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Mothman: The Enigma and the Festival in Its Honor

Some stories are so scary that they will keep you up long into the night. But it’s rare to find a story so chilling, so intense, so downright blood curdling that an entire town will spend three days every year examining its every aspect. But that’s exactly the kind of story that surrounds the Mothman sightings in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, which throws a three-day Mothman Festival every September.

Like Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil, the Mothman has gone from a figure of fear to a sort of underground pop icon. And his festival brings together all sorts of people, from the most hardcore conspiracy theorists to kids who want their faces painted to look like Mothman. It seems odd that the town that was so terrorized by this mysterious creature has now put him on a pedestal (literally, since there’s a metallic Mothman statue in Gunn Park), but each visitor and each plush doll in his likeness is a boon to the local economy. But the kitsch factor hides a very real terror of the creature. Weird US had a chance to speak with Linda Scarberry, who was one of the first to come forward in the press as a witness to the Mothman.

“I saw it in 1966. It was about 11:30 one night. We come up this road, the lights shined over, and it was standing there in front of the powerhouse... It looked like a man, body of a man. The wings come up over the head and down and around. The wings dragged on the ground.”

“We saw it dozens of times. It was at our apartment one day. It was sitting up there on the roof. At first I was really afraid of it, but it had so many chances to hurt us, and it didn’t seem like it wanted to. Its eyes would kind of hypnotize you. It acted like it was trying to communicate with us through its eyes.”

People thought Linda was crazy, but as more and more people saw the creature, more and more began to fear the creature. Hysteria gripped the town. One man went so far as to shoot at it, only to find out he had instead killed a rare snow owl.

When the Silver Bridge collapsed exactly thirteen months from the first reported Mothman sighting, speculation ran wild that the Mothman was a portent of disasters to come. One attendee of the Mothman Festival filled in Weird US on some theories, including one about Chief Cornstalk’s curse.

“Cornstalk, when he was murdered, put a curse on the town, that the area would be blighted for 200 years. And Mothman seemed to fall right into the time frame. There’s theories about it being an avatar or a spirit, even an extraterrestrial. I think nowadays, most of the common perception is that it not an alien being.”

The reality of who or what the Mothman was will never be fully known. But for those who want to learn as much as they can about all of the legends, the Mothman Festival each September is a can’t miss event.

Locals Share Their Mothman Memories

I just finished watching the segment of your program on the Mothman of Point Pleasant West Virginia. Being born and raised in this small river town, I’m pleased to see anyone taking an interest in our local folklore and urban legends. As I am sure your crew noted while they were here, it's about all the town has left to offer.

I enjoyed the segment for the most part, however I did find a note of disappointment at one critical detail. You spoke of the misfortunes of the town, particularly the Silver Bridge disaster as being the supposed work of the fabled Cornstalk Curse. I hate be a backseat historian, but your researchers should have extended the search a little bit further. You would have found that the curse is, in itself, as much of a myth as the Mothman. It is actually a byproduct of a 1912 outdoor play that was produced in the town to dramatize the story of the siege at Fort

Randolph. The end of the play was concerned with the murder of Cornstalk, and the curse was merely a device of suspense such as to end the performance on a high note of excitement. As most people of the town believe what they are told, rather than what they explore themselves, this stuck until the late ‘60s when old timers began to credit this fictional curse when the bad times which had befallen the valley.

That being said, I am still very pleased by your interest in our town and hope that you take no offense to the advice and information that I have offered to you. I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to bring your crew to Point and made the day of at least a few of the souls in the town who truly do believe in the fictionalized propaganda that they have used to shelter themselves from the shadow remains of what the disaster did to the town. Please keep up the good work.  –Charles Taylor

It started in 1966. Some say the creature was a result of the curse of Chief Cornstalk, a Shawnee leader who had been deviously murdered in Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1777, and who had finally gotten his revenge. Others say the creature was a mutant, spawned from local chemical dump. Whatever story you agree with, all call the creature the same name: Mothman.

Mothman started out scaring farmer’s dogs, but after awhile, it started eating them! It also started scaring teens parked in cars. And then, on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge suddenly collapsed into the Ohio River, killing 46 people. Some say it was caused by a sonic boom from Mothman's wings. Others think Mothman had been sent to warn the people of Point Pleasant about the disaster, but no one understood the message. For good or bad, Mothman has remained a part of West Virginia folklore, and who knows? It might just come again to the small town of Point Pleasant.  –Mothgirl

In my town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia there is a story of a creature with wings that would pick up farmers cows and fly off with them, and it also caused a bridge to fall, which killed a lot of people. They called this creature the Mothman, and there a movie about it called The Mothman Prophecies. We have a statue of it on our main street and a week dedicated to it in the fall. – Adam Marcum

Weird West Virginia

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