As some of you may know, I recently got married! A week after our big day, my husband Dustin and I set off for our ten day honeymoon road trip, which I like to call our "Haunted Honeymoon."
When we decided to take a road trip instead of a more traditional beachside honeymoon, we knew we wanted the trip to reflect our shared interests. Something that we both love is the paranormal and the supernatural, so a road trip visiting some spooky places nearby was perfect!
So, how did we land on the Mothman? It's not uncommon for us to binge watch shows like "Ghost Adventures," or, our personal favorite, "Buzzfeed: Unsolved." It was through these shows that we learned about the legend of the Mothman, a cryptid first sighted in the idyllic town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in 1966.
On the night of November 15, 1966, two couples, Roger and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette, were driving just outside of town in an area known as the "TNT area," which is an old munitions plant utilized during World War II.
According to a newspaper report in the Point Pleasant Register, published on November 16, 1966, the couples told authorities they were chased down by a large, gray creature, standing six or seven feet tall, with a ten foot wingspan and glowing red eyes. They claimed the creature kept up with their car, which at times reached 100 miles per hour.
After this first event, other locals began reporting sightings of what newspapers coined the Mothman. This went on for just over a year, until December 15, 1967, when the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant collapsed into the freezing waters below, killing 46 people. This led many to believe the Mothman was a harbinger of doom, and was foreshadowing the tragedy destined to take place.
From there, interest in the Mothman grew, and in 2002, the first ever Mothman Festival was held in Point Pleasant. In 2003, a 12 foot tall metal statue of the Mothman, designed by artist Bob Roach, was erected in the center of town.
The festival only got bigger, and now draws an average of 10-12,000 attendees every year. Visitors can enjoy the world's only Mothman Museum, TNT bus tours, live bands, guest speakers, and more.
So, naturally, we had to go. The festival is held during the third weekend in September every year, which happened to be a week after our wedding. Perfect timing, right? I hopped on my laptop and booked us a hotel.
Unfortunately, this year's Mothman Festival was cancelled just a month before it was meant to be held. While this was disappointing, we figured we could still go and see the statue, visit the museum, and maybe even go looking for the Mothman in the TNT area. So, on our one week anniversary, we packed our bags and headed out on the ten hour drive to West Virginia.
After some slight hiccups with our hotel booking (thanks, Expedia) we settled into our room and got a good night's sleep before our first action packed day in Point Pleasant.
As it turns out, the cancellation of the festival was a little bit of a blessing in disguise. The first thing I noticed about Point Pleasant: it is not big. According to Google, the population is only 4,146. For reference, the population of Norwich was recorded as 6,718 in 2019.
The bulk of the Mothman attractions were located in a two-block strip lined with shops, and that is where we spent most of our time. I can only imagine how crowded it would have been with 12,000 people there! But, luckily, the crowds were sparse, and we were able to navigate the little area with ease.
Our first stop was, of course, the Mothman statue. The 12 foot tall likeness was towering in person, made of surprisingly shiny metal, and adorned with large, red eyes. We got some good pictures, touched the Mothman's foot for luck, and noticed visitors had left food at the base of the statue, presumably as some kind of offering to appease him.
From there we wandered over to the Coffee Grinder, a small cafe with amazing coffee and some Mothman themed treats, including green Mothman cookies, and chocolate covered espresso beans labeled "Mothman droppings." They also had a board with a painting of the creature on it, complete with a cutout for you to put your face. Taking photos with the display certainly made waiting in line more fun!
We spent the day meandering through the shops along the street, ogling at all the Mothman paraphernalia. The people of Point Pleasant really took this thing and ran! There were T-shirts, hoodies, coozies, mugs, keychains, buttons and pins, stickers, and so much more.
There were also restaurants and eateries that took advantage of the Mothman craze. A small ice cream shop had a large decal of the Mothman holding ice cream cones, and had signs out front reading, "Try our Mothman sundaes and Mothman shakes!" We heard about a pizza shop located a few miles away that even had a Mothman pizza.
After we stopped in to all the stores, we got in line for our turn in the Mothman Museum. Established in 2005, it's touted as the only Mothman Museum in the world. It featured copies of the Scarberry's and Mallette's witness statements to the police, newspaper clippings from 1966 detailing eyewitness accounts of the Mothman, UFOs, and the mysterious Men in Black, a large collection of props from the 2002 Richard Gere movie, "The Mothman Prophecies," and more.
I particularly enjoyed the exhibit on Mary Hyre, a newspaper reporter for The Athens Messenger. She wrote a regular column titled "Where the Waters Mingle," detailing the odd occurrences in the little town. She even reported receiving numerous visits from the Men in Black!
I read that Hyre passed away on February 15, 1970, and I couldn't help but notice that a lot of major events happened on the 15th day of the month. The first Mothman sighting occurred on November 15, the collapse of the Silver Bridge occurred on December 15, and Hyre passed away on February 15. Coincidence? Maybe. Or could it be somehow related to the enigmatic Mothman?
For our second day in Point Pleasant, Dustin and I decided to take a whack at finding the Mothman ourselves. A friendly shopkeeper told us where to go to find the TNT area, and off we went in search of the elusive creature. I even wore my new T-shirt that read, "Mothman Search Team."
Getting there was a little treacherous; our GPS took us down some very narrow and bumpy roads. But eventually, we found a small place to park on the side of the road and squeezed in next to another car. Right across the street was a trail leading into the woods, with a low metal fence adorned with stickers and graffiti about the Mothman. We were in the right place!
The trail led us alongside a swampy river, with dense foliage and trees to our right. We didn't have to go far before we came upon the first opening in the copse of branches, and upon wandering through we found ourselves at the door of an old TNT storage igloo.
These bunkers are essentially giant concrete domes, hidden under a thick layer of earth, and were built on an over 8,000 acre span of land to store explosives. In 2010, one of these bunkers containing 20,000 pounds of materials suddenly exploded. Luckily, no one was hurt in the incident, but it's a startling realization of how dangerous this place can be.
It was positively creepy, and I loved it. We pulled open the heavy, graffiti-laden door and peered inside. It was huge, dark, and completely empty. No Mothman here!
One spooky thing did happen though: after walking into the bunker, I turned to my right, and saw my name spray painted on the wall in huge letters. I found it again in other spots on the walls, and even in the second bunker we found. It's definitely a coincidence, Sarah is a pretty common name, but it still added to the air of creepiness and mystery hanging over the area.
Unfortunately, our journey through the TNT area was cut a bit short. We passed a couple of good samaritans on the trail who warned us there were Copperhead snakes in the area. Yikes! One of them said there was one in the grass he didn't see, and accidentally stepped on it's tail. Thankfully he was able to get out of the way in time, and avoided being bitten.
Still though, we were not prepared to deal with snakes! It wasn't something we had even thought about, and we were not dressed for the occasion. So, we made the decision to turn around and head back into town, bidding the Mothman farewell.
While we didn't catch a glimpse of the elusive cryptid, Dustin and I still had a great time in Point Pleasant. The people there were all so friendly and kind. Several people complimented my tattoos, shopkeepers were all eager to answer our questions or ask us where we were from, and one woman waved and said hello as she walked by us seated at a picnic table, even though she didn't know us.
Point Pleasant crossed cryptids off our list of spooky endeavors. After two days searching for Mothman we were ready to head off to the next stop on our Haunted Honeymoon road trip, and cross the next phenomenon off our list: ghosts.
Check out next week's Evening Sun for the next installment of my "Haunted Honeymoon" column series!