Organizers of the annual Mothman Festival at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, say they're expecting record visitation on the weekend of September 21 as interest in the legend of the winged beast grows world-over.
Partly as a result of the recent release of the Fallout 76 video game—which features the Mothman and other alleged West Virginia beasts—as many as 12,000 visitors are expected to descend on the town of some 5,000 residents on this, the festival's 18th year.
According to Jeff Wamsley, curator of the Mothman Museum and founder of the festival, the street fair that has expanded to include tours of nearby sites associated with the legend and continues to grow annually.
"We usually expect 10,000 to 12,000 [visitors], though it's hard to get an exact total since it's a free festival and no admission is charged," Wamsley said.
"The Fallout 76 game has really spread the word, and all of the TV shows on which the museum and festival are featured help as well."
The festival concerns the legend of a mysterious beast with enormous wings and glowing red eyes that was alleged to have terrorized the town in the 1960s.
Denny Bellamy, executive director of the Mason County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the community is now considering how best to manage traffic and has established a bus route to parking areas at nearby Kroedel Park.
"The festival has never not grown," Bellamy said, "and we've had to expand the festival as people are now coming in on Friday nights. This year, Fallout players are expected early."
Bellamy refers to the Fallout 76 video game, released around the time of the festival last year, which has since helped popularize the monster among an estimated two million players worldwide.
Bellamy and Wamsley say locals are enjoying the notoriety and increase in tourism that the legend has generated, though many were once apprehensive about the association.
Wamsley, who recently opened a Mothman Museum across Main Street from the Mothman Gift Shop, says traffic is increasing year-round as well as during the festival weekend.
"The downtown's Main Street seems to be picking up some momentum. Many people are visiting us at the museum. They enjoy the small-town feel, and there's a lot to see here in downtown Point Pleasant," he said.
In addition to attractions associated with the Mothman, including the Mothman Statue that draws thousands of visitors year-round, the town is a destination for historians drawn to Tu-endi-Wei, a state park at the point along the Ohio River that commemorates the Battle of Point Pleasant.
The town is also infamous as the location of the collapse of the Silver Bridge, which collapsed in 1967 under the weigh of rush-hour traffic, sending 46 people into the Ohio.
The 2019 festival will also feature new guest speakers and more local and regional music as well as Youtube celebrities and podcasters who have become associated with the legend and cryptozoology.
For more information on the event, visit Mothman Festival.
The TNT Area: Mothman’s lair attracting fans day and night
If you’re a fan of the Mothman legend and haven’t visited its alleged lair, also known as the TNT Area, you owe yourself the hair-raising experience, says the executive director of the Mason County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “And if you really want to experience Mothman, you’ve got to be in the TNT area at night,” says Denny Bellamy. Read the full story.