Point Pleasant, West Virginia, lies on the Ohio/West Virginia border, about two-hours south of Columbus. It is a small community whose history includes the first battle of the American Revolutionary War (though many consider the battle part of Lord Dunmore’s War). The memorial to the Battle of Point Pleasant, Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, is nestled at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers and offers visitors a splendid view. Just beyond, looms the Silver Memorial Bridge whose name is a sobering tribute to the tragedy that took place here in December 1967.
Beginning in November 1966, numerous eyewitnesses in the Point Pleasant area claimed to have seen a tall, winged creature (often described as humanoid) with the notable distinction of glowing, red eyes. Unexplained occurrences during that year—including missing pets, electromagnetic disturbances, and the appearance of “men in black” in town—were attributed to the Mothman; the most notorious being the collapse of the Silver Bridge into the Ohio River during rush hour on December 15, 1967. Following the tragedy on the bridge, reports of the Mothman ceased, leading to theories that the Mothman was responsible for the disaster; others maintain the Mothman was merely a harbinger of the calamity. (Still others believe the event was the result of a curse put on Point Pleasant by a Shawnee chief, Cornstalk, in 1777.) The bridge failure was ultimately blamed on a stress fracture on one of the structure’s eyebar joints. While both the Mothman and Cornstalk curse are speculation, the 46 lives lost on the Silver Bridge were real and quite tangible for a town with a population of less than 5,000.
The events surrounding the Mothman and the collapse of the Silver Bridge became immortalized in the 2002 film interpretation of John A. Keel’s book, The Mothman Prophecies. The movie generated renewed interest in Mothman lore and growing enthusiasm led to the establishment of an annual Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant. Celebrating its ten-year anniversary this past September, the festival features vendors, food, speakers (including eyewitnesses and paranormal investigators/authors), music, a Mothman pageant, and hayride tours of the TNT area (the munitions depot where Mothman sightings were first reported). The Mothman Festival attracts everyone from true believers to the curious; cryptozoologists to Kitsch seekers. For locals and tourists alike, a spirit of community permeates the festival.
If you are unable to make it to the annual three-day event, many of the Mothman-related points of interest are open year-round. The Mothman statue, created by artist Robert Roach, stands on the corner of Main Street and 4th. Crafted from stainless steel, the 12-foot tall imposing statue features translucent red eyes that gaze toward the Ohio River. Just down the street, the Mothman Museum contains a treasure trove of photographs, newspaper articles, documents, and other curiosities chronicling the events of 66–67. The museum also possesses an impressive collection of props from the set of the 2002 movie.
The diner in The Mothman Prophecies was modeled after the Harris’ Steak House, a.k.a., the “Mothman Diner” (the bulk of the movie was actually filmed in Pennsylvania). The walls are decorated with children’s renderings of the Mothman and one of the featured menu items is the Mothman Burger, complete with Mothman sauce. In addition to their supernatural entity-inspired burger, Harris’ Steak House serves traditional diner fare at more-than-reasonable prices. My personal favorite is the Jim Dandy—grilled steak (note: “steak” here is of the Salisbury variety) and onions with cheese, lettuce, pickle, tomato, and mayonnaise—and a side of their onion rings, which are some of the best I’ve tasted.
It’s not a question of believing in the Mothman, for the events of 66–67 have already left an indelible mark on the history and in the consciousness of this small community. The Mothman, like all monster legends, captures the imagination of a society. It is the fleeting shadow that resides in the periphery; the mythos lurking just below the surface of our collective subconsciousness. The Mothman may have slipped into the West Virginia wilderness, disappearing forever, but his presence, real or imagined, will always be felt in Point Pleasant, even if it is only through an annual street festival. For an in-depth look into the Mothman sightings and the events surrounding the collapse of the Silver Bridge, I recommend the documentary, Eyes of the Mothman. While a little slow at times, the film is the most comprehensive documentary to date on the subject.