Sketch of "Mothman"

Around midnight on November 15, 1966, two young couples were driving down a dirt road by an abandoned TNT plant near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Roger and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette, said they saw a strange gray figure standing near the plant's front door, with large red eyes that glowed in the dark and wings folded against its back. As the frightened couples sped away, the creature reportedly spread its wings and took off through the air in pursuit of the car. Even at speeds approaching 100 mph, the bizarre flying "bird" kept up with them. It made a loud, high-pitched shrieking noise, and it flew without flapping its wings. The creature followed them all the way down Highway 62 to the Point Pleasant city limits before flying away.

The four witnesses reported what they'd seen to the Point Pleasant police. All of them remarked on the strangeness of the creature's huge red eyes, which seemed to be set right into the monster's shoulders or chest, as though it had no head. They also noted that the eyes seemed to be "hypnotic."

The Scarberrys and the Mallettes were not alone in having a strange encounter that night. At about 10:30 that evening, Newell Partridge was watching TV at his home in Salem, West Virginia, about 90 miles from Point Pleasant. Partridge's television went blank with static, and he heard his hunting dog Bandit howling outside. Partridge went to look outside with a flashlight, and he saw two large red glowing circles that he thought were the eyes of an animal. Bandit went charging in the direction of the eyes, despite his master's calls for him to come back. The dog never returned.

The following day, Sheriff George Johnson announced the Scarberry and Mallette sightings to the press. Even though the descriptions uniformly seemed more similar to an owl or a big bird, a reporter named the creature "Mothman" after a villain on the then-current hit TV show, Batman.

On that night, November 16, Macella Bennett was getting into her car after visiting friends in Point Pleasant, when she saw a gray figure with red eyes rise up on the other side of her car. She said it was taller than a man and had eyes in the middle of its headless torso. Bennett was so terrified she dropped her baby daughter, and her friend Raymond Wamsley picked up the unharmed infant before they dashed back into the house. They said the creature peeked through the windows at them, but by the time police could get there, it was gone.

Sightings of Mothman in Point Pleasant and other areas of West Virginia continued coming in for a period of about one year. The creature has rarely been sighted since November 1967, giving the impression that it was in Point Pleasant for a short time and then left for good.

The definitive chronicle of the phenomenon was recorded by author John A. Keel in his acclaimed book The Mothman Prophecies, a half-journalistic, half-fiction novel based on firsthand investigations and interviews with the major eyewitnesses. Keel ties in the Mothman appearances with UFO sightings that were also reported in the Point Pleasant area, weaving a strange tapestry of extraterrestrials, ultraterrestrials, Men in Black, the CIA and a massive conspiracy of silence.

For a more mundane explanation of the Mothman case, it has been suggested that the witnesses may have seen sandhill cranes, a variety of large bird that can stand five or six feet tall. These cranes are not normally found in West Virginia, but could conceivably migrate there from Canada. Another theory is that the creatures were simply large owls. In any case, it would take a tremendous amount of panic and fear for any one person's mind to perceive a normal bird as this menacing creature, and a large number of people would have to share the same misconception. This is just one of the reasons why Mothman is one of the strangest phenomena not only in cryptozoology, but also in the entire realm of the unexplained.