POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The Wednesday Nov. 16, 1966 edition of the Point Pleasant Register featured its first story on the creature that would appear in countless headlines and become at least a part of the area’s identity for the next nearly 55 years.
Oddly enough, the story wasn’t the lede but it did appear above the fold. It was titled “Couples see man-sized bird…creature…something!” And, for five cents you could read all about it.
The original story appears below:
“It was a bird…or something. It definitely wasn’t a flying saucer.”
Two Point Pleasant couples said today they encountered a man-sized, bird-like creature in the TNT area about midnight.
Sheriff’s deputies and City Police went to the scene about two o’clock this morning but were unable to spot anything.
But the two young men telling their story this morning were dead serious, and asserted they hadn’t been drinking.
Steve Mallette of 3305 Jackson Avenue and Roger Scarberry of 809 30th Street described the thing as being about six or seven feet tall, having a wing span of 10 feet and red eyes about two inches in diameter and six inches apart.
“It was like a man with wings,” Mallette said. “It wasn’t like anything you’d see on TV or in a monster movie…”
The men and their wives were in Scarberry’s car between 11:30 p.m. and midnight when they spotted the creature near the old power plant adjacent to the old National Guard Armory buildings.
The creature was seen standing on three occasions and was described as being extremely fast (“it flew about 100 miles an hour”) in flight but was a clumsy runner.
Deputy Millard Halstead said he had seen dust in the vicinity of a coal field. But “it could have been” caused by the bird he said.
“I’m a hard guy to scare,” Scarberry said, “but last night I was for getting out of there.”
They did just that, but the “thing” followed them. They said it was hovering over the car, apparently gliding, until they reached the National Guard Armory on Route 62.
“We went downtown, turned around, and went back and there it was again,” Mallette said. “It seemed to be waiting on us.” He said the light-grey-like creature then scurried through a field. It also had flown across the top of the car.
“It apparently is afraid of light,” Mallette reasoned, “and maybe it thought it was scaring us off.”
The young men said they saw the creature’s eyes, which glowed red, only when their lights shined on it. And it seemed to want to get away from the lights.
They said it looked like a “man with wings” but its head was “not an outstanding characteristic.”
Both were slightly pale and tired from the lack of sleep during the night following their harrowing experience.
They speculated that the thing was living in the vacant power plant, possibly in one of the huge boilers. “There are pigeons in all the other buildings,” Mallette said, “but not in that one.”
“If I had seen it while by myself I wouldn’t have said anything,” Scarberry commented, “but there were four of us who saw it.”
They said it didn’t resemble a bat in any way, but “maybe what you would visualize as an angel.”
The last time they saw it was at the gate of the C.C. Lewis farm on Route 62.
They heard a sound like wings flapping and they said the bird rose straight up, like a helicopter.
“This doesn’t have an explanation to it,” Mallette said, “it was an animal but nothing like I’ve seen before.”
Are they going back to look for the creature?
“Yes,” Mallette said, “this afternoon and again tonight.”
“Today,” Scarberry said, “but tonight, I don’t know!”
In his 2017 column for Ohio Valley Publishing (OVP), “Like it or not, Mothman is part of us,” the late Kevin Kelly, who worked at the Register for several years, explained his take on the legend, while examining the then just released film, “The Mothman of Point Pleasant” about the creature.
Kelly wrote, “More importantly, as part of the ‘Small Town Monsters’ series created by (Seth) Breedlove and his associates, the film succeeds in spurring some thought about how Mothman has become integral to the history and culture of our corner of the world. Not just as a tourist attraction or item of interest in the realm of the fantastic, but in how a community takes the attention in stride and can support a museum dedicated to the possibly other-worldly visitor to our shores of the Ohio River. There are some folks who think the Mothman sightings are a hoax or a result of mass hysteria connected to reports of UFO activity in the Ohio Valley during the mid-1960s, but what is impressive is how the sincerity of the people who experienced encounters with Mothman plays with the curiosity of those discovering the Mothman story for the first time.”
Kelly also recalled, “Bill Geist of CBS-TV’s ‘Sunday Morning’ was one whose journalistic tendency to scoff at such stories was tempered after he met some of the witnesses during his visit to the second Mothman Festival in 2004. These were not people who made up stuff just to get attention or try to cash in on the phenomenon in some way, Geist indicated, so therefore their credibility was unquestionable. And another, of course, was author John A. Keel, whose investigation of the being with wings and red eyes resulted in his famous account ‘The Mothman Prophecies,’ first published in 1975. My first inkling of Mothman came around Halloween in 1978 through a story in The Post, Ohio University’s student newspaper. The article was written by Frank Stanley, whom I later discovered had been an OVP reporting intern that summer.
Kelly continued, “Like Keel, who confessed in his book to an enduring ‘childish sense of wonder’ at all things strange and unusual, I was fascinated by Frank’s credulous and carefully-presented story and by subsequent accounts I read before I walked the streets of Point Pleasant the following summer and asked myself, how could anything so incredible have happened here? And while I have yet to arrive at an answer, I have concluded that Mason County has come to accept the strange occurrences and encounters that commenced in November 1966 and continued for the next 13 months. Perhaps the greatest manifestation of that detente between the people and the legend of Mothman exists in the statue in Point Pleasant’s downtown created by the late Bob Roach of Letart and unveiled in 2004.”
Kelly also wrote about a feature story done by OVP Editor Beth Sergent on the “The Mothman of Point Pleasant” where she interviewed Breedlove.
“For me, this story is a piece of Point Pleasant’s history whether or not they (people) want to believe (in Mothman) or not is totally up to them,” Breedlove told Sergent in 2017. “You can’t deny it was a part of the town’s history.”
Kelly then wrote, “…the legacy of Mothman is part and parcel of this area and of our understanding of such a phenomenon, whether you’re born, raised and resided here all of your life, or a newcomer such as myself.
“So while the mystery of Mothman continues to intrigue us, films like ‘The Mothman of Point Pleasant’ help us understand our curiosity all the more through facts, statements and re-creations of events leading up to its first appearance and afterward. As the film’s creator has said, there’s no doubt something happened all that time ago. It’s what we make of the evidence at hand that carries more significant weight when making up our own minds.”
OVP Editor Beth Sergent contributed to this story.
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