The Mothman

Mothman in Chicago



Rob Shelsky



The Mothman…is it real? Well one thing is certain; the creature is one of those mysteries that periodically draws attention and lots of it. Of late, it seems Chicago is where strange sightings of the beast have been occurring. Moreover, Chicago is not alone. The Midwest in general has seen an unprecedented rise in sightings of the so-called Mothman, and some of the sightings seem quite credible.

For example, people have spotted the bizarre creature in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri and of course, Illinois (around Chicago and the greater area). Witness reports have been on the rise of late, with 2017 being a highpoint for such sightings. It appears 2018 will maintain that record, as well.

Now, just what is the Mothman? Well, for those who somehow missed reading the book,  The Mothman Prophecies, or seeing the movie of the same name, it is a creature that first came to prominence just about half a century ago and has been with us ever since. Not only does the macabre legend of the Mothman seem to refuse to die, but also if anything, it continues to grow. 

Of late, the Mothman sightings have been spreading rapidly. Starting in West Virginia, it didn’t end there. Since then, it has spread across the globe. Moreover, in some of those places, the legend of the Mothman is far older than it is here in North America.

The origin, or at least the first recorded sightings of the Mothman as we know it here, appears to have taken place near the small town of Point Pleasant in West Virginia. The first event supposedly took place November 12, 1966. A number of gravediggers were busy about their task at the cemetery close by the town of Clendenin. They are reported to have seen a humanoid creature of some sort, sailing just above their head, low over some nearby trees. The sight of the thing disturbed them greatly.

On November 15, 1966, just several days later, the next sighting was at a location just outside of Point Pleasant itself. Two couples had entered an abandoned area, a site left over from World War II. Originally, it was the site of an ammunitions factory. Locals refer to this as the “TNT” area for this reason. The region has long since reverted to a wild and natural state. More recently, it is the lair of hunters and young couples looking for a little seclusion. The place was also a wildlife preserve for birds. The city of Point Pleasant had set the place aside for just this purpose. 

I mention this, because it does involve one of the possible explanations for the Mothman, the idea it might have been some type of bird people witnessed, although given the descriptions, this would seem unlikely. It’s also important to note the area has many old flooded tunnels and natural caves. This means there are ample hiding places or refuges for the Mothman if it exists, or even places where hoaxers could go to ground to hide after perpetrating some joke on unsuspecting people.

The first sighting of the Mothman in the TNT area started with a particularly scary beginning. Two couples who had driven out there for privacy spotted a pair of glaring, ruby-red eyes staring at them from out of the night, from some yards away. The eyes seemed huge. The couples say they were too large for any ordinary animal, and of course, they were the wrong color. Animals don’t normally have bright red eyes.

As the four of them continued to stare, they were sure they could make out the creature’s general appearance. The thing seemed to stand around seven feet high. The shape appeared generally human. However, there is an added feature. The thing seemed to possess wings. These were folded back, but still looked to be huge. 

If this image sounds a little familiar, it should. Many illustrations of Satan, the devil, resemble this description. Understandably then, the two men and two women were not just surprised, but badly frightened, as well.

Artist’s Conception of Mothman

Artist’s Conception of Mothman

Two things should be noted here. In that area near the same time, there had been a UFO sighting. A group of schoolboys and a woman all claimed to have seen it. They, at first, supposed it to be an airplane in trouble. Of course, they rushed forward to find out just what was going on. However, shortly after this and before they could reach the site of the supposed UFO crash landing, they spotted “two lights” as they put it. They were close together. The lights were red, and looked very much like two eyes. They shone at them from out of the darkness.

As the “eyes” approached them, a figure became discernible. They claimed it was a creature, almost ten feet in height. It had a face that was reddish in color, and a “strangely shaped skull.” The creature appeared to hover and drifted slowly toward them. Panicked, the children and woman all turned and fled. They raced to safety and then called the authorities, which in this case was the local sheriff.

In addition, as another side note, some fifteen years earlier in 1952, there had been a sighting of something near Flatwoods, West Virginia. The “monster,” or Flatwoods Monster, as it was often called, was said to have large red eyes. Generally, it was described by the witnesses as closely resembling the creature sighted at the UFO event, as well as at the TNT area. So perhaps the Point Pleasant incident was not the true first sighting of the Mothman. It’s possible the “thing” had been around for much longer than was thought at the time.

Illustration of Flatwood Monster

Illustration of Flatwood Monster

In any case, the four people observing the Mothman at the TNT area were frightened out of their wits. They claimed the red eyes appeared to be hypnotizing them. Deciding discretion was the better part of valor, they fled in their car back toward Point Pleasant, some six miles away. However, their troubles weren’t over yet.

Once again, they sighted the monster. This time, it stood just off the road, in a pasture, and its wings were spread wide. The four all later claimed the wings of the Mothman were very much like those of a bat, being leathery in appearance, but much larger than a bat’s, of course. The Mothman only stood there in the meadow a moment. Then it rose into the air. Flapping its huge, bat-like wings, it flew toward them.

Now driving at top speed in their desperation to get away, the four realized they weren’t losing the creature. It flew along beside them and with apparent ease. 

Mind you, the four all claimed they were doing close to 100 miles an hour at this point. They also claimed that even over the noise of the car, they could clearly hear something that sounded like a recording being run at a very high speed, sounding high-pitched and garbled. Whether this was the sound of the Mothman’s wings or it was emitting the noise some other way, they couldn’t be sure.

The four continued to speed along in their car. They passed a dead dog on their way. After informing the authorities and returning to the scene, they happened to notice the dead dog had disappeared, apparently vanished for good. Of course, they speculated it had something to do with the Mothman, although they couldn’t be sure.

Whenever recounting the series of events later, the witnesses always focused on the red eyes of the creature. They kept talking about those ruby-red orbs that seemed to have the power to mesmerize them. It was this, more than anything else about the creature, including its size and those strange bat-like wings that seemed to burn into their memories the most. That and their indescribable horror of the creature, for they found it “horrible,” as one of them put it.

Were the witnesses reliable? Well, if there had been just one or even two of them involved, one could say, perhaps not. Instead, there were four of them, and men when in the company of their women tend to put up a brave front. In other words, they try not to scare easily, or look afraid in order not to appear weak in the eyes of their loved ones. Therefore, to be that afraid meant they saw something terrible, something that shook them up.

Furthermore, Deputy Millard Hallstead declared he had known them all their lives. In all that time, they had never caused any kind of disturbances or trouble. He felt they were trustworthy witnesses. He was convinced something real had scared them out of their wits and he was determined to find out just what it was.

Later, back at the old TNT area, where the four had first witnessed the Mothman, the deputy decided to investigate the matter. However when he turned on his car radio to keep in touch with his headquarters, he had problems. The thing emitted a continuous shrieking blast of noise. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get it to stop. Unnerved by this, he left the place.

Moreover, this wasn’t the only occurrence that night. Newell Partridge, a contractor, was in his living room watching television at his home. Abruptly, the image on the screen vanished to be replaced by what he, himself, described as a “herringbone pattern.” This was accompanied by a very voluble screeching sound. At the same time, his German shepherd dog began barking wildly.

Alarmed, Newell decided to investigate. Stepping outside, his dog shot away from him, raced off in the direction of the barn. This was located some distance from the house. Truly worried now, Newell used his flashlight. Illuminated in the thing’s glare were two large and glowing red eyes. Instinctively, he knew this was no ordinary animal. No animal he knew of had such eyes. Frightened, he decided to return to the house. He locked himself in there and retrieved his gun for good measure. Now he waited, afraid to venture outside.

At first light, he went looking for his dog. There was no sign of him, only some tracks going in a circle. The dog was never seen again. Some wonder if the dead dog the two couples had seen that same night along the edge of the road might have been Newell’s dog. 

Had the Mothman picked him up and dropped him there? We will probably never know. Still, it is an odd coincidence that a dog disappears and the body of one is seen at about the same time lying on a highway. Moreover, both events involved a creature with glowing red eyes in the immediate vicinity when it all happened.

A reporter used the term “Mothman” to describe the monster. The name of Mothman stuck. The creature has been called that ever since. In addition, it has joined the annals of other strange creatures that seem to haunt certain areas, ones called cryptids and that evoke nightmarish images in the minds of the locals. The locals do believe the Mothman is every bit as real or you or I am. For them, it is no mere creature of myth, but a real fact of their everyday existence.

More sightings and by others followed. Then just a little later, the Point Pleasant Bridge collapsed. People died, and so the idea of the Mothman as a harbinger of doom was born. To see the Mothman meant one might well be a victim of whatever disaster or catastrophe was to come.

mothman bridge
silver bridge

In fact, the following lines from one of William Shakespeare’s play, Othello describe this idea very well:

“These are portents; but yet I hope, I hope,

They do not point on me.”

Point Pleasant Area and Silver Bridge

Point Pleasant Area and Silver Bridge

With the Mothman that is exactly how people feel about sighting the strange cryptid, if that’s what it is. The UFO sighting so close to the time of the events in Point Pleasant might indicate something else. However, there is always something intrinsically evil, it seems, associated with the creature, which seems to add to the supernatural qualities of the beast. For example:

Mexico Sightings Prior to Swine Flu Epidemic. Here we have another case of the Mothman showing up in an area that was undergoing stress and/or a human tragedy at the time. Citizens of the town of La Junta reported they had seen the Mothman. This occurred on April 10, 2009, as reported by a reliable source, Engineer Francisco Prieto Torres.

The creature was described as tall, around two meters, with a furry face, and two of those same red eyes. Oddly, in this case, the Mothman or whatever it was sported two pairs of wings. 

The Mothman Illustration

The Mothman Illustration

One set of wings was larger than the other set. This sounds very insect-like and certainly resembles what a humanoid moth might look like. However, no one can account for this discrepancy and the description of the Mothman of Point Pleasant.

A student at the time who was attending the Universidad Regional del Norte is the principal witness. Like his young American counterparts in Point Pleasant, he was in his car when it happened. He claims the Mothman chased him for a full fifteen minutes. This occurred on the evening of March 6.

In his report, the student said when he first saw the creature, it was in the middle of the road, and looked like someone hunched over there, or perhaps covered in some way, as with a rug or something similar. Then the creature suddenly rose. It took two leaps and raising its bat-like wings, flew at the student’s car. Panicking, he took off at top speed.

Again, like his American counterpart, the creature raced alongside of his car, easily keeping pace with the vehicle, although the student was driving as fast as his car would go. By the way, I keep referring to him as “the student” for a reason. Afraid of being ridiculed, he wanted to keep his name anonymous in the matter, although Francisco Prieto Torres knows who he was.

However, the student was not alone in witnessing this. This lends more authenticity to these encounters. Two women, a MS Viviana Ledezma and MS Angela Mendez claim to have heard the Mothman making high-pitched squeals, just as described by Americans in Point Pleasant. This took place in a cemetery. Again, we have that association with death.

A group comprised of the local police and civil defense investigated the matter, and attempted to find the Mothman. Rumors were that it lurked in caves nearby. Once more, just as with their American counterparts, no sign of the creature was found in that area, any more than it was found in some hidden lair in the TNT area of Point Pleasant.

As a side note, it is also said people witnessed the Mothman just before the big earthquake in 1985 in Mexico City. The sightings allegedly occurred just days before the quake actually happened.

Sighting of Mothman in London, the “Highgate Vampire.” The Highgate area of London has a very old and sprawling cemetery. Just two years after the bridge collapse in Point Pleasant, people began to see something there. And just as in America, where the media decided to dub the Mothman for a character from Batman, so, too, did the British press decide to refer to the entity at the Highgate Cemetery by the colorful term, the Highgate Vampire, because it had been described as being tall and a dark shadowy figure. As time passed, reports continued to flow in of sightings of the thing. These encounters were always disturbing for the participants in the sightings, and frightening in the extreme.

Unlike the Mothman, which had a form of predecessor in sightings of the Thunderbird, this is not the case in England. Highgate Cemetery had no prior history of such a creature haunting its domains. However, in 1922, at the West Drayton Church, something with a wingspan of six feet was seen by the light of the full moon as it flitted about the church tower. It is said the creature then landed in the graveyard of the church, gave a high-pitched squeal, and then flew away. Two policemen had attempted to chase and capture the creature, but to no avail. 

Therefore, although the Highgate Cemetery itself doesn’t have a legend of such a creature, there have been other reports of a Mothman-like being in the general region. Moreover, just as in Point Pleasant, the Highgate Vampire just suddenly began appearing without warning. Numerous witnesses claim to have seen the creature. 

David Farrant, an investigator of the paranormal, reviewed the case. After diligent research on the topic, it was his considered opinion that what had been seen was not a hoax. Too many people had witnessed the creature and the entity had been capable of feats of inhuman prowess, such as leaping and suddenly flying off. Additionally, the thing sported wings, so that it was unlikely it could have been a hoax. He also felt the creature suffered from a misnomer. The old Hammer House of Horror vampire films were popular at the time, and so this is why the media had seized on the term “vampire.”

According to Investigator Farrant, the descriptions were not those of a vampire at all, but rather much more closely resembled, and were very consistent with descriptions of the Mothman, ones made by Americans across the Atlantic. Therefore, he felt the creature was much more likely something along the lines of a Mothman.

Strangely, while he was investigating the whole matter, he, too, had a run-in with the Mothman. This also took place in the cemetery. At first, he thought it was a hoax, someone just dressed up in a costume. This turned out to be an incorrect assumption on his part. He described the thing as being over seven feet in height. However, because the thing hovered above the ground, it was hard for him to ascertain accurately the height, since it floated about so.

In addition, as with all other reports concerning the Mothman, this entity had the same glowing, ruby-red eyes. He described them, as placed in a “black shape” that he assumed must be the head of the creature.

Furthermore, there is one other telling piece of description involved here. He felt as if the creature was staring at him. As he stared back at it, he felt a strange lassitude take hold. He said he felt as if the thing was hypnotizing him. Again, this is very similar to reports by Americans in and around Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Combined with his own experience, and what he felt were reliable reports from a multitude of witnesses, Mr. Farrant is convinced it was a Mothman.

Mothman in Tbilisi, Georgia. According to newspaper reports of the times, reports of a winged creature, or “phantom,” as they referred to it were seen in Tbilisi, Georgia. A man even claimed the phantom had given him a warning the Church of Saint David was in jeopardy. On April 25, 2002, an earthquake struck Tbilisi and as warned, Saint David was partially destroyed. 

Mothman in China. Very near the same time, just a few months later, people in China saw the Mothman, or claim to have. Just a short while later, a Chinese plane went down. It crashed in the very region where the Mothman sightings had occurred. Newspaper reports of the time claimed several people had received warnings about the coming crash from a moth-like humanoid.

Mothman in New York. On that fateful day, September 11, 2001, a flying humanoid was seen by several witnesses circling around the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Of course, this was on the same day as when the towers were attacked and collapsed, killing thousands in the process. 

However, in this case, there are no reports by any witnesses that claim the Mothman gave them any information about the coming disaster. Perhaps, just its presence itself was supposed to have been the warning. Nevertheless, as in all these cases, whether actively seeming to be warning people, or just trying to warn them by its very presence, the disaster still happens. People die. Therefore, nothing is altered by the Mothman’s strange behavior in this regard, so it begs the question is the Mothman warning people at all, or is it just some sort of ghoul-like creature attracted to disasters and death? Many people think this is the case.

Mothman at Fukushima. There is even a reported case of the Mothman being seen by two people at the Fukushima power plant in Japan before the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent meltdown of the reactor there. They claimed they heard a loud screeching noise, accompanied by a strange rushing sound. When they looked up, they saw a humanoid creature with large black wings circling the power plant. 

One of the witnesses claims their view of the thing was quite clear because it was a moonlit night. After the event, both of them discussed it with each other in some depth, late into that same evening. One tried to argue that perhaps it been an optical illusion, but the other expressed strong doubt of this, that two people could see the same optical illusion, and such a bizarre one at that, and since when did optical illusions come accompanied by sounds?

Later, after they had returned to America, the Doubting Thomas witness called the other to tell him of the disaster at Fukushima. Again, the Mothman seems to be drawn to such types of tragedies and before they occur.

Mothman Seen in Cornwall, England. The owl shriek'd at thy birth,--an evil sign;”

--William Shakespeare, Henry VI. 

Sightings of the Cornish Owlman seem to have started around 1976. Once more, we have strong similarities and descriptions to the Mothman. What’s more, the creature was seen stalking about a graveyard in a Cornish village at night. The people have various names for the Owlman in that region. Among these are the Mawnan and Death Raptor. Yet once more, we have that connection, a strong link to death, what with the names of the creature, and its association with cemeteries, and tragedies. 

So it goes, and seems to continue to go in this vein. Moreover, the descriptions are very similar to the Mothman in all these sightings. The creature emits a loud hissing and screeching noise. It has the same glowing, ruby-red eyes. Its feet are claw-like. The wingspan of the Owlman is estimated at about ten feet when fully spread. The creature’s height was judged to be somewhere between five and six feet. If all these descriptions in all these places are just coincidences, then they are certainly coming very thick and extremely fast. These sightings around the world can’t all just be a series of continuous remarkable coincidences.

Something else to note with the sightings in Cornwall; the weather at the time was unusually varied, with days of extreme cold, followed immediately by much warmer ones. There were also sightings of UFOs. It’s also said the local animals behaved oddly. An interesting aside to this, is that the Mawnan Church (from which the creature received one of its names), is right on a Ley line, which is supposed to be a power line of a worldwide grid system of such Ley lines. Is there some connection there? One can’t be sure, of course.

One set of witnesses thought the Owlman was just someone dressed in a costume, standing in the branch of a tree, playing at some sort of a stupid hoax. They were soon disabused of this notion. They realized the Owlman was quite real, because it leapt into the sky and flew away. They reported it had mesmerizing red eyes. This is just as all the other reports with these creatures seem to have in common.

Other sightings of the beast have continued since then. Some claim that at night, all they see are the pinpoints of the two red eyes, high atop the church tower and so too far away to see a dark body against a dark night sky. No doubt, viewing what would amount to disembodied red eyes would be a most frightening and unsettling experience for anyone.

Additionally, UFOs are often seen in these locations, as well. Interestingly, although the Owlman does not seem to have been related to any disasters there in Cornwall, it does have evil and malignant connotations surrounding its existence, with strong connections to death. It is thought by some to be demon-like, or perhaps even a demon itself, by those who have seen it.

Whatever the Mothman is, there is one thing certain about all these sightings. They all are very much alike, all include the creature having red eyes, often referred to as mesmerizing or hypnotizing, and the beast is capable of flying quite swiftly. Also, there are the constant references to death, cemeteries, UFOs, and disasters. As cryptids go, this is not a particularly nice one, even by the standards of cryptids. Therefore, if you do see a Mothman, good luck! Oh, and a word of warning; try not to notice the creature directly, because it is said if it realizes you are aware of it, then it will continue to stalk and haunt you. Just a word of advice…


Please Note: Portions of this article are excerpts from Rob Shelsky’s book, Mysteries of Mothman.All pictures are in the public domain.