Mothman Statue.
Metal Mothman in Point Pleasant.

Mothman Statue

Field review by the editors.

Point Pleasant, West Virginia

West Virginia has played host to two famous monsters, both within a span of a dozen years. In 1955 a 12-foot-tall space creature landed in a flying saucer and terrified the town of Flatwoods. And in the late 1960s a monster nicknamed "Mothman" performed a similar frightfest on the citizens of Point Pleasant.

Mothman statue.

Today, Point Pleasant is keenly attuned to the needs of the modern monster tourist. It has a Mothman statue. It has a Mothman museum. It sells lots of Mothman merchandise.

Why the civic embrace? Mothman was made into a Hollywood movie in 2002 and is more than a monster -- he's a celebrity.

Mothman arrived in Point Pleasant in November 1966 in classic style, scaring couples in parked cars. He was described as seven feet tall with a barrel chest and a piercing shriek. His most memorable features were his ten-foot-high batlike wings and his huge, red, glowing eyes. And, unlike the Flatwoods monster, Mothman didn't spook and run. He hung around for years, building an impressive roster of over 100 fear-struck locals who claimed to have seen him. Fortean researcher John Keel heard the stories and came to Point Pleasant to see what was happening. He compiled what he found in a 1975 book, "The Mothman Prophecies," which was later turned into that 2002 Richard Gere film.

Mothmam's Face.

Some people thought that Mothman was a mutant, spawned from local chemical and weapons dumps. Some thought that he was the "the curse of Chief Cornstalk," a Shawnee leader who had been treacherously murdered in Point Pleasant in 1777, and who had finally gotten around to exacting his revenge.

Things got ugly on December 15, 1967, when the Silver Bridge, which connected Point Pleasant to neighboring Kanauga, Ohio, suddenly collapsed into the Ohio River, killing 46 people trapped in afternoon rush-hour traffic. Some claimed that the catastrophe was triggered by a sonic boom from Mothman's wings. Others believed that Mothman had been sent to warn the people of Point Pleasant, although his message was obviously lost in translation. Whatever the connection, Mothman's appearances gradually ended after the bridge fell down. Maybe he simply felt that Point Pleasant had suffered enough.

Mothman souvenirs.
Mothman souvenirs.

Mothman remained an obscure bogeyman until 2002. Then the movie came out, and the town realized that this was its one chance to make something good out of its monster. On the day that the film opened, West Virginia's secretary of state announced that Point Pleasant's old KFC would be converted into a Mothman visitors' center, and that a 20-foot-tall Mothman statue would be commissioned.

Things didn't turn out quite that grand. In 2003 Point Pleasant held its first Mothman Festival, Gunn Park was renamed Mothman Park, and a 12-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture of Mothman was unveiled, created by local artist Bob Roach. It is a unique civic monument, an over-the-top effigy that you'd expect in a sword-and-sorcery video game, not on a downtown street in West Virginia. Its football-size red eyes were meant to be lit from within at night, but sponsorship funding came up a little short.

Bridge Collapse Plaque.
Bridge Collapse Plaque.

In 2006 the Mothman Museum and Research Center opened across the street from the statue, run by monster booster Jeff Wamsley. From its small beginnings it has expanded to offer daily hours; it display some of the props from the film, and sells an assortment of Mothman souvenirs.

Even Chief Cornstalk merited a memorial in Point Pleasant. A four-ton stone obelisk, marked simply "Cornstalk," stands in Point Pleasant Battlefield State Park down by the river. The Chief's surviving remains -- three teeth and a few bone fragments -- are sealed in the center of the obelisk, perhaps to ensure that his curse is safely locked away.

The only historical figures who don't have much to feel happy about in Point Pleasant are the victims of the Silver Bridge collapse. They have a memorial, too, at the spot where the bridge once entered the town. But their names are inscribed on lowly bricks, and you have to step on them to read the bronze plaque -- which lists only the names of the town's politicians.

Also see: Creatures Guide: Mothman

Mothman Statue

Fourth St., Point Pleasant, WV
Corner of Main and 4th Sts. Main is one block west of Hwy 2, and 4th is four blocks north of the Hwy 2 bridge.
RA Rates:
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Nearby Offbeat Places

Mothman MuseumMothman Museum, Point Pleasant, WV - < 1 mi.
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In the region:
Giant Statues of Vulcan and Venus, Ashland, KY - 37 mi.

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