Legend of Mothman lives on in Point Pleasant, West Virginia

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Legend of Mothman lives on in Point Pleasant, West Virginia

A statue of Mothman is in Point Pleasant.

A statue of Mothman is in Point Pleasant.

Hanna Pennington

A statue of Mothman is in Point Pleasant.

Hanna Pennington

Hanna Pennington

A statue of Mothman is in Point Pleasant.

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Is it a man, is it a bird, is it a Mothman?

Two young couples were driving through the TNT area of Point Pleasant on a mid-November night when they found themselves being chased by what was first thought to be a large man. They soon realized it was more of a large, bird-like creature with even larger wings. 

While the original sighting on Nov. 15, 1966 was unexplainable, it has since become a tale known across the world. 

“I worked in sales and was traveling all over this part of the country,” said Dennis Bellamy, executive director of Mason County Tourism Center. “It put me in all of the attractions, and I was staying in hotels three and four nights a week. I started noticing every time I checked in and they saw I was from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, they’d ask me about the Mothman. It doesn’t matter where you travel now.”

Mothman Museum was opened in 2006 by Jeff Wamsley, who grew up in Point Pleasant and knew several of the Mothman sighting witnesses. He also wrote a book on the legend, titled “Mothman Behind the Red Eyes.”

“The Mothman story is an open book and probably will never be fully explained,” Wamsley said. “That’s why the story is so interesting to many. Everyone has their own theory or explanation as to what it was, so the interest will never go away.”

After the initial sighting, people started going out to the TNT area to hunt for the mysterious bird-creature. Some with no luck and some with a story that they may never forget. 

“A large bird was chasing cars in the TNT, is what they said, so everybody had to go out and look for it,” Bellamy said. “No one was scared. They were looking for this big six-foot bird that was chasing cars. Apparently, some of them found it and that’s how this whole thing got going.”

While it may seem unbelievable, there have been more than a few credible sightings leaving some shaken. 

“Over 100 reported sightings followed the next year and a half [from the first sighting],” Wamsley said. “Many eyewitnesses were shaken by their encounters, and some still won’t talk about it today.” 

Newspaper coverage was almost weekly until the Silver Bridge Disaster in December 1967. Bellamy said there was no longer talk of the Mothman. 

“The bridge fell, and it ended all of the Mothman talk because that was too real,” Bellamy said. “Everyone knew someone who fell on that bridge and it was a national tragedy.”

While the bridge disaster is what many associate the Mothman with, Bellamy said there has never been a credible source or promotion of the connection beyond a movie. 

“The bridge ended all of the writing in the newspaper about the Mothman. It just stopped. No one wanted to hear about the Mothman being on the bridge,” Bellamy said. “We’ve never encouraged that. We’ve never had any credible witnesses. We leave the bridge out of it as much as we can, although it was a huge part of the movie. That part was totally fictional.”

Talk of the Mothman did not start back up until the movie adaptation of “The Mothman Prophecies” by John Keel. Bellamy said Point Pleasant went with the hype by putting a statue in on Main Street.

“It was a bold move. It was 50/50. A lot of people said we put a demon in the middle of our town,” Bellamy said. “When we went out to do the dedication, I went out and CBS was here. The national show with Willie Geist was here to cover the dedication.”

While Point Pleasant commissioned the Mothman Statue, the town does not spend any other money on the museum or Mothman Festival, started in 2002, which were both founded by Wamsley, Bellamy said. 

“This thing started with just two card tables,” Bellamy said. “Jeff selling his book on one and Carolyn Harris selling her hot dogs on the other, and it has just grown every year. It grows by two or 3,000 every year.”

Harris owned Harris’ Steakhouse on Main Street, was a co-director of the Mothman Festival and was a promoter of tourism in Point Pleasant until her death in 2016.

The Mothman Festival is in September and has since grown to over 10,000 visitors and counting. More information can be found on their website. 

“I think if you delve deep into the sightings, you will find that many of those who saw it were completely puzzled by what they saw. Some still can’t explain it,” Wamsley said. 

Brittany Hively can be contacted at [email protected]marshall.edu. 

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