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
“What is it?” Mary
Mallette, a strikingly attractive brunette, cried from the back
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
for Mrs. Bennett this was just the beginning of a long and
frightening series of adventures.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Some visitors divided
their time between the TNT area and Woodrow Derenberger’s farm in
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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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.
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.
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