POINT PLEASANT - Paranormal enthusiasts and cyptozoologists still haven't found definitive evidence of a red-eyed, winged creature haunting the back roads.
Even so, people throw a heck of a party in its honor every year.
The tale of the Mothman is filled with classic urban legend elements: A young couple on a deserted stretch of road at night, red glowing eyes in the darkness, glimpses of a giant creature with massive wings and a connection to a horrible tragedy.
Photos by Craig Roberts
A statue of the Mothman stands in Point Pleasant, W.Va., a monument to the mysterious creature first sighted in 1966 and linked to the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967 that killed 46 people.
The Mothman legend began Nov. 12, 1966, when five men while digging a grave saw a winged creature fly over them. A few days later two different young couples reported a tall white creature with large wings and glowing red eyes.
The number of sightings increased, with people reporting strange noises, interference on electronic devices, the disappearance of pets and glimpses of a large, red-eyed winged creature. Some people and outside consultants believed the Mothman was actually a heron, a large bird with a massive wingspan whose eyes would reflect light. But a bird couldn't explain all of the other oddness which seemed to accompany the Mothman, and some would later speculate it was an alien or even some sort of spirit from an alternate dimension.
The sightings lasted from mid-November in 1966 to about mid-December in 1967, ending with the collapse of the Silver Bridge, which connected Point Pleasant to Gallopolis. Forty-six people died in the disaster.
Since the sightings came to a halt after the bridge collapse, some began to believe the creature's appearance was somehow connected to the disaster.
The legend of the Mothman has become iconic, with similar sightings being reported throughout the world at various locations and times, but none with the intensity of those years in Point Pleasant. There is now an annual festival in honor of the creature. The Mothman Festival, held this year Sept. 21-22, annually draws thousands to Point Pleasant to discuss paranormal happenings, Mothman sightings and to revel in the weirdness of the Mothman legend.
Jeremy Pitchford works at the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant and said in the past decade there has been a resurgence of interest in the Mothman legend, much of it driven by popular media.
"They keep doing documentaries on the Mothman," Pitchford said. "It seems like there is a new one, or more, every year. The movie also caught a lot of interest."
"The Mothman Prophecies" starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney was released in 2002. It told the story of a reporter investigating sightings of a red-eyed winged creature which warned of impending doom. The movie was based on the 1975 book "The Mothman Prophecies" by John Keel. Both the book and the movie took many liberties with the actual events which surrounded the Point Pleasant sighting and the Silver Bridge collapse.
Pitchford said while a lot of people find the Mothman to be a fun and weird urban legend, for some it is more disturbing.
"People also tie it with the bridge disaster. There are still a lot of people that take it pretty seriously," he said.
Pitchford said regardless of their personal motivations, the Mothman Festival and the legend of the Mothman bring thousands of people to Point Pleasant every year and help boost tourism.
"It definitely helps businesses around town," he said. "People travel here and shop, they eat different places. It brings a lot of tourism to the area."