Point Pleasant, West Virginia sits alongside the Ohio River where it is joined by the Kanawah in a river valley shrouded in mystery and mountain fog. Fifty-four years ago, under the dim glow of a crescent moon, a creature that would eventually become one of the most notorious legends in American history made its maiden flight through the dense Appalachian hillside.

On November 16, 1966 the Point Pleasant Register published the first story in a series of many chronicling terrifying encounters with the ‘Red-Eyed Creature,’ ‘The Mason Bird-Monster,’ ‘The Night Rider In The Sky’, the Point Pleasant Mothman. This first article details the police reports of two young couples who were driving along a winding road on the outskirts of town when they noticed two red lights on the road up ahead. As they got closer, they noticed that what they were looking at were not lights at all but instead glowing red eyes, illuminated by their headlights. As the creature came into view, it spread its enormous 10-foot wings and lifted itself into the night, flying at over 100 miles an hour directly towards the vehicle. They raced towards the city, terrified of the giant beast hovering above them, whose powerful wings beat down on the hood of their car like a mallet striking a drum. When they arrived at the police station to give their reports of the incident, the teens, still in shock, had no idea that that terrifying night would only be the beginning of something much larger.

A sculpture of the Mothman suspended in air

A sculpture of the Mothman hangs from the ceiling at the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The museum has been open for almost two decades and is the only museum in the world dedicated to the Mothman. Photo by Nick Bolin.

“That was a place that kids could go to outside of the city limits and not have to worry about the police coming after them and things like that. But it was also kind of a perfect haven for whatever this thing was.”
A sign on the wall of a building guiding you to the Mothman Museum

Photo of the Mothman Museum sign located at the side of the building. The Mothman Festival, held in September, brings over 10,000 visitors to Point Pleasant every year. Photo by Nick Bolin.

This first fateful encounter took place in the McClintic Wildlife Management Area, established near an abandoned TNT plant that was home to secret operations during WWII. “After the war ended, the government basically just left everything there,” says Jeff Wamsley, owner of the Mothman Museum. “It was a perfect haven for kids to go, you know… drag racing and partying, that kind of stuff. That was a place that kids could go to outside of the city limits and not have to worry about the police coming after them and things like that. But it was also kind of a perfect haven for whatever this thing was.” This dangerous, remote area would become the location of over 100 reported Mothman sightings from November 1966 to December 1967, sending the small town of Point Pleasant into nation-wide notoriety and raising the question: What secrets are hidden within the hollows?

The Man, The Myth, The Moth

Mothman is an enigmatic figure with several accounts of sightings from a wide array of people. Depicted is the average description of height of Mothman.

8ft tall
10ft wide

6ft wide

6ft tall

5ft 6in tall

Great Dane
3ft tall

Clothes Moth
2in tall

In 1967, reports of strange sightings in the area surrounding Point Pleasant became so commonplace that people began to fear leaving their homes at night. A town that once felt so welcoming, so safe, now had its residents glancing over their shoulders at every turn. Televisions would emit strange noises, dogs would disappear from yards, empty stretches of road suddenly felt much longer and much more dangerous. Wamsley, a lifelong resident of Point Pleasant, remembers what it was like to be a curious kid growing up in a town terrorized by a mysterious creature. He would ask questions but rarely got any answers. “They didn't like talking about it,” he says, recalling conversations he had with some of the original witnesses. “They didn't like reliving their story.”

The Mothman was last seen in Point Pleasant on Friday, December 15, 1967, a night that Point Pleasant, and the world, will never be able to forget. The night of the Silver Bridge collapse.

An image detailing the Silver Bridge

This graphic, displayed at the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, details who was on the bridge when it collapsed. It even describes the make of the car and who was driving it. Photo by Nick Bolin.

The Silver Bridge, which connected Ohio and West Virginia spanning the Ohio River, collapsed under the pressure of rush hour traffic, resulting in the deaths of 46 people. The collapse was credited to a single fault, a 0.1 inch crack on a single eye-bar. To this day, it is still the deadliest bridge disaster in United States history. The tragedy shocked the small town of Point Pleasant, and in their grief and confusion, people began to search for answers. Theories began to arise, drawing connections between the mysterious creature that had been terrorizing their town and the horrible tragedy that later befell them. Some believed it was an omen, a supernatural being sent to warn them; and others believed it was a winged demon, the result of a curse placed on the land over 200 years ago, sent to bring misery to the town’s inhabitants.

A collection of newspaper clippings

On display at the Mothman Museum is a collection of newspaper headlines related to the devastating bridge collapse of 1967. Though the museum is dedicated to the Mothman, it also has a rich collection of pieces that teach visitors about the history of Point Pleasant. Photo by Nick Bolin.

Over half a century after the Mothman’s terrifying reign over Point Pleasant, his intrigue lives on. There are still people who fear going out at night, still people searching for answers, and in some places, under the cold glow of the moon, there’s still the feeling that you’re being watched. “Even 50 years later,” Wamsley says, “I'll get emails of people saying, ‘Hey, we saw something the other night...something strange.’” And they aren’t alone. There have been numerous reports of a large, winged creature, hauntingly similar to the one described in hundreds of archived police reports in Point Pleasant, being spotted in numerous cities all over the United States.

Beware—because the feeling of being watched in the night, may be more than just a feeling after all.