The Real Mothman Prophecies

by Dr. Greg Little

The movie, The Mothman Prophecies, may well stimulate revived interest in John Keel’s work and speculations on UFOs. Keel (pen name of Alva John Kiehle) was born in 1930 and began professional writing at age 16. His book Jadoo (1957) documented his early efforts to find the mythical Abominable Snowman in the Alps. During these early travels in the far east, Keel was allowed to walk among snakes, learn the Indian rope trick, and be buried alive (among other things). A science writer for Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia, he also wrote for various television and radio shows.

The Mothman Story

“From November 1966 to December 1967 one of the strangest events in ufological history took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. John Keel’s Mothman Prophecies was written about this tragic series of encounters with a bat-like, winged creature that had a humanlike appearance. Mothman, as he was dubbed, stood between six and seven feet tall, was gray in color, and had wings like a bat - featherless. He had a man’s legs and huge, hypnotic red eyes. He was seen by dozens of people with some witnesses standing face-to-face with the creature. The events ended when the Silver Bridge collapsed into the Ohio River on December 15, 1967 during an afternoon traffic jam.”

From: Grand Illusions (Little, 1994)

Before more of the story is told, it should be noted that Keel has pointed out that a host of similar creature reports have been made. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, a similar creature was encountered in the former Soviet Union. In addition, reports have come from Texas and elsewhere. In his book The Mothman Prophecies, Keel related the reports to Native American mounds and sacred sites on the Ohio River. These statements played a role in leading the present writer to an avid interest in mounds and ancient rituals involving mound complexes.

In People of the Web (1990), I told the story of Mothman in a sort of travel and investigative book. In November of 1986, my wife and I drove to Point Pleasant exactly 20 years to the day that the Mothman event began.

“It was late, dark and raining, but we could see the Ohio River clearly as we sped closer to Point Pleasant on Route 2. As the second Friday of November 1986 was passing into Saturday morning, the discussion between my wife, Lora, and me centered on Mothman and John Keel. The rain, patches of fog, and darkness intensified our discussion to create an eerie feeling in us. We almost expected to see a winged monster with red, glowing eyes any second. The event would only last a moment or so. We would see the monster standing in the center of the road peering directly at us with his hypnotic gaze. As soon as we noticed him, he would be gone.

“Lora mentioned how the taillights of the cars in front of us looked like eyes. I normally don’t get spooked, but I was feeling peculiar and antsy. I wanted to stop driving and sleep. It was nearing midnight and we were both tired.

“Soon we were looking at the spot where the bridge at Point Pleasant collapsed. I was struck by the immense tragedy it must have been for the area.

“We stopped at a small store in downtown Point Pleasant and asked where the nearest motel was. About 15 minutes later Lora and I were arguing about whether to stay there or not. I wanted to spend the night in Point Pleasant, but definitely not at this hotel . . .

“In November 1966, exactly 20 years before we drove through Point Pleasant, the Mothman made his first appearance 10 miles north of Point Pleasant. The tragic Mothman episode is one of the best-known and most bizarre cases in all of UFO and apparitional history . . .

“The Ohio-West Virginia Mothman episode lasted exactly 13 months (November 15, 1966 to December 15, 1967). The Mothman, often associated with UFO sightings, was seen by an enormous number of people . . .

“On November 15, 1966 at 11:30 p.m., two newlywed couples were driving around the TNT area. ([Note: the TNT area is an abandoned WW II munitions plant 10 miles north of Point Pleasant.] As they drove past an abandoned generator plant, one of the women, Linda Scarberry, pointed out two large, red glowing eyes staring at them from the blackness. As the huge eyes moved away from the building, they could see they were part of a large figure. A six to seven-foot-tall creature now stood in front of them. They could clearly see gigantic wings folded behind its back. It was gray and stood on legs like a man’s.

“Stricken with terror, the witnesses began fleeing from the creature ... As they made a curve in the road, they spotted the creature again. It was standing on a hill just looking at them. As soon as they all noticed it, it shot straight up into the air without flapping its wings.

“Because he trusted the word of the four witnesses, deputy sheriff Millard Halstead drove out to the TNT area to investigate. Halstead didn’t find the Mothman, but his radio wouldn’t work while he was in the area. A loud garbled noise was all that would come out of the radio while he was there.

“During its rein of terror and lunacy over the Point Pleasant area, the Mothman was seen by over 100 adults and many more children and teens. Hundreds of people spent evening after evening sitting in their cars at the TNT generator and munitions plants hoping to spot the creature. UFOs and moving lights were regularly seen in the skies surrounding the area. In addition, bizarre animal mutilations plagued the area.

“The Mothman episode is characterized, in large part, by its utter absurdity. The area took on a carnival atmosphere as events progressed. Phones didn’t work right, radios blurted out strange messages, animals disappeared, UFOs were seen everywhere, ‘investigators’ turned up all over the area, and Mothman would just walk up to farmhouse doors or fly over restaurants.

“On January 11, 1967 at 5:00 in the afternoon, Maber McDaniel was walking toward the restaurant on Route 62. She spotted what she first though was a small plane soaring low over the highway. As the object came closer into view she was frozen with terror as she realized she was looking at a giant ‘man’ with outstretched wings and feet hanging down.

“On December 4, 1966, five pilots were standing at the Gallipolis, Ohio airport. Gallipolis is just on the other side of the Ohio River from Point Pleasant. One of the men pointed out a strange object approaching them from the Ohio River. They quickly realized they were viewing a gigantic ‘bird’ that was silently soaring toward them at an estimated 70 mph. Its wings never flapped and the creature was rapidly moving its head from side to side.

“On November 26 Ruth Foster was confronted by Mothman in her front lawn near Charleston. The next day Mothman visited a golf course in Mason and then returned to a suburb of Charleston where it harassed two girls as they passed a local junkyard.

“Also in November, Mothman confronted two firemen in the TNT area. The creature terrorized five teenagers as they were driving past a rock quarry. A National Guardsman spotted Mothman standing on a tree limb in Point Pleasant. . . . In Point Pleasant, an elderly businessman went outside to hush his barking dog. Mothman stood right in front of him in his front yard. The man was stunned and transfixed by the creature’s glowing red eyes. . . .

“By far, the most striking physical characteristic of Mothman was his eyes. Virtually all the witnesses were so impressed or transfixed with the huge, hypnotic, glowing red eyes of Mothman, that they remembered nothing else about his face.

“The culmination of this famous era in ufology was set up with a warning given to Keel that something of tragic proportions was about to happen in that area of West Virginia. Keel was given a further warning and a hint of the event that was about to occur when Mrs. Virginia Thomas told him she had been plagued with bad dreams wherein she saw large numbers of people drowning in the Ohio River at Point Pleasant. . . .

“Keel, of course, visited Point Pleasant many times investigating the ongoing events. He made many friends in the area, many of whom told him in November and December of 1967 that something was seriously wrong in Point Pleasant. The town’s residents were apprehensive, but their fears were nonspecific. Keel came to believe that there could be a major accident at one of the many factories that line the Ohio River in West Virginia.

“On December 15, 1967 at 5:00 p.m., a traffic jam occurred on the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant. The bridge quivered, then collapsed, plunging about 50 cars and trucks into the icy waters of the Ohio River. Over 30 people died in what is still the worst bridge disaster in U.S. history. Some bodies and cars were never recovered and it was assumed that many people who were ‘missing’ after the bridge’s collapse were forever lost in the river.

“The collapse of the Silver Bridge represented the end of the West Virginia Mothman episode.


Mothman & Other Curious Encounters

Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend

The Mothman Prophecies

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Native American Mounds & Earthworks — by Dr. Greg Little

For the newest issue of Alternate Perceptions, click here.