Originally published in Southeast Ohio
(Spring 1994 Edition, Volume 26, Number 2)
The Backroads Page
[Note, this article came out after THIS, but before this THIS, and (YO! What the...?) before THIS]
For those who believe extraterrestrial creatures only land in the backwoods of Canada or the deserts of the western United States, think again. Strange things visit Southeast Ohio's own backyard.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia, played a part in the UFO craze that swept through the 1960s and early 1970s by hosting a multitude of UFO sightings and one supernatural creature dubbed "Mothman."
The year of fear began on November 15, 1966 in Mason County, West Virginia.
Two couples, Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette, driving through the abandoned TNT area (now called McClintic Wildlife Sanctuary), panicked when a bird-like creature suddenly loomed ahead. They gunned the car onto Route 62 only to find the "bird" keeping pace with their 100 m.p.h. flight, as well as hovering menacingly ahead.
Each person agreed on the eerie description: man-shaped, grayish, ten-foot wingspan, about six feet tall with glowing red eyes two inches in diameter.
"Believe me, if you ever saw it, you'd be a believer," Roger Scarberry told The Athens Messenger.
Mary Hyre, a reporter for the Point Pleasant Register and The Athens Messenger, sent the story to the AP wire. That evening, "bird" turned into "Mothman," apparently changed by an anonymous copy editor, a spin-off from the Batman comic character.
Skeptics think Mothman is a huge Sandhill crane, a tall bird with fierce red eyes normally found in Florida and Mississippi, which strikes fear into the uninitiated with its wide wingspan. Mothman witnesses refuse to believe a large bird fooled them. Linda Scarberry told Hyre it "was no bird we saw out there. It was a huge, man-like thing. There is no resemblance to it and a crane...his legs looked as if you had put two horseshoes together" and it made a whirring sound like a tape recorder.
Soon after the incident, reports flooded Hyre. More than 100 adults saw the Mothman between 1966 and 1967. Both the description and accompanying fear remained identical throughout the reports.
UFO and Mothman sightings became so common in Mason County, people set their clocks by them. Every Wednesday between 10 and 10:15 p.m., strange, red lights rose out of the TNT area and surrounding ridges. A space invasion?
Then, in late November, 1966, Mothman or "The Mason Monster" made its daytime debut. At 7:15 a.m., Tom Ury of Clarksburg spotted it on Route 62 about eight miles north of Point Pleasant. The Mothman rose "up like a helicopter" from a nearby field.
"I never saw anything like it." Ury said. "I was so frightened I just couldn't go to work today. This thing had a wingspan every bit of 10 feet. It could be a bird, but I surely never saw one like it."
The creature glided along with the car at 70 m.p.h., then flew toward the Ohio River near the TNT area.
Besides Hrye, someone else was keeping a close eye out for the Mothman in the Point Pleasant area. John Keel, a New York writer who published The Mothman Prophesies in 1975, documented the entire year.
On one midnight drive through the TNT area, Keel came across what he calls the "Zone of Fear." On a certain patch of road, he experienced an unexplainable wave of panic. Fighting the urge to flee, Keel returned to the patch. Again, fear enveloped him. He got out of the car and walked through the zone, again experiencing the feeling. He retraced his steps quickly, jumped in his car, and left the TNT area.
The next morning, he returned and found no power lines or anything to send off that kind of energy; he concluded that the area was an ultrasonic zone of fear.
According to Keel, some witnesses left a Mothman or UFO sighting greatly affected. A few experienced nervous breakdowns, miscarriages, committed suicide, or, like Linda and Roger Scarberry, divorced before the 10th anniversary of their sighting. Linda told Keel she blamed the divorce on Mothman because "Roger's personality just completely changed because of it. He was never the same person after that. He just didn't care what he did from that point on."
Around mid-November 1967, Hyre had recurring dreams of people drowning in cold black water with packages floating on the surface. Also, witnesses told Keel a nationwide power blackout would occur on December 15, 1967, when President Lyndon B. Johnson lit the Christmas tree in Washington D.C. Fear held the city.
On December 15, 1967, Keel watched the president flip the switch. No power blackout occurred. Unfortunately at 5:04 p.m., the Silver Bridge collapsed into the Ohio River, killing 46 people.
Mrs Jackie Lilly, who lived two miles north of the bridge, saw 13 strange red lights rise from the TNT area and head south toward the bridge. That was the last reported sighting. Mothman has left the area.
Will he return?
Keep watch, Point Pleasant, keep watch.