It has been a few months since I posted a new edition of the Tell-Tale Traveler but with Halloween upon us, I thought it fitting to write about my recent visit to Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Now, if the city sounds familiar, particularly to those familiar with cryptids or Richard Gere, it’s because Point Pleasant is known as the home of the Mothman.
The story of the Mothman began on November 15, 1966 when two young couples drove out to the TNT area in Point Pleasant. This complex was once used to store ammunitions during World War II. Following the closure of the ammunitions plant, the 100 domed shaped storage containers stood empty, save for a few that to this day are still used as storage. The domes are scattered throughout the area with some being quite hard to find, as they were purposely covered with flora and fauna to disguise the location of the TNT area during the war. Over the years, the domes have served a new purpose as a location where local Point Pleasant teenagers visit and this was the case on that November night in 1966. As the teenagers drove around the TNT area, something strange appeared in the headlights. The teenagers would later claim that they saw a large grey creature, whose eyes glowed red. Reportedly the beast had large wings and appeared somewhat human-like in its stature. It had chased the teenager’s car, flying at speeds of nearly 100 miles an hour. The teens immediately fled back to town and reported the incident to locals at a nearby restaurant. After calming down, they decided against their better judgment to return to the TNT area to see if they could have a further encounter with the creature. Things seemed normal as they drove back out to the site but as they neared the TNT area, they lost their courage and turned the car around. Oddly, on their way back, they noticed a dead dog in the road that had not been there minutes before. That dog would later be identified as a dog that had disappeared from another West Virginia town nearly 200 miles away days before the first sighting of the Mothman in Point Pleasant. Things were made even stranger when it was learned that the dog’s disappearance coincided with strange lights in the sky and reports of UFO’s in the area in which the dog disappeared. However, the sighting of the Mothman in November of 1966 would not be the last sighting in Point Pleasant.
In the days following the sighting in the TNT area, other Point Pleasant citizens reported seeing the strange creature. Two firemen reported a run in with the Mothman stating that it resembled a large bird with red eyes. Many locals believed that the beast was either a sandhill crane or possibly a large heron, while other locals believed the creature to be the beast known as the Mothman. The sightings of the Mothman also coincided with many locals seeing the men in black around Point Pleasant. These men in black, who were often spotted in groups of two or three spoke strangely and many residents stated that these men had olive or almost transparent skin. Some in the community attributed the appearance of the Mothman to the men in black and possible alien activity in the Point Pleasant area, while others blamed it on a years long curse dating back to the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1777. At that time, a peaceful Native American Chief known as Cornstalk was being held prisoner by the Calvary at a Fort that stood near present day Main Street in Point Pleasant. During his imprisonment, two Calvary members who had left the Fort to go hunting were killed by another Native American tribe. The troops were enraged about the death of their fellow soldiers and took their anger out on Cornstalk and his son, killing both. Legend states that with his last dying words, Cornstalk cursed the land that is now Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
This legend of the Mothman would gain further notoriety on December 15, 1967. It was on this day that the worst bridge collapse in the history of the United States occurred. The Silver Bridge that connected Point Pleasant to Gallipolis, Ohio was an eye-bar chain style suspension bridge that had been routinely traveled by residents of the area since 1928 but December 15th was a different kind of day. The bridge was packed to the brim with drivers, many of whom had been out Christmas shopping when suddenly the bridge began to shake uncontrollably followed by a loud groan and the bending of metal. As the bridge fell, many drivers were unable to escape leading to forty-six deaths, nine injuries and two souls who were lost to the water below. It was later determined that eye-bar 13 had failed leading to the collapse. In the days after the Silver Bridge tragedy, survivors who had been on the bridge that day reported seeing the Mothman fly over seconds before the collapse, leading many to believe that the beast may have been there either as a bad omen as a result of the Cornstalk curse or possibly, that the creature had flown over as a warning to those on the bridge of the impending doom that awaited them. Many residents also reported strange dreams in the days prior to the collapse. One dream in particular seemed to eerily foreshadow the tragedy with the dream depicting Christmas presents bobbing in the water below a collapsed Silver Bridge.
In the years since the first sighting, the Mothman has gained worldwide fame and is easily one of the most recognized of cryptids. The city of Point Pleasant has not forgotten the Mothman either. The city is currently home to the Mothman Museum and also plays host to the annual Mothman Festival. It was this very event that brought me to Point Pleasant on the weekend of September 21st and 22nd, 2019. The event is one part street fair, one part cosplay, and one part paranormal and cryptozoology conference. There is also live music and food vendors. The festival is located on Point Pleasant’s historic Main Street with the State Theater hosting the weekend’s speakers. I didn’t get to see as many of the speakers as I had planned but I was lucky enough to see a presentation from the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal. Greg and Dana Newkirk are amazing and have a vast knowledge of haunted items. There were so many fantastic vendors too and lovers of the paranormal, cryptozoology and basically all things strange and unusual could seriously have a field day at the festival. We also had our picture taken with someone dressed as the festival’s namesake while the men in black roamed around nearby. Unfortunately, the line to the museum was so long, we were unable to visit but we did manage to grab a picture with one of Point Pleasant’s well-known monuments, the Mothman statue. It is located at the center of Main Street and is a must see for any visitors to Point Pleasant.
Following our first day at the festival, my friend’s and I headed out for a bus tour of the TNT area. The guide filled us in on the story of the Mothman as the bus drove us further out into the middle of nowhere. When the bus finally stopped, we were directed to one of the TNT domes that is easily found from the road. The interior of the dome was covered in graffiti but still quite intact despite not being used in years. Following our visit to the first dome, we were allowed to explore the area, along with a second dome. I am not sure if these are the exact structures associated with the sightings of the Mothman but it is still very eerie to be in an area that is so heavily associated with the Mothman. During our ride back to the festival sight, our guides gave us further information about UFO activity in the area as well as telling us about John Keel, the man that the Mothman Prophecies is based on.
Upon returning to Point Pleasant and quite hungry after our day of eating vendor food at the festival, we headed to the Mothman Urban Legends Bar and Grill. The restaurant was packed full of festival goers and despite the likely worn out condition of the wait staff and bartenders, they were truly awesome and very accommodating to all guests. I enjoyed a Mothmantini and Mermaid Lemonade, as well as some of the yummiest fried pickle spears that I have ever had. My friend also raved about her potato wedges.
After a long first day at the Mothman festival, we decided to slow things down for day two and start our afternoon off by visiting OSR Winery and we were so glad we did. Apparently, the day before the winery had been super busy but upon our arrival, we were the only visitors and we got the opportunity to speak in length with the owner as well as try several of the wines. I cannot rave enough about the wines at OSR. We all sampled a flight of five. I quite enjoyed the Cotton Candy, Raspberry Snow Cone, Cherry Yum-Yum (a bourbon-based wine) and Betty, which is a Strawberry Rhubarb. The winery also produces a Mothman line of wines that are pepper based. I sampled the Eyes Glow Red, which is a watermelon jalapeno wine, as well as Birdhouse, which is peach and habanero. I enjoyed them both but Eyes Glow Red was the clear winner. One of my friend’s, who is often displeased with semi-sweet and dry wines was very happy with the selections at OSR. So much so that she actually purchased bottles to bring back to Indiana. This was a definite first in all of our winery visits. I purchased six bottles, and not just because of the discount for buying six bottles, the wines were just so good, I had to have all of my favorites. Point Pleasant is a five-hour drive from Indiana after all.
After our early afternoon tasting, we headed back to the festival with one goal in mind, visit the Mothman museum. Fortunately, day 2 of the festival was far less busy than the day before and after a short wait, we were ushered into the Mothman museum. The museum is small but filled to the brim with exhibits and information on the Mothman. There are remnants of the Silver Bridge, memorabilia from the Mothman prophecies, newspaper articles and even a letter from JFK regarding UFO activity (I found this to be one of the most interesting items in the museum). The museum also has a fabulous gift shop filled with items for the Mothman enthusiast. I ended up getting a t-shirt, a Mothman troll and a few other small items. Needless to say, the trunk was filled with many Mothmen on the way home.
Our last stop before leaving Point Pleasant was a daylight drive to the TNT area. We drove around for what felt like an eternity and though the countryside was beautiful, we couldn’t seem to find a single storage dome, despite the nearly 100 domes that dot the area. We finally stumbled across a tour bus heading out to the location that we visited the night before so we followed the bus straight to the domes. I’m still not sure how we missed it but I’m convinced the TNT area is a bit like the Bermuda Triangle. GPS is nearly nonexistent out there and one could certainly get hopelessly lost in the TNT area.
Overall, I absolutely enjoyed my time at the Mothman Festival and I hope to visit again next year. In the meantime, I believe that I am going to have to reach out to OSR Winery to discuss possible bulk shipping options. The wine was amazing!