Kelly’s Field Notes
Mothman has been described as a humanoid creature, standing between 7-10 ft. tall (2-3 m), with glowing red eyes and large moth-like wings. His wingspan has also been reported to be 10 ft (3 m). He has also been described as a “large bird with red eyes” as well as a creature with eyes that “glowed like bicycle reflectors.” During an interview with witness Linda Scarberry she describes it as a “slender, muscular man" about seven feet tall with white wings.
It is believed Mothman gets his name from the Batman comic villain Killer Moth, first seen in Detective Comics issue 173, in July 1951. Coined by newspaper reporters. Killer Moth resembled a muscular man with insect-like wings when he was first introduced in the comics, though his eye coverings were white. In later editions his eyes coverings were changed to red. The wings never looked particularly close to the wings of a moth until Walker became Charaxes.
The first sighting of Mothman took place on November 15, 1966. Roger and Lina Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette claim to have seen a creature with eyes that “glowed red” near the sight of a former World War II munitions plant they called the “TNT area.” Both couples claimed the creature flew after their car when they fled, screeching.
After newspapers reported the sightings, other people came forward over the next few days to share their sightings as well. The sightings were blamed on both a large heron and a sandhill crane noted in the area. For reference, sandhill cranes have a wingspan of seven feet (2 m). The sandhill crane suggestion was made by wildlife biologist Robert L. Smith. Barred owls were also blamed for the sightings, with skeptic Joe Nickell claiming the red eyes of the Mothman were really a red-eye effect in barred owl eyes due to flashlights or other bright light sources. Overall, there were at least 100 sightings of Mothman between 1966 and 1967. There were also reports of others afraid to come forward and officially report their sightings to police or newspapers.
On December 15, 1967 Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, collapsed killing 46 people. Mothman’s appearance was linked to this collapse as a warning.
While his most popular sighting takes place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, from November 15, 1966, to December 15, 1967 there have been similar sightings in other places. There have been owlmen sightings in England, winged humanoid sightings in Minnesota and California and other similar sightings around the U.S.A. Similar to the Silver Bridge collapse in Point Pleasant, Mothman sightings have also been linked to the 1999 Russian apartment bombings. On paranormal websites and forums, as recently as this month, Mothman or Mothman-like sightings have continued to be reported.
John Keel is the author of the book The Mothman Prophecies. In his book, Mr. Keel claims to have received mysterious phone calls that would share prophecies with him that later came true. He claims the bridge collapse in Point Pleasant was one of those prophecies, along with the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. It is worth noting that in the movie adaptation, with the same name, the phone calls are recorded and experts claim human vocal cords could not produce that sound. This was for the movie only as Mr. Keel was unable to record any of the incoming calls, the results were nothing but static.
Mothman Compared to Moths:
Mothman as described as bird-like -a humanoid the size of Mothman would not be able to fly with a 10 ft (3 m) wingspan unless Mothman weighed as much as an Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) which has the same wingspan. Andean condors weigh up to 33 lbs (15 kg) and struggle to stay aloft without strong air currents. If we look at flying reptiles as an example, which are closer to human weight, we can use Quetzalcoatlus lawsoni, which had an estimated body mass of 143 lbs (65 kg), its wingspan was 16 ft (5 m). Mothman, assuming his mass is similar to humans, would need a much wider wingspan than 10 ft (3 m) to fly and that’s assuming anything about him is comparable to human biology.
Mothman with moth wings - While Mothman is not described as having moth wings, for argument’s sake let’s get into it. If we think about this in the context of moths and moth flight it becomes even harder to imagine anything that size with moth-like wings could take flight. Moth scales trap air between themselves and a moth’s wing, which does help to create lift, but the wing structure of a moth could not lift a creature the size of a human, even scaled up.
Eyes - Some moths do have red eyes! The Red-Eyed Moth (Herpetogramma phaeopteralis), moths of genus Gangara have red eyes, there are many examples. Moths also have the same red-eye issues we have when a flash photo is taken, which is light reflected back from the retina.
Mothman Compared to Killer Moth:
Abilities - Killer Moth is described as not being very impressive in the Batman comics. He can fly, as can Mothman, and that seems to be about it. He is basically Batman without the charm or money. As Charaxes, he eats humans and lays eggs that are clones of himself. We have no reports of Mothman eating any humans nor do we have reports of him reproducing.
Mothman Super Powers:
Flight - Mothman has wings and has been reported chasing cars while flying
Prophecy - Some residents of Point Pleasant believe Mothman was trying to warn them of the bridge collapse, others believe he caused it. He has been spotted heralding other catastrophic disasters around the world. Several workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant described seeing a large red-eyed humanoid with large wings rising above the powerplant in the days leading up to the disaster. It is known as the Blackbird of Chernobyl.
Mothman in Culture:
Point Pleasant, West Virginia holds an annual Mothman festival every year, the third weekend of every September. Their first ws in 2002. In 2003, a 12 ft (3.7 m) statue of Mothman was unveiled, created by artist Bob Roach. The Mothman Museums and Research Center followed in 2005.
The Mothman Prophecies book by John Keel was written in 1975. The book was based on Keel’s claims of receiving strange phone calls which he linked to reports of mutilated pets. The culmination of the book is the collapse of Silver Bridge. Mr. Keel passed away July 3, 2009 in New York City. He was 79 years old.
The Mothman Prophecies movie debuted in 2002. It was loosely based off of John Keel’s book and starred Richard Gere, Will Patton, Laura Linney, Debra Messing, and Alan Bates.
West Virginia’s baseball team the Black Bears have a special Mothman jersey they unveiled in 2022, which were worn for Tuesday home games in July and August.
Mothman appears in the video game Fallout 76
Also Mentioned in the Episode:
Becquart, Charlotte. “Forgotten Story of Cornwall’s Half-Man Half-Owl Creature.” CornwallLive, 30 Oct. 2022, www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/cornish-owlman-mawnan-smith-been-4045776.
“Eerie Story of the Black Bird of Chernobyl.” NZ Herald, 7 Oct. 2023, www.nzherald.co.nz/world/the-frightening-supernatural-story-of-the-black-bird-of-chernobyl/KH2SKIIUGWLXPJPMIKI2LXG2PI/. Accessed 6 Oct. 2023.
Hiatt, Brian. “How Real Is “The Mothman Prophecies”?” EW.com, 2002, ew.com/article/2002/02/01/how-real-mothman-prophecies/.
Sergent, Donnie, and Jeff Wamsley. Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend. Mothman Lives Publishing, 2002.
Splitair, Loretta. “Mothman Sighted on Sacramento’s Tower Bridge.” Broad Street Beacon, 1 Aug. 2023, broadstreetbeacon.com/mothman-sighted-on-sacramentos-tower-bridge/. Accessed 6 Oct. 2023.
“Killer Moth.” Wikipedia, 1 Oct. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_Moth. Accessed 6 Oct. 2023.
Wikipedia Contributors. “Mothman.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothman.
“WV Black Bears Debut Mothman Jerseys.” WBOY.com, 21 June 2022, www.wboy.com/only-on-wboy-com/wv-black-bears-debut-mothman-jerseys/. Accessed 6 Oct. 2023.