Written by Dr. Mike Robinson ~ Guest Writer
Photo of Mothman statue. Retrieved from https://www.trianglearoundtown.com/trianglearoundtown/mothman.
For many years, I have wanted to visit the Mothman Museum. I first learned of the Mothman from a friend who researched folklore, historical accounts, and hoaxes connected to another legendary—the Jersey Devil. The Mothman’s story fascinated me. When my route to an academic conference took me right by the Mothman’s hometown, I just had to go visit.
The Mothman story goes something like this. Late in 1966, people living near Point Pleasant, West Virginia began to see a strange sight—a large winged creature with red glowing eyes. For about a year, stories followed the typical pattern. Travelers were startled. People messing around in old abandoned places were surprised. Strange lights in the skies and men in black seen walking around. It was fairly standard cryptid stuff.
What really cemented the Mothman into local legend though was the collapse of the Silver Bridge. On December 15, 1967, the suspension bridge failed during rush hour traffic. Thirty-two cars plunged into the cold Ohio River. Forty-six people died in the incident. Sightings of the creature were linked to the collapse. There is a difference of opinion though. Some think the Mothman caused the collapse. Others think he warned of the danger. In that regard, Mothman has always reminded me of the Incredible Hulk, a misunderstood presence with worrisome power.
Friend or foe, real or not, the Mothman became synonymous with the town of Point Pleasant. It is a big tourist draw and there is an annual festival in late September. Mothman is honored with a large metallic statue right on Fourth Street. A local was kind enough to snap my picture with the landmark. She was quite casual about that, so I suspected people asked all the time.
The nearby Mothman Museum is a small but ambitious affair. A gift shop in the front is packed with a wide variety of merchandise. Most of it was clothing, but there were a number of different images and designs from which to choose. The museum in the back filled up several small rooms. Displays focused on accounts of sightings, the mechanical failures of the Silver Bridge, and, to my joy, many popular culture items related to the flying mystery. I was particularly excited to learn that Frank Frazetta, a famous fantasy artist, had designed an image of the Mothman for the cover of an old issue of High Times (the museum was careful to note that the display did not indicate endorsement of recreational drug use).
The museum kept me busy for about a half-hour. It was a perfect break for my long drive. I never expected it to be the Smithsonian. Overall, it felt charmingly local but not in any way amateurish. I was pleasantly surprised by how hard they had worked to get all things Mothman into this space without being too pushy or too touristy.
As I drove on, I was glad that I had stopped. I had driven through a large and beautiful terrain to get there. Although I think of him as more of a story than a thing, I wished a bit that I might catch a glimpse of the Mothman on the way home. If nothing else, I sure could have used his prophetic powers to avoid that mobile home I got stuck behind in a road construction zone.