Mothman costume hangs from the museum ceiling, with a gray body, large black wings, hands with claws, a skull-like head, and glowing red eyes. He looks more like a man than a moth.
Among Mothman's most nightmarish features are his glowing red eyes.

Mothman Museum

Field review by the editors.

Point Pleasant, West Virginia

"I tell people all the time, 'Not every town has its own monster,'" said Jeff Wamsley, owner and founder of the Mothman Museum. Mothman is one of America's most celebrated nightmares: a seven-foot-tall barrel-chested humanoid horror with leathery wings, a piercing shriek, and glowing red eyes. In the late 1960s he was seen by over 100 terrified people in the West Virginia town of Point Pleasant. Some linked his appearances to the collapse of the nearby Silver Bridge, which killed 46 people.

Motorman model, costume, and news clippings displayed in a museum corner.
Motorman model, costume, and news clippings fill a museum corner.

Jeff was born in Point Pleasant, and was five years old when Mothman first traumatized the town. But after a few years the monster stopped showing up; the bridge was found to have collapsed from old age, not Mothman; and most adults in Point Pleasant hoped he'd be forgotten.

For a time, the Mothman nearly was. Then in 2002 Hollywood released the feature film "The Mothman Prophecies," and Point Pleasant realized this was its best chance to make something good out of its monster.

The following year Jeff helped launch the town's first Mothman Festival, where the imposing stainless steel Mothman statue was unveiled. Three years later Jeff opened the museum to the public. "Growing up here, I knew about the Mothman story," Jeff said. "I just never imagined he would be a full-time occupation."

Interior of the Mothman Museum with many visible exhibits.
According to museum founder Jeff Wamsley, some visitors spend "hours and hours and hours" studying the exhibits.

For a monster that left no physical traces -- not even any footprints or poop like Bigfoot -- the Mothman Museum has a surprising variety of exhibits in a relatively small space. Showcases display yellowed newspaper clippings from the first wave of Mothman attacks in 1966 ("Winged, Red-Eyed 'Thing' Chases Point Pleasant Couples Across Countryside") as well as the original, handwritten depositions, descriptions, and drawings of Mothman given to the police by the first eyewitnesses (Jeff said that they corroborate each other in many details). "Lots of people come in, elderly people, who'll walk up and say, 'You know, we saw that thing but we never told anybody about it,'" Jeff said. "I get that a lot."

Two dummies wearing black suits, hats, and sunglasses, identified as
The Men in Black were seen in town along with Mothman.

Visitors can watch a short documentary on Mothman with comments from the late John Keel (1930-2009), author of the investigative book on which the movie was very loosely based. The museum displays the white suit Keel wore to the Mothman statue dedication (he was the guest of honor) as well as a letter written to him by Bobby Kennedy, thanking him for his theories about UFOs. Keel admitted that he didn't know what Mothman was, although others have not been shy in explaining it as something other than a monster. Jeff said that Mothman has has been blamed on everything from parachuting Army commandoes with night-vision goggles; to the ghost of a vengeful Native American chief; to a Sandhill Crane mutated by toxic waste.

Mothman costume stands upright, with a gray body and wings, pointy teeth, and bulging red eyes.
Mothman Festival costume was created by a designer of sports mascots.

An entire section of the museum displays artifacts from the movie, which Mothman fans are surprised to learn was filmed in Pennsylvania, not Point Pleasant. There are costumes, props, eerie Mothman drawings, debris from the fake Silver Bridge collapse, the "creepy lip balm prop" (a fan favorite), and "the blanket that came in contact with both Richard Gere and Debra Messing in the motel scene."

White sport coat in a glass display case.
Suit jacket of John Keel: the Man in White.

Some of the museum exhibits reflect Mothman's pop culture popularity, from a Mothman coloring book to a laughably cheesy set of Mothman cutouts used to test "perception of size and height" by the cable series MonsterQuest. And there are tributes from fans, including a Mothman quilt, Mothman paintings, a photo-op cutout of a victim about to be attacked by Mothman -- even though there's no record of Mothman physically harming anybody -- and nearly a dozen Mothman replicas ranging in size from small-scale statues to full-size costumes. "People bring in stuff all the time," said Jeff.

The celebrity of Mothman can be a heady experience for Point Pleasant, where the Mothman Festival now draws three times the population of the entire town. "We kind of take Mothman for granted," said Jeff, "But people come here saying, 'This is on our bucket list. We drove from California' or 'We flew from Australia.' I've heard people in town say they went to Europe, and when someone asked them where they were from they answered, 'Point Pleasant,' and the person said, 'Mothman!'"

Also see: Mothman Statue | The Flatwoods Monster

Mothman Museum

Address:
400 Main St., Point Pleasant, WV
Directions:
Downtown, on the east side of Main St. just north of its intersection with 4th St., and just around the corner from the Mothman statue.
Hours:
M-Th 10-5, F-Sa 10-6, Su 12-5 (Call to verify)
Phone:
304-812-5211
Admission:
Adults $4.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Mothman StatueMothman Statue, Point Pleasant, WV - < 1 mi.
Paddleboat - Captain's CreameryPaddleboat - Captain's Creamery, Point Pleasant, WV - < 1 mi.
Reproduction Stockade FortReproduction Stockade Fort, Point Pleasant, WV - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Pink and Green Giraffe, Huntington, WV - 32 mi.

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