Mothman is the descriptive name given to a West Virginia cryptid said to be a grayish-brown 7-foot tall half-human half-bird with enormous wings that resembled those of a moth and glowing red eyes that terrified those who saw it. The creature did not have a discernible head; its frightening eyes were located near its “shoulders.” Its wings did not flap or move, although it could reach racing speed; it had two human-like legs, and it occasionally emitted a shriek, reportedly similar to a woman screaming.
Mothman sightings span a very short period of time — the last several weeks of 1966 and throughout 1967 — and confined themselves to the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia. Mothman made its debut in mid-November 1966, when five grave-diggers saw what looked to them like a “brown human being flying out of the trees,” according to the book Strange But True Stories Book 2.1 The next day, a man spotted a similar creature in a field near his home. His dog ran towards it and disappeared. That night two couples were reportedly necking in a car near the site of an abandoned TNT-producing plant — the West Virginia Ordnance Works — built to supply American forces during World War II. (It has been classified more recently as one of the most toxic sites in the U.S. and is completely inaccessible.) Frightened out of their wits, the young people fled in the car, but Mothman glided silently alongside their car, which was traveling at a very high rate of speed.
The next evening, four friends were visiting at the home of one of the couples which was located not far from the old munitions factory, and Mothman appeared near the home, even looked in the windows, according to the police report. Five more apparitions were witnessed in very short order, within days of the first, involving different observers. All descriptions of Mothman were nearly identical.
Author John Keel, who has written extensively about paranormal occurrences and became the major chronicler of the Mothman case, determined that at least 100 people in Point Pleasant personally witnessed the creature between November 1966 and November 1967.2
Several hypotheses propose that the Mothman creature was really just a case of misidentification. One theory is that the creature may have been a sandhill crane, a bird that can be up to 6 feet tall with a 10-foot wingspan that glides thought the air with its wings still for long distances and can emit a loud cry. Others suggest that Mothman could really have been a type of large owl; a large bird that had mutated due to the effects of the toxic waste dump created by the now off-limits West Virginia Ordnance Works; or even a huge turkey vulture.
In addition, several investigators have noted similarities to other beings said to exist during various periods throughout history, including:
- A Garuda, a large mythical bird or bird-like creature that appears in Hindu and Buddhist mythology and is depicted as having a golden body, white face, red wings, an eagle’s beak, and a man’s body.3
- The Thunderbird, a symbol from Native American culture that, according to author Jim Brandon (The Rebirth of Pan), was a “fearsome being and resembled a winged man or an immense bird, caused fear and dread, and was said to actually kill and eat humans from time to time.”4 The Thunderbird went by many different names among the Indian tribes that experienced it.
- An enormous North American bird called the Teratornis Merriami that, according to author Alan Feduccia (The Age of Birds), stood five feet tall and had a 24-foot wingspan. In his Mothman and the Thunderbird Report, cryptozoologist Daniel Boudillion theorizes that “Thunderbird legends may well be echoes of this giant predator bird.”4