The Business of Mothman

April 6, 2011

For one year—from November 1966 to November 1967—a great winged creature was responsible for a monster “flap” (pun acknowledged) in the area around Point Pleasant, West Virginia. It shuffled awkwardly or flew, mothlike, with silent wings. Its most distinctive feature was a pair of crimson-shining (not glowing) eyes, “like bicycle reflectors.”

I relate the Mothman story and my investigation in my new book, Tracking the Man-Beasts: Sasquatch, Vampires, Zombies, and More. (The “more” includes werewolves and kin; mermaids; giants and dwarfs; various extraterrestrials; the Yeti, Yowie, and Yeren; unidentified flying humanoids; swamp creatures; the Chupacabra or “goat sucker”; and still more.)

Briefly, I determined that Mothman’s profile, awkward walk, big wings, silent flight, “funny little face,” and, especially, its dramatic crimson eyeshine pointed to a barred owl. Nevertheless, over time Mothman sprouted arms and took on more “alien” features, as it became the subject of folklore and fakelore.

Now gone, apparently, but not forgotten, Mothman remains good for business in Point Pleasant, the subject of an annual festival. An exaggerated statue of the increasingly mythologized creature stands downtown. Nearby is The Mothman Museum, featuring related photos, newspaper clippings, and the like—even two of the plywood Mothman cutouts with reflector eyes that I made and used in a nighttime experiment (regarding estimating size and distance) for a 2009 episode of Monster Quest. At the museum, one can buy Mothman books, T-shirts, and bric-a-brac—also available, along with coffee and cappuccino, across the street at a store called The Point.

Down the street, past some empty storefronts, is the Iron Gate Grille, which offers a Mothman Sandwich (ham, turkey, cheese, etc., on rye) with large pimento-stuffed olives for eyes. This inspired me to create my own quite different and more symbolic version.

My new and improved Mothman Sandwich is based on baloney—a thick slice or two, preferably half-baked—together with a slice of swiss cheese, representing the substance and full-of-holes nature of Mothman claims. Other ingredients are lettuce (as in please let us use critical thinking skills), and pumpernickel bread (or should I say pumper-Nickell, after the advocate of the barred-owl hypothesis), topped with two cherry tomatoes (to represent Mothman’s barred-owl-like crimson-shining eyes) that are transfixed with toothpicks. The sandwich platter is garnished with sides of sweet relish (for those who relish satire) and dill pickles (to help one create an appropriately sour expression in response to the whole matter). When presented, the server may say, “You bite it, before it bites you!”

For surely, Mothman is still in Point Pleasant—more ubiquitous than ever—and ready to take a bite out of a visitor’s wallet. Otherwise, it needs scarcely to be feared.