to prevent other disasters. The collapse also led to legislation concerning bridge inspection standards.
The original bridge, which was 2,235 feet long, opened to the public in 1928.
The Silver Memorial Bridge was built in 1969 about a mile from the site of the original bridge, and connects Henderson, W.Va. to Gallipolis, Ohio. The original bridge connected Point Pleasant and Kanauga, Ohio. The Kanawha River feeds into the Ohio River at Point Pleasant.
“Point Pleasant is the town where two rivers meet,” said Rollins.
Mothman Fast “Facts”
First seen near Point Pleasant on November 15, 1966, by two couples, Steve and Mary Mallette and Roger and Linda Scarberry.
Seen as a messenger, warning people of impending tragedies.
Supposedly seen before the collapse of the Silver Bridge on December 15, 1967.
Also reportedly seen before the earthquake in San Francisco, the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, the twin towers bombing in New York, and the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl.
Its most notable feature is its glowing, red eyes, a common depiction in many reported sightings.
Made famous by the 2002 film, “The Mothman Prophecies,” starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. The Mothman is also featured in two documentaries: “Eyes of the Mothman” (2011) and “Mothman Country” (2011).
Has boosted Point Pleasant’s economy through tourism and the annual Mothman Festival held each fall. The festival usually brings in about 4,000 or 5,000 people for a weekend. The Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant usually sees about 40 or 50 visitors each day.
Some think that the mothman can be attributed to the “Curse of Cornstalk.” The Shawnee chief Cornstalk fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774 and was murdered at Fort Randolph, where the town Point Pleasant was later built.
Some believe that the mothman is a Thunderbird, a mythical creature from Native American legends. The Thunderbird is capable of summoning storm clouds and controlling lightning.
Others believe the mothman was actually a Sandhill Crane, a large North American bird with red plumage around its eyes.
A few even believe that the mothman is some sort of alien entity.