America has a number of its own famous monstrous creatures. One of the more recent and bizarre additions to this menagerie is the Mothman, a monster native to Western Virginia who has been described as both a terrifying flying monster and a somewhat more supernatural harbinger of horrible future events.
Quick Facts about the Mothman
- It is said to humanoid with red, glowing eyes and wings.
- The first sighting of the being occurred on November 12, 1966, close to Clendenin, WV.
- There were several additional sightings over the next few weeks in the same area.
- The sighting preceded the collapse of Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, WV, by just over a month.
- A Mothman festival has been held for the past 18 years in Point Pleasant.
- Over 10,000 attend the festival each year.
- The being has been spotted in other areas including New York, Chicago and Chernobyl.
- A movie titled "The Mothman Prophecies" was released in 2002 and starred Richard Gere.
The Mothman has a fairly consistent appearance across most of the stories concerning it, though the size of the creature does tend to vary a bit by the telling. Almost every tale about the creature agrees on three things - it is shaped like a man, it has wings, and it has glowing red eyes.
A few stories do describe the Mothman as more like a bird than a human, but the image of the winged humanoid with glowing eyes does tend to be the one that stands out the most. The size of the creature ranges from a man-sized being with a ten-foot wingspan to something closer to the size of a large bird.
Powers and Abilities
On a basic level, it's really hard to say that it even has powers. The earliest stories about the creature only describe it as flying around. It seems to do so through the simple motion of wings, so counting this as a supernatural power seems dubious at best. Stories from slightly later in the creature's history give it the ability to cause buzzing noises in electronics. It may be strong enough to lift a large dog and carry it away, but that ability has only shown up in a single story.
Most of the later stories about the Mothman connect it with disasters. It should be noted, though, that it rarely seems to be the cause of the disasters. Instead, seeing it presages the disasters. Whether its presence somehow causes disasters to occur or it is attracted to those disasters is still up for debate among those who discuss the creature.
Myths and Stories
While it is typical to think of folklore as being impossibly ancient, many of the tales of monsters and mythical creatures in the United States are surprisingly modern. In fact, the story of this creature actually only dates back to the mid-1960s, with the bulk of the stories surrounding it showing up around 1966.
Most of the stories about this creature only describe the creature as flying around overhead. The original reports in 1966 only speak of the creature flying around above the forest. Later stories would make the creature a bit more sinister, going so far as to blame the disappearance of a German Shepherd on it.
Later stories attribute a kind of prophetic effect on Mothman sightings. A sighting is connected to a 1967 bridge collapse, and the stories would continue from there. In fact, it would apparently cross the world to become an omen of a 1999 Russian apartment fire. Whether or not it actually has any role to play in unfortunate circumstances, more reports of the creature would continue well into the 21st century.
Given the relatively young age of the myth, it's rather difficult to pin down the exact source of this particular monster. Some chalk it up to paranoia surrounding Cold War military sites or UFO sightings, but others have more mundane suggestions for how the Mothman stories may have spread.
Some note that many of the characteristics of the Mothman could be exaggerated characteristics of something as simple as a common barn owl, a large heron, or a crane, with the telltale glowing eyes coming as the result of the flash from photography. Less accepted, but still within the realm of science, is the idea that it could be some sort of unreported or undiscovered (but still ultimately mundane) creature that lives in the area.
A Mothman Festival is held every year in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a small town that is in close proximity to where many of the first sightings of the strange being occurred. The festival takes place on the third weekend of September each year. It was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but was scheduled to resume in 2021.
Activities and events at the festival include vendors, costumes, concerts and museum and bus tours. For more information on the festival visit www.mothmanfestival.com.