Mothman – Profiling the Myth: True or False

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
May 26, 2016
Last Updated
September 30, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
14 min read
Posted in
Cryptozoology, Bizarre Entities

All over the world, we have access to stories, myths and legends that on the surface would absolutely blow the minds of people if they were true. From the Chupacabra to various other stories involving supernatural beings, human mythology has been filled up over the years with plenty of candidates who would, on any given night we met them, break our minds!

One of the most popular myths and stories over the years, though, has been that of The Mothman.

Wisconsin Mothman

Wisconsin Mothman

Now, a man who is part Moth would not be that big a deal, right? After all, moths are puny!

However, it’s the actual story behind what (potentially) makes up the Mothman story. Today we’re going to take a brief look at the story itself and work out what seems to be the best answers. We’ll break down the typical stories, what the ‘official’ analysis says and every other possible cause and theory that we’ve found that warrants discussion.

Go and get yourself a cup of coffee – we are going to be here discussing the Mothman for a little while!

The Mothman Story

The Mothman Story itself has changed and altered over the years. However, the most consistent story that you are likely to find as to why it even exists in the first place is as follows;

In 1966, Point Pleasant was about to change forever. A small town based in West Virginia, it was about to become home to what is one of the most commonly discussed and heard of mythological stories ever told. The town itself was a small town, only capable of sufficiently housing around 5,000 people and with no much going on here at all that was worth discussing.

It’s a small rural community that did what they did best – agriculture, sticking to their own turf, enjoying the quiet life. They never drew any attention to themselves, and nothing ‘fun’ ever happened here.

This, though, was all about to change on November 15th, 1966. Roger Scarberry, a resident of the town, was heading to the town via the McClintic Wildlife Management Area, [1] which was a nature preserve just seven miles from Point Pleasant. Alongside his wife Linda, cousin Lonnie Button and friends Steve and Mary Mallette, they discovered something quite unusual.

As the home of the old West Virginia Ordnance Works, a hidden-away TNT lab for the Second World War which, the McClintic Area has become a location for the youth of the time to hang out, away from the public.

The car pulled up to an abrupt halt and they noticed that there was two glowing red lights at the gate, lights which had never been there previously. As the group looked at the lights, they slowly started to move towards the car – lights, they were not, but the glowing red eyes of a creature.

Standing 7ft tall at least, and with massive wings at its back, it stood ready. The car decided to take the right course of action and start moving back at rapid pace, but the creature took flight after those in the car. Even at 100mph, they could not outdo this incredible beast – it kept pace without even breaking a sweat!

Mothman Statue in Point Pleasant

Mothman Statue in Point Pleasant

As they reached the Mason County courthouse, it took off and flew into the night. This was, as the ‘records show’ the first sighting of what is now known as the Mothman.

Racing back to town to inform someone, anyone, of what they seen, the kids ran into Deputy Millard Halstead. Halstead knew the kids from their youth so could vouch for their veracity, and was happy to listen to what they had to say on the matter. He took their story seriously and was happy to listen to each of the witnesses, although he did split them up to talk individually so he could verify the story from each of them.

Each witness told the same story, and the Deputy could see that these kids were not lying, and they weren’t pulling a hoax – the fear in the kids was simply too genuine. Setting out with the kids, they went back to the old TNT factory to have a look and see if they could ascertain just what might have caused such a spook – as you might imagine, they found nothing.

As the word spread around the town, rumours were rife as to what had actually been discovered. As the local townspeople armed themselves and went hunting for this incredible creature, it was further away that the beast would be found again.

That night, Marcella Bennett was visiting the Thomas family who lived quite close to the old TNT area. As she approached her car to get in, she spotted a massive humanoid creature with hulking wings and red eyes emerge from the ground. Paralyzed with fear, she felt to protect her infant child, Teena from the creature. She lay there petrified, staring right into the eyes of the Mothman.

Eventually breaking free of its gaze, she ran back inside with her daughter and called the police as well as the other witnesses. She also claimed that the Mothman came and peeked through the windows of her home, before setting off to leave long before the police could arrive.

Over time, more and more rumours of sightings would begin to appear all across the region. Other townspeople started to come forward with details they had discovered themselves. Many people, though, feared that they would be seen as liars or crazy given what they had seen, so chose to stay silent about the horrors that the small town was going through.

However, a time went on, more and more people appeared with a story about the Mothman. It did not take long, but more or less the entire community was soon a believer that they were under attack by something otherworldly, something that completely defied any previous knowledge of creatures in existence.

Over the next year, many locals bore witness to its frame and sketch artists slowly but surely put together a concept art of what it must look like in comparison to what was being relayed. The one constant was its incredible red eyes – the main problem, though, was that nobody could determine what the face looked like. The eyes seemed to be such a drawing factor that most could never truly understand what the face looked like – it was simply too captivating.

The other strange element of the Mothman was that it could fly without having to create force with its wings – it would just take off, as if propelled by an engine.

Sandhill Crane - could this be the explanation

Sandhill Crane – could this be the explanation

Whilst experts would tell people it was nothing more than a Sandhill Crane – a creature that is nearly the size of a man with a massive wingspan and reddish eyes – that had gotten out of its comfort zone.

Following the Silver Bridge collapse [2] on December 15th, 1967, sightings of the Mothman seemed to just stop. No more sightings have been reported and therefore many believe that it may have been something to do with the bridge – and the disaster – that had drawn the Mothman to the town.

The ‘Official Line’

The official line of the Mothman is quite an interesting one. Over the years much analysis has appeared to help us try and understand just what the Mothman might be. It’s something that, for most people, can be quite a confusing subject and even with the ‘official’ story attached to him, the Mothman has a really interesting official level of analysis.

One of the most prominent individuals to look into the potential for the Mothman to be more than just a scary story was that of famous folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand. Brunvand noted that the Mothman was a regular spot of coverage within the press for some time, and had become akin to the usual sightings of UFOs and many other supernatural occurrences. Look around enough and you could, at one stage, find as many interesting ideas about the Mothman as you would have about ghosts, monsters, lycans and aliens.

The original story as told above was noted by Brunvand that ‘at least 100 people’ witnessed the event, with many more being too scared to come forward with what they know. However, over the years the knowledge and information that he was able to extract from the telling of the Mothman story meant that, for the most part, the stories did not hold up much. There was a direct correlation between ‘sources’ that had no proof.

 Jan Harold Brunvand

Jan Harold Brunvand

Indeed, many of the stories happened to be ripped directly from children’s books, adding to their colourful nature and also removing any authenticity. Likewise, sensationalized reports which were eventually quashed had been for some time held up as the perfect evidence to support the existence of the Mothman, and this was making it harder for a reporter such as Brunvand to find anything other than unsubstantiated stories and claims from less than reputable sources.

Indeed, many of them even pulled from ‘sources’ with no attributable quote, name or anything. In short, the story above can fall a little bit short based on the lack of any, well, genuine evidence!

He also found that many of the elements that are parts of the Mothman story are taken from many other folklore stories, with some very particular and common themes running throughout. With something genuine having created the basis for the story, like many others it would appear that the Mothman is nothing more than a story that gathered legs – many legs – and grew massively.

There’s plenty of old anecdotes about the Mothman attacking the cars of teenagers frolicking and many other stories that make the eyebrows arch up permanently. Many other specialists in the world of paranormal activity note that, if he is real after all, the Mothman was an individual who was of supernatural creation.

Indeed, the author of the famous 1975 book, The Mothman Prophecies, John Keel, claimed that residents of Point Pleasant experienced precognitions of the collapse of the Silver Bridge. Alongside this, he also claims there was plenty of information about UFOs, visits from ‘men in black’ and various paranormal phenomena that sounds terrifying but has no real basis or evidence to back it up.

That does not mean that the Mothman is something that is written off entirely, though. Whilst many are happy to write it all off as a prank or even the sighting of rare animals like a barred owl or an albino owl, there are plenty of little odes to the creature in culture.

For example, Point Pleasant held an Annual Mothman Festival in 2002, with a 12ft tall statue of the creature standing proud, created by Bob Roach. A museum soon followed in 2005 and is run by the excellent Jeff Wamsley. Many people turn up to see the museum and want to hear all the tales, but very few ever actually believe them. If you are interested in seeing the festival, it takes part on the third weekend of every September.

As far-fetched as the idea of the Mothman may be, there are plenty of stories and extras that go along with the Mothman prophecy, helping it add a bit more ‘magic’ to the story. We’re going to break down what many of the most popular theories are, including his reputation as a prophet of doom.

The Herald of Doom?

One of the most interesting elements of the story of the Mothman, though, is that it is actually some form of herald of doom – that, much like seeing the Grim Reaper, the Mothman is a signal of a tragedy to come. Given the link to the bridge collapse in December ’67, it’s easy to see why this might be a welcome part to the story. Like every other element of what has become one of the most exciting supernatural stories ever, though, there is always some form of conflicting evidence that makes us question the methods of the Mothman.

The reason why people believe that the Mothman has more to it than just some urban myth – or even a Crane as has been suggested – is not how many are bearing witness to it, but who is. The majority of the people spotting the Mothman have been hunters and other animal experts; they are far more likely than your average person to be able to spot the Mothman or to be able to spot if it’s something a bit more…ambitious.

Artist's drawing of Mothman flying beside car

Artist’s drawing of Mothman flying beside car

Given that the TNT area was supposed to have been an area where toxic waste was able to escape and cause problems in these underground little housings called igloos, is it really impossible to think something horrifying has been the result of that?

We don’t think so. It could indeed be a Crane or another bird, but hunters would most likely be able to tell the difference between that and a monster!

The other major story of the Mothman, though, is that it might have been some form of Herald of Doom. Many UFO sightings took place around about the same time, and the UFO reports were soon followed by the ‘men in black’ that we mentioned earlier on. It’s hard to believe that a real-life version of Will Smith is driving around threatening rural folk over what they have supposedly seen but according to ample witnesses, this is the truth.

Other witnesses say that they know the creature was a Herald of Doom purely because of what would come after the creature? Given the massive Silver Bridge collapse occurred at the very peak of the Mothman chronicles and people spotting it all the time, it might be a rather convenient conclusion to work towards.

It can be quite hard to tell, to be honest, depending on what ‘source’ you use. Some witnesses claim that the Mothman was seen on the bridge on the very day that it collapsed, and although it turned out a faulty eye bar was the case many still believe that the Mothman had something to do with that.

From the old Native American chieftains who died in the region and left a ‘curse’ being the Mothman manifest into physical form to a prophet from another dimension to warn people of what was to come, there are more stories about the origin – and reason for existence – of the Mothman than arguably any other mythical creature out there.

Potential Explanations

  • Like any good story, the Mothman comes with plenty of reasonable explanations as to why it would have been seen or mistaken to have been seen. We’ve had a look around and compiled what we believe to be the most likely reasons for the existence of the Mothman and what could have been falsely misconstrued as such a creature.
  • If you’ve been wondering what might be the Mothman – if not an actual creature of supernatural being – then you will absolutely love this section. We’ve got everything we can find that might be a good example of a mistaken identity;
  • The barn owl is the most common selection that people go with, as most people like to believe that it’s merely a case of fear + mistaken identity = big bad creature. Well, a barn owl could be a good choice because it has more or less all of the attributes of the real thing. It matches the wingspan, the eyes (which appears to be mounted onto a headless torso, freaky!) and the red reflection that they seem to give off when something reflects on them such as a flashlight or a headlight. They also make a terrifying screeching sound.
  • Another popular avian connection is that of the thunderbird. Native Americans nearby Point Pleasant used to create stories about a terrifying bird which dominated the region known as the Thunderbird. They could swoop down and carry away a man without any problems, as these giant creatures dominated the skies and left man petrified. Many of the representation that you can find of the thunderbird will give you a good idea of what many speak about when they first mention the Mothman – this helps to validate claims of the Mothman that appear before the 1966 story came into the popular lexicon.
  • Less likely, of course, is that of an alien. Majorly high volumes of UFO spotting have come from the same region, with everything from weird energy fields to glowing orbs and unnatural animal behaviour all accounting for something that isn’t quite normal being the case for the Mothman being spotted. Apparently, Point Pleasant was regularly visited by ‘men in black’ who would ask really aggressive questions and threaten the townspeople. Therefore, the connection began to stick that perhaps the local sighting of the Mothman was not a giant owl or a thunderbird, but something that comes from another planet entirely.
  • Just as unlikely as an alien, though, is that of a divine being – an angel. Many claim that it could have indeed been an angel, given that a number of disasters took place in the region after the original Mothman sightings. The author we spoke of earlier, John Keel, claims that he was the subject of phone calls from someone known as Indrid Cold who seemed capable of using telepathy and who had many true premonitions such as a plane crash with the exact number of dead being accurate. Could there be something a little more divine to the story here?
  • A more likely cause is that of a mutant. Given that the Mothman seemingly comes from an old munitions location, which was a bird sanctuary prior to this, could it be that the creature is merely an animal which has reached a really scary phase of mutation? With all of the weird chemicals in the area and all of the mixing that has gone on, along with abandonment and lack of maintenance, its’ not impossible to think that this may have happened. Some estimate the bird might be a Sandhill Crane which had got lost and eventually mutated into…something else.
  • Another alternative explanation is quite simple – the people who witnessed it were seeing wrong. That might seem overly simplistic but human perception has its limitations. From a mysterious figure to the glowing eyes and the crazy height, it’s easy to think why all of this would be real. The problem is that they only had their own eyes to rely upon in – their eyes which were now terrified due to what was supposed to be in front of them. Is it really that hard to believe that the people who witnessed such a creature – with no proof – have created a conflict of interest in their own minds and formed a new reality?
  • Of course, they might just be lying, talking utter nonsense. The Mothman has all of the hallmarks of both a legitimate legend and a flimsy story, making it all that more iconic. Much like other natural horrors that have stuck around for a long time such as the Loch Ness monster, there is a good chance that this is nothing more than a local myth thought up and taken further. One of the major associates of John Keel in the past, for example, was Gray Baker. Gray was a paranormal expert who found great ways to make money from the exploitation of paranoia.
  • The best explanation for the Mothman, though, is that nobody actually has a clue what it is. It’s just “there” as a myth that has no explanation at all. Not everything has a blanket explanation or a solid conclusion that 100% makes sense and has no way to refute it or to argue against it. This makes it harder for people to appreciate fully what the idea of the Mothman may be, as there is no one logical explanation that fills in all the blanks.
  • The last – and least likely – explanation is that it’s all true, of course. Let’s say that it does exist for a minute, and that it has some kind of presence around disasters. Given the number of people who came forward – even with our own doubts about what they have actually seen – is it really an impossibility that Mothman is real? It’s the least likely option in all of the ones we just listed, sure, but who knows? Yes, it sounds ridiculous given its total lack of any modern sighting but – maybe it died out? It’s all hypothetical with the Mothman.

Mothman in Culture

The Mothman itself has been a part of major culture in the past, and has stuck around long after what was supposed to have happened had occurred. Let’s face it, if the Mothman is real then it died a long time ago. As you might imagine with a story that is as big and as popular as the Mothman, this story has grown more than one pair of legs over the years and has consequently exploded.

Mothman's head and eyes (model)

Mothman’s head and eyes (model)

If you are interested in what *might* have something to do with the Mothman, then you sold be sure to check out any of the following ideas.

Today, you can find that the Mothman plays a part in culture in various ways, including in the following projects. If you find any more mentions of the Mothman then please let us know, but in the meantime be sure to look at;

  • A part of a long range of books by the likes of Andrew Colvin, Gray Barker, John Keel and others such as John Rust, Stephan Bullard and Bill Myers. Add this together and it soon becomes quite apparent why the Mothman has grown so popular over the years.
  • John Keel eventually seen his own books turned into the 2002 movie, The Mothman Prophecies. This was followed up by the 2010 movie, Mothman. Both were quite interesting watches but obviously are made to be more cinematic, instead moving away from trying to prove/disprove the theories.
  • In music, the Mothman is mentioned in the song “Genus Unknown” by the band Blitzkid. It’s quite a funny song and very much worth your time if you have never heard it!
  • Another band known as Ekidna Orgy also dedicated a song to the Mothman of the same name. It’s a little extreme, but very good!
  • Mentioned in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, as well.
  • In the TV series X-Testers, the pros tried to recreate ‘images’ of the Mothman to try and work out just how much of the information and the ‘facts’ of the Mothman are actually true, and what seems to be a load of nonsense.
  • In the world of video games, Mothman has appeared in the past. The Mothman appears in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, as one of the major bosses that you fight alongside the Yeti. It also appears within Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. This adds a nice little spin to what is already an excellent series.

So, as you can see, the story of the Mothman is quite terrifying. There’s a lot to take in and understand here but one thing you should appreciate is that most of these stories come from quite odd sources. Many of them have really specific backgrounds and thus they become very specific examples of what could be the Mothman.

Not only is this a story with a really engaging and quite terrifying backstory, but it has a really specific range of ideas that fit the story. Whilst some say that the Mothman has been around since the 1600s – or forms of it have – there is nothing more enjoyable than the actual Mothman story that we produced earlier on.

As the ‘official’ line has never been blurrier and made it more challenging for people to accept and believe in the Mothman story, this is one that is really up to you to decide.

We’ve analysed everything that we could find on this unique subject, and we hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about the potential origins of such a creature. Let’s just hope that none of us ever have the ‘pleasure’ of meeting The Mothman!

What do you think of it?


1 Mothman: A West Virginia Folklore, The Psychology Of Extraordinary Beliefs, February 11th, 2019
2 Silver Bridge Collapse, Corrosion Doctors

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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    This article angered me by its apparent DEBUNKER DISPOSITION…especially by its contention that “no modern sightings have taken place”…WRONG!!! I saw one in early 1984, when I was a kid, WITHOUT ANY PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF MOTHMAN—–I was in the back yard feeding our family dogs, early in the morning; it was dark outside, and cold. I then departed the back yard, closing the gate as I walked, up the small set of steps leading to the patio, then as I turned to enter the patio area on my way back to the house, I froze in my tracks…there, at the end of the patio, were two very large RED EYES staring at me from around the corner of the house…though it was dark, I could make out the shadow of a head surrounding the eyes, which transfixed me. It’s the only time in my life that I was truly frightened! After some moments of frozen terror, I managed to summon the will to make a dash for the back door of the house (which led out onto the patio), and I remember hoping that I made it to the door before the thing flew by and grabbed me (years later I remembered this, and surmised that on some subconscious level, I must have been aware of the thing having wings). I did, and anxiously told my mom, who went outside and searched but found nothing. I saw the “Mothman” film years later and remembered my own incident, surmising that that was what I saw back in 1984…as for its being a “Harbinger of Doom), this also was the case in my own encounter, since not long after the incident, there was a violent murder at the house across the street (a “road-rage” case where the perpetrator followed the victim home and shot him to death in his front yard, then proceeded to shoot randomly at the surrounding homes, INCLUDING MY OWN. So, this Mothman is NOT an “urban myth” or some Crane/Barn Owl, etc…!!!…it really is what it was back in 1966-’67…

  • howard stern says:

    i have evidence mothman is real and it is worse than you expected. his arms are so big…so strong. he is ripped. i mean SHREDDED. HE HAS AN 10 PACKK!!!! PLEASE believe him he needs US right now i mean it right now mothman is real he’s real he’s real he’s REAL

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