Whether or not you believe in tales of “Mothman,” if you live in West Virginia, you’re sure to have heard them. In a state renowned for its monsters and mountain mysteries, the Mothman legend is almost inescapable.
According to West Virginia lore, the Mothman is a winged creature with red, glowing eyes said to haunt the farmland along the Ohio River near Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Encounters with the creature were famously reported in the late 1960s, though some say it still visits the region.
The first newspaper report regarding the beast was published in the Point Pleasant Register and was titled “Couples See Man-Sized Bird…Creature… Something.”
The Mothman, as it came to be called, was popularized by author John Keel more than a decade later in his novel The Mothman Prophecies, which connected the sightings to the collapse of the Silver Bridge, which dropped into the Ohio River in 1967, killing 46 people.
Keel’s book likewise inspired the 2002 film The Mothman Prophecies, starring Richard Gere, and his introduction of mysterious researchers known as “men in black” provided fodder for a series of science-fiction comedy films first released in 1997.
According to the early newspaper report, the being first appeared on November 15, 1966, when two young couples, Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette, told police they saw a large grey creature whose eyes “glowed red” when the car’s headlights picked it up.
They described it as a “large flying man with ten-foot wings” and claimed that it followed their car as they were traveling through an area near the town known as “the TNT area,” a former World War II munitions plant, now located in the McClintic Wildlife Management Area.
However, the encounter alleged at Point Pleasant followed on the heels of a similar strange report of a “flying man” seen in a graveyard along the Elk River near Clendenin, West Virginia, fifty miles away.
On November 12, 1966, Kenneth Duncan, of Blue Creek, was digging a grave for Duncan’s father-in-law, Homer Smith, in a cemetery at Clendenin with four other men when Duncan saw a human-like figure fly out if the surrounding woods and glide over their heads.
Laboring with him that day were Robert Lovejoy, of Allen, Mich., formerly of Campbells Creek, William Poole, also of Allen, Andrew Godby, of Blue Creek, and Emil Gibson, of Quincy, none of who apparently saw the creature.
“It was gliding through the trees and was in sight for about a minute,” Duncan later said.
The men discussed the incident with only a few friends, and it might have been forgotten had not the Scarberry and Mallette sighting of Mothman led Duncan to report his encounter.
Whether or not the sighting was that of the Mothman or a native flying squirrel spooked out of its treetop nest, no exploration of the Mothman in West Virginia would be entirely complete without a visit to the Koontz Cemetery at Clendenin.