6 - Mothman!

High explosives were manufactured in Point Pleasant during World War II. Seven miles outside of town part of the 2,500-acre McClintic Wildlife Station, an animal preserve and bird sanctuary, was ripped up. Miles of underground tunnels were dug, linking camouflaged buildings and factories.


One hundred “igloos” were scattered across the fields and woods—huge concrete domes with heavy steel doors where the finished explosives could be safely stored. Dirt and grass covered the domes so from the air the whole area had a harmless, pastoral appearance. A few scattered buildings linked by unimproved dirt roads with no suggestion of all the activity going on below ground. It looked like nothing more than what it was supposed to be, a haven for birds and animals in the Ohio River valley.

After the war most of the explosives were carted away. The factories were dismantled. The entrances and exits of the tunnels were plugged with thick concrete slabs. Some of the igloos were given to the Mason County government as possible storage vaults. They still stand empty. Others were sold to the Trojan-U.S. Powder Co. and the LFC Chemical Co. Some were leased to American Cyanamid.

The years washed away the camouflage and now the igloos stand out starkly on the landscape, row upon row of white mounds with deer and rabbits running between them. The old factory buildings are broken shells. The big generator plant near the entrance to the area still stands, its boilers rusting, its windows gone, water dripping shyly across its floor while the wind rattles the high steel catwalks and pigeons flutter in its rafters.

Local teen-agers use the decaying dirt roads for drag strips, and further back, where the woods thicken, lovers park in the deep shadows during the summer mating season. While the TNT area had witnessed many biological events over the years, it had no reputation as a haunted place. The local police cruised through it every evening, occasionally flashing their lights into a darkened car. Everyone raised in the area knows every corner of the place. Sportsmen clubs have built an archery range and picnic area there.

At 11:30 P.M. on the night of November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant, Mr. and Mrs. Roger Scarberry and Mr. and Mrs. Steve Mallette, were driving through the TNT area in the Scarberrys’ 1957 Chevy. They were looking for friends but no one seemed to be out that night. All of the twisting back roads were deserted. The few homes scattered among the igloos were dark.

Roger, then a strapping blond eighteen-year-old, was driving. They aimlessly made the circuit of the roads around the igloos, returning to the old generator plant near the unlocked gate. As they pulled alongside the plant, Linda Scarberry gasped. They all looked into the blackness and saw two bright red circles. They were about two inches in diameter and six inches apart.


Roger slammed on his brakes.

“What is it?” Mary Mallette, a strikingly attractive brunette, cried from the back seat.

The lights bobbed away from the building and the startled foursome saw they were attached to some huge animal.

“It was shaped like a man, but bigger,” Roger said later. “Maybe six and a half or seven feet tall and it had big wings folded against its back.”


“But it was those eyes that got us,” Linda declared. “It had two big eyes like automobile reflectors.”


“They were hypnotic,” Roger continued. “For a minute we could only stare at it. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.“

It was grayish in color and walked on sturdy manlike legs. It turned slowly and shuffled toward the door of the generator plant which was ajar and hanging off its hinges.

“Let’s get out of here!” Steve yelled.

Roger stepped on the gas and they shot through the gates, spun onto the exit road, and headed for Route 62. Suddenly they saw it, or another one like it, standing on a small hill near the road. As they hurtled past it, it spread, its batlike wings and took off straight up into the air.

“My God! It’s following us!”

The couple in the back seat cried. Roger swung onto 62 on two wheels.

“We were doing one hundred miles an hour,” Roger said, “and that bird kept right up with us. It wasn’t even flapping its wings.“

“I could hear it making a sound,” Mrs. Mallette added. “It squeaked like a big mouse.“

“It followed us right to the city limits,” Roger went on. “Funny thing, we noticed a dead dog by the side of the road there. A big dog. But when we came back a few minutes later, the dog was gone.“

Panic-stricken, the red eyes still burning in their minds, they went directly to the Mason County courthouse, charged into the sheriffs office, and blurted out their story to Deputy Millard Halstead.

“I’ve known these kids all their lives,” Halstead told me later. “They’d never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took them seriously.“

He hopped into a patrol car and followed Roger’s car back to the TNT area. At the edge of town they looked for the dog’s body. It was gone.

Back at the power plant there was no sign of the red-eyed specter. Halstead switched on his police radio and a very loud signal blasted out of the speaker, drowning out the voice of the police dispatcher in Point Pleasant.

It was a loud garble, like a record or tape recording being played at very high speed.

Deputy Halstead, an experienced cop, looked taken aback but said nothing. He switched the radio off quickly . and peered uncomfortably into the darkness, reluctant to really search the old building. But he was convinced.

The next morning Sheriff George Johnson called a press conference. Local reporters interviewed the four witnesses. Mrs. Mary Hyre sent the story out on the AP wire and that evening the “Bird” was the chief topic at supper tables throughout the Ohio valley. Some anonymous copy editor gave it a name, spun off from the Batman comic character who was then the subject of a popular TV series.


He tagged the creature Mothman.

November 16, 1966. Three years to the day since John Flaxton and his companions had seen the ambling winged monster in Kent, England. Long lines of cars circled the TNT area slowly. Men bristling with guns surrounded the old power plant, poking into every bush. There wasn’t much to do in Point Pleasant, a town of six thousand people, twenty-two churches, and no barrooms, so Mothman was almost a welcome addition.

A large red light moved around in the sky directly above the TNT area that night but few of the monster-hunters paid any attention to it. (
*) One carload of people was watching it, however.


[*] In one of my notebooks covering this period I find the following notation: “Nov. 16th-UPI man from Charleston saw low-flying object over TNT area—made humming sound—flashing red light. Some girls with him. They watched object for several minutes.“


Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley and Mrs. Marcella Bennett and her baby daughter, Teena, studied it, puzzled.

“It wasn’t an airplane. We couldn’t figure out what it was,” Mrs. Bennett said.

She and the Wamsleys were probably the only people in the crowd who were not looking for the red-eyed creature. They were on their way to visit the Ralph Thomases who lived in a neat bungalow back among the igloos. Mr. Thomas was the superintendent of the Trojan-U.S. operations there. His wife, Virginia, was a slender, gentle woman blessed—or cursed—with second sight. She had accurately predicted numerous accidents and local events over the years. She was careful not to seek attention and only her friends knew of her remarkable abilities.


Deeply religious, she went to church almost every evening and on this night both she and her husband were out. The Wamsleys and Mrs. Bennett found only three of the Thomas children, Rickie, Connie, and Vickie, at home. After exchanging a few words with the youngsters, they headed back to their car. Off in the distance they could hear some trigger-happy hero firing a rifle around the power plant.

Suddenly a figure stirred in the darkness behind the parked car.

“It seemed as if it had been lying down,” Mrs. Bennett told me. “It rose up slowly from the ground. A big gray thing. Bigger than a man, with terrible glowing red eyes.“

Mrs. Bennett uttered a little cry, so horrified she dropped the small baby in her arms. The child began to cry, more insulted than hurt, but her mother couldn’t move to pick her up again. She stood transfixed, hypnotized by the blazing red circles on the top of the towering, headless creature. Its great wings unfolded slowly behind its back. Raymond Wamsley grabbed the paralyzed woman and the child and they all ran back into the house, slammed the door, and bolted it. There was a sound on the porch and the two red eyes peered in through a window.


The women and children became hysterical while Wamsley frantically phoned the police. It was 9 P.M. Hundreds of people, many of them armed to the teeth, were less than a mile away and would not know about the episode until they read it in the local papers the following evening.

By the time the police reached the house the creature was gone.


But for Mrs. Bennett this was just the beginning of a long and frightening series of adventures.

Woodrow Derenberger was living in bedlam. A group of local UFO enthusiasts representing the Washington-based National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), largely a lobby urging congressional UFO investigations, visited or phoned him daily, raising his ire by ordering him not to talk to anyone else about his experiences.

His farm looked like the TNT area. Every night streams of cars would park all over the property he was renting and people would sit quietly in the dark. Watching. Waiting. Some brought guns and hiked into the nearby hills to sit behind trees. Widespread rumors said the UFOs planned to come back and land on the farm. Some of Woody’s visitors were determined to bag themselves a spaceman.

In the midst of all the chaos, a black Volkswagen drove up, parked, and a tanned man in a neat black suit got out He and Woody walked casually to the edge of the porch and talked. After a few minutes, the man got back into his VW and drove off. The great hunters continued to sit in the bitter cold behind their trees, their eyes anxiously searching the skies.

According to Derenberger, he had been suffering from a stomach ailment for some time. Mr. Cold gave him a vial of medicine, he claimed, which cured his problem instantly.


Cold now had a first name—Indrid.

Across the Ohio River, almost directly opposite the TNT area, a music teacher, Mrs. Roy Grose, was wakened by the barking of her dog at 4:45 A.M. on the morning of November 17, 1966. It was unusual for her little pet to bark late at night, so she got up to investigate. The moon was out and was very bright, she recalled. She looked out the kitchen window and saw an enormous object hovering at treetop level in a field on the other side of Route 7. It was circular, the size of a small house, and brilliantly illuminated.


It seemed to be divided into sections glowing with dazzlingly bright red and green lights.

“I was stunned,” she said.

Before she could wake up her husband, the object made a zig-zag motion and suddenly disappeared. She did not mention the sighting to anyone outside her immediate family until weeks later.

That afternoon a seventeen-year-old boy was driving down Route 7, not far from Mrs. Grose’s home in Cheshire, Ohio, when a huge bird suddenly dove at his car and pursued him for a mile or so.

On the eighteenth two firemen from Point Pleasant, Paul Yoder and Benjamin Enochs, were in the TNT area when they encountered a giant bird with big red eyes.

“It was definitely a bird,” they stated flatly. “But it was huge. We’d never seen anything like it.“

Everyone was now seeing Mothman or the “Bird,” or so it seemed. Sightings were reported in Mason, Lincoln, Logan, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties. People were traveling for hundreds of miles to sit in the cold TNT area all night, hoping to glimpse the creature. Those who were unlucky enough to see it vowed they never wanted to see it again. It evoked unspeakable terrors.


Like flying saucers, it delighted in chasing cars ... a very unbirdlike habit, and it seemed to have a penchant for scaring females who were menstruating, another UFO/hairy monster peculiarity.

Five teen-agers driving along Campbells Creek on the night of November 20 got the shock of their lives when their headlights bounced off a man-size birdlike creature standing beside a rock quarry.


It turned and scurried into the woods.

“Nobody believes us because we’re teen-agers,” Brenda Jones of Point Lick complained. “But it was real scary.“

An elderly businessman in Point Pleasant found Mothman standing on his front lawn. He stepped outside to see why his dog was barking and confronted a six- or seven-foot-tall gray apparition with flaming eyes. He stood transfixed for several minutes, unaware of the passage of time. Suddenly the creature flew off and he staggered back into his house.


He was so pale and shaken his wife thought he was having a heart attack.

While the people of West Virginia were being overrun with Garudas, the rest of the country was being engulfed in wingless flying objects. A great wave began that Halloween and continued through November. On November 22 a family from Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, near the tip of thinly populated Cape May, crossed the thin line that separates our reality from something else.

At 7:45 P.M. the Edward Christiansen family, seven people, were driving southward along the Garden State Parkway, just north of Mayville, when a bright red, green, and white object plummeted from the sky and disappeared directly in front of them. They thought an airplane had crashed until they were parallel to Burleigh, New Jersey. Then they saw a large glowing sphere just above the treetops a few miles to the front and right.


Thinking it was a fire from the crashed plane, they pulled over to the side of the parkway and stopped (an illegal maneuver).

All of the witnesses got out of the car to watch. Traffic was light but several cars did speed past them. As they watched, the object began to move and they realized it was not a fire but some kind of flying sphere. It executed a sharp turn and came toward the witnesses, passing directly over their heads. It was completely silent.


As it approached their position, three powerful “headlights” became visible on the front of the object These lights appeared to be elongated and passed from the top of the craft to the underside. The object disappeared northward and the witnesses experienced a strong emotional reaction. Mrs. Arline Christiansen and her sister Gwendoline Martino became hysterical, alarming their four children. Two of the youngsters began to cry.


They all returned to the car and drove home to Wildwood Crest.

Edward Christiansen, forty, a hard-nosed businessman, refused to believe in flying saucers and tried to assure the women that there had to be a natural explanation. His sister-in-law Gwendoline decided to call the local air force base at Palmero. She spoke to an officer there and he seemed quite interested in her story and asked several questions. An hour later the family received a long-distance phone call from another air force base (none of them could remember the name of the base or the names of the officers when I interviewed them several months later).


Each one of them was interviewed at great length by “three or four officers.”


They were told that their conversation was being taped, and the questions followed a pattern which suggested the officers were filling out detailed forms on the other end of the line. However, all of them were disappointed to find the air force would not give them any information or answer their own questions.

Something extraordinary seems to have happened that night. Instead of simply filing a report through normal channels, the officer at the Palmero base may have called Wright-Patterson in Ohio immediately. Officers from project Blue Book then called the Christiansens for additional details. However, it is puzzling that “three or four different officers” would participate in the questioning. Incidentally, these witnesses are above average in income and intelligence and their overall reliability is unquestioned.

Later that evening as Mrs. Martino, who was spending the night at the Christiansens, was preparing for bed she suddenly heard a loud radio signal ... a series of dots and dashes. She knew her brother-in-law had a portable CB (Citizen’s Band) radio and she assumed he had accidentally left it turned on. He and his wife were already in bed and asleep but she didn’t understand the radio and didn’t want to tamper with it. She continued to hear the signals as she entered their bedroom and awakened them. They were unable to hear the signals ... and the radio was turned off and in its case. The signals faded and Mrs. Martino went to bed baffled.

A beautiful, lithe divorcee, Mrs. Martino had not had any unusual psychic experiences before.

Roger and Linda Scarberry were living in a house trailer at the time of their Mothman sighting. In the week that followed they were suddenly plagued by strange sounds around the trailer late at night. Beeps and loud garbled noises like a speeded-up phonograph record. They could not locate the source of the sounds outside or inside the trailer.


Worried and frightened, they finally moved out of the trailer and settled in the basement apartment in the home of Linda’s parents, Parke and Mabel McDaniel.

On November 24, four people, two adults and two children, were driving past the TNT area when they saw a giant flying creature with red eyes. Their report added to the growing chaos. Now thousands of people were pouring into the old munitions site nightly, some traveling from hundreds of miles away. Television crews and newsmen from other states hovered around the old generator plant, hoping to glimpse the monster.


Some visitors divided their time between the TNT area and Woodrow Derenberger’s farm in Mineral Wells.

Mothman was not to be outsmarted, however. He staged his appearances with clever showmanship, popping up in unexpected places in front of witnesses who had previously been skeptical.

At 7:15 A.M. on November 25, a young shoe salesman named Thomas Ury was driving along Route 62 just north of the TNT area when he noticed a tall, gray manlike figure standing in a field by the road.

“Suddenly it spread a pair of wings,“ Ury said, “and took off straight up, like a helicopter. “It veered over my convertible and began going in circles three telephone poles high.“

He stepped on the gas as the creature zoomed down over his vehicle.

“It kept flying right over my car even though I was doing about seventy-five.“

Mr. Ury sped into Point Pleasant and went straight to the sheriff’s office thoroughly panicked.

“I never saw anything like it,” he confided to Mrs. Hyre later. “I was so scared I just couldn’t go to work that day. This thing had a wingspan every bit of ten feet. It could be a bird, but I certainly never saw one like it. I was afraid it was going to come down right on top of me.“

The old familiar symptom, unreasonable terror, took hold of him.

“I’ve never had that feeling before. A weird kind of fear,” he said. “That fear gripped you and held you. Somehow, the best way to explain it would be to say that the whole thing just wasn’t right. I know that may not make sense, but that’s the only way I can put into words what I felt.“

That same week some very freakish birds appeared in Ohio and Pennsylvania, far north of Point Pleasant. George Wolfe, Jr., twenty-three, of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, was out hunting when he came across a “seven-foot-tall bird that looked something like an ostrich” in a cornfield.

“I could see it dodging in and out among the trees,” he said. “It didn’t leap over the brush like a deer would do, but just zig-zagged through the trees, in a strange sidewise motion.

“I was so startled I didn’t take a shot at it. It had a long neck and a round body with a plumed tail that reached high above its body.

“It was a grayish color and looked about seven feet tall. It was about fifty feet from me when it stood up and began to run. My dog ran after it, but when Old Ringo caught up with it, he let out a howl. ‘He ran back to me with his tail between his legs and he was howling and whimpering.“

In Lowell, Ohio, about seventy miles north of Point Pleasant, Marvin Shock and his family watched a group of gigantic birds for about two hours on November 26.

“They looked about as big as a man would look moving around in the trees,” Shock reported. “When we started walking toward them for a closer look—we were about one hundred yards from them—they took off and flew up the ridge.“

Shock, his two children, and Ewing Tilton, a neighbor, watched the creatures from a distance. They were from four to five feet tall and had a wingspread of at least ten feet.


There was “a reddish cast” to their heads, but the witnesses did not see the famous glowing red eyes.

“They had dark brown backs with some light flecks,” Ewing Tilton noted. “Their breasts were gray and they had five-or-six-inch bills, straight, not curved like those of hawks or vultures.“

These reports indicate that some very unusual birds were in the general region at the time of the Mothman fracas, even though a systematic search of ornithological literature has failed to identify the creatures seen by Wolfe, Shock, and Ewing. One Ohio college professor insisted it was a rare sandhill crane, so I carried a picture of the sandhill crane in my briefcase and not a single witness recognized it or thought it resembled what he or she had seen.

Altogether, more than one hundred adults would see this winged impossibility in 1966-67. Those who got a close look at it all agreed on the basic points. It was gray, apparently featherless, as large—or larger—than a big man, had a wingspread of about ten feet, took off straight up like a helicopter, and did not flap its wings in flight. Its face was a puzzle. No one could describe it. The two red eyes dominated it. (In a majority of the reports of angels, demons, and saucer spacemen the faces are also either covered in some manner or are nonexistent.)

The “ostrich” in Pennsylvania and the big birds in Ohio did not seem to fit into the picture. If they were real birds of some kind, where did they go? Why weren’t they seen again?

On the evening of November 26, a housewife in St. Al-bans, a suburb of Charleston, West Virginia, found Mothman standing on her front lawn.


Mrs. Ruth Foster was one of the very few witnesses who claimed to see a face on the creature.

“It was standing on the lawn beside the porch,” Mrs. Foster said. “It was tall with big red eyes that popped out of its face. My husband is six feet one and this bird looked about the same height or a little shorter, maybe.

“It had a funny little face. I didn’t see any beak. All I saw were those big red poppy eyes. I screamed and ran back into the house. My brother-in-law went out to look, but it was gone.“

The next morning the winged phantom pursued young Connie Carpenter near the Mason, West Virginia, golf course (Chapter Two). That evening, it encored in St. Albans.


Sheila Cain, thirteen, and her younger sister were walking home from the store when they saw an enormous “something” standing next to a local junk yard.(*)

“It was gray and white with big red eyes,” Sheila reported, “and it must have been seven feet tall—taller than a I man. I screamed and we ran home. It flew up in the air | and followed us part of the way.“

[*] Monsters, UFOs, and apparitions have an, interesting affinity for garbage dumps and junk yards Even the famous miracle at Lourdes, France, in 1858, took place at the local garbage dump.


Aerodynamically, Mothman was ill-suited for flight. A I creature larger than a big man, and therefore weighing in excess of two hundred pounds, would require more than a ten-foot wingspan to get aloft. And large birds take off by running along the ground and flapping their wings frantically. My favorite, the gooney bird of the Pacific, runs back and forth desperately trying to build up airspeed and then, more often than not, falls flat on his face.

Mothman, with his helicopter-like takeoffs, was impossible.

I was in Washington, B.C., that November, harassing the air force in my black suit, when I spoke to Gray Barker on the phone. Despite the furor then taking place in West Virginia, I had not heard or read a thing about the “Bird’s” arrival.

When Gray brought the matter up, I thought he was joking. A red-eyed bird with a ten-foot wingspan who loved to chase speeding automobiles seemed utterly ridiculous. Now if it had been a ten-foot-tall hair-covered monster with a terrible smell I might have taken it seriously.

But Gray convinced me it was no joke.


I looked Point Pleasant up on the map ...it was about eight hundred miles from New York ... oiled my fourteen-foot monster traps, got into my car, and headed for the Ohio valley.

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