‘Mothman’ Photos: West Virginia Folk Legend Resurfaces In Night-Time Images [Debunked]

Norman Byrd

A bizarre sighting against a night sky has a few people believing that the legendary “Mothman” of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, has returned, because not only did the witness see the odd figure, he also took photos of it. But not everyone is convinced of the Mothman’s existence, and the skeptics are inclined to believe that the modern folk legend is no more to be feared than the nearest visitor to one’s birdfeeder.

WCHS in Charleston reported that a man driving down a state road in Mason County, West Virginia, on November 20 saw what looked like a large winged humanoid moving from tree to tree, so he pulled over and took photos of the strange sight. The station ran the story, asking if this could truly be a return of the Mothman, the following night, after the man, who wished to remain anonymous, turned over the photos to them with the disclaimer that they had not been doctored. He also stated that he had recently moved to the Point Pleasant area and was not even aware of the Mothman legend prior to arriving in the area.

The photos, which are somewhat grainy, show a silhouetted figure against the sky and bracketed by trees. Wings appear to be outspread in flight as a pair of legs seem to extend awkwardly away from the body.

Owner of Point Pleasant’s The Mothman Diner, Carolin Harris, told WCHS that the recent photos could be of images of the legend, considering the number of sightings over the years. Harris has owned the diner for 48 years and was instrumental in starting the city’s annual Mothman Festival.

“I definitely know the Mothman is real,” Harris said, noting that there had been too many sightings of the creature for it not to be real. Harris cited eye-witness sightings by first responders and members of the local sheriff’s department that “made a believer” out of her, and she’s met many believers over the years who have stopped in at her diner.

As noted, the Mothman story has become legendary and, much like what the Roswell UFO Incident has done for that New Mexico city, has spurred a local tourist industry associated with the sightings.

Concept of the Mothman
The first sighting of the Mothman occurred in November, 1966. [Image by rudall30/Shutterstock]

According to The Sun, the first sighting of what became known as the Mothman occurred in mid-November, 1966. A group of grave diggers in Point Pleasant reportedly saw the creature flying low in the trees. There was a rash of subsequent reports over a four-day period of a tall, human-like being with wings that kept the city and surrounding area on edge.

But the legend grew to be associated with death the following year as the sightings were seen as signs or warnings after the Silver Bridge, a large suspension bridge that spanned the Ohio River and connected Point Pleasant with Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed the following December, resulting in the deaths of 46 people. But as Snopes.com, the urban legend and hoax-debunking website, noted, the connection between the events is tenuous at best.

And it might have become an obscure curiosity had popular culture not gravitated toward it, especially after the publication of the 1975 book, The Mothman Prophecies. The book was later adapted into the moderately successful 2002 film of the same name which starred Richard Gere, David Eigenberg, Laura Linney, and Debra Messing.

Besides being seen as harbingers of doom or even just frighteningly large creatures, the Mothman has been debunked as the sightings of large birds seen by people unfamiliar with them and hindered in recognizing them by poor lighting or darkness. In fact, as Snopes.com revealed, local authorities had come to believe the sightings could be attributed to an “unusual-looking bird.”

“Around the time it was first spotted, then-Mason County Sheriff George Johnson said the creature was likely a shitepoke, a type of heron.”

Snopes.com further pointed out that the Associated Press ran a story on December 1, 1966, wherein local authorities and a local biologist told the news agency that they believed the creature was actually a sandhill crane, a rather large bird that can stand as tall as a man and has a wingspan of over seven feet, that had become separated from its normal migration route. The unfamiliarity with the bird had “caused some fright” among the local populace.

bird flying in silhouette
The legendary Mothman of West Virginia has been debunked as a nothing more than an unrecognized, unfamiliar large bird not usually seen in the area, like a sandhill crane (shown flying in silhouette). [Image by Joh Wijsman/Shutterstock]

As for the latest sighting, some skeptics have pointed out that the images in the photos were of a bird also. The Sun noted that Twitter user Erik Pickle was sure the silhouette was not the Mothman, posting, “It’s an owl with a snake in its talons.”

[Featured Image by IfH/Shutterstock]