West Virginia’s Mothman Sightings and the Mysterious Silver Bridge Collapse of 1967

Mothman Sightings Newspaper Clipping
Credit to Hocking Valley Newspaper

The Mothman Creature, Mothman Sightings, and West Virginia

The Mothman Sightings largely date back to 1966 and 1967, adding an air of mystery and uncertainty to a creature that is arguably as notorious as Bigfoot or Nessie. Despite some sightings as recently as December of 2014, the creature largely seems to have been buried to just two years in West Virginia and is largely associated with the town of Point Pleasant. The creature first gained notoriety thanks to John Keel’s excellent book, The Mothman Prophecies originally released in 1975 and later turned into a big budget feature film starring Richard Gere in 2002.

The first sightings are largely credit to mid-November of 1966, officially claimed as November 12th and followed up with a sighting on November 15th. Despite the association, the first sighting was courtesy of a group of five men digging a grave near Clendenin, West Virginia. They claimed they saw a, “brown human being,” fly over their heads and swoop away into the woods. Google Maps lists the address as Koontz Cemetery Drive. On November 15th, two couples reported seeing a large white creature with glowing red eyes near the McClintic Wildlife Management Area, what would become labeled as the infamous TNT site, in Mason County north of Point Pleasant. What is interesting is that McClintic is almost an hour and a half North of where the first sighting was and the color of the creature was completely contrasted from brown to white. More Mothman Sightings would soon occur with similar descriptions and the creature would later be explained away as possibly being a Sandhill Crane.

Sandhill Crane in Florida
Credit to Denise Ippolito Photography

As this creature was being spotted throughout November and December of 1966, interesting things started happening alongside it all. A mysterious figure given the moniker Indrid Cold appeared in Parkersburg, West Virginia on November 2nd. Woodrow Derenberger ran into Cold after a crash on Interstate 77. Cold said he was an alien from the planet Lanulo and wanted to learn about the human race. The figure would later appear in Point Pleasant to the Lilly Family in the midst of their enduring strange Poltergeist activity in their home. Keel does a good job covering this in his book linked above.

The Men in Black reportedly became involved after November 27th, 1966 when Mary Hyre’s niece, Connie, saw a gray creature at the Mason Country Golf Course just outside New Haven, West Virginia. Odd visitors started showing up to homes of people who had seen the creature, inquiring either about their relationship with author John Keel during this period of time or the incidents themselves such as the alleged Woodrow Derenberger alien interaction. They also reportedly made threats towards newspaper columnist Mary Hyre for initially writing about the Mothman Sightings that were going on. Author Nick Redfern wrote a book titled “The Real Men In Black” which covers who or what these mysterious men may actually be. Much like the actual Mothman, the Men in Black largely vanished after 1967.

The Silver Bridge Collapse

Wreckage From Silver Bridge Collapse
Credit to The Herald-Dispatch.com

The Silver Bridge was designed by J.E. Greiner Company and was built by the Gallia County Ohio River Bridge Company. The bridge was quickly constructed and opened on Memorial Day in 1928. An article in the Engineering News Record covering the bridge made note that alterations to the chains, hangers, and trusses after the erection of the bridge. State inspections occurred in 1959, 1963, 1964 and 1965 where $30,000 was spent to make recommended repairs. Two more inspections were done in the summer of 1967.

December 15th, 1967 at 5:00 PM
The bridge suddenly collapsed with no warning, submerging 32 vehicles and killing 46 people while 44 others were rescued. Only 2 bodies were never recovered from the wreckage site. The Safety Board examining the collapse of the bridge determined on April 6th, 1971 that, “… a cleavage fracture in the lower limb of the eye of eyebar 330 at joint C13N of the north eyebar suspension chain in the Ohio side span. The fracture was caused by the development of a critical-size flaw over the 40-year life of the structure as the result of the joint action of stress corrosion and corrosion fatigue.”

Despite the incident, bridge collapses were not uncommon in the era but this gained notoriety due to occurring during rush hour and later being associated with the Mothman Sightings which had been happening for over a year prior to the collapse. Even afterwards, many people have attributed a curse to the Mothman creature and have cited death tolls to the sightings much like the perceived curse related to King Tutankhamun’s Tomb being opened.

What Could the Mothman Be?

Some have contended that the Mothman was a spiritual omen, possibly trying to warn the residents of Point Pleasant about the impending collapse of the Silver Bridge. Others, as mentioned earlier, wrote off the Mothman Sightings as misdiagnoses of common animals due to night and not being aware of the Sandhill Crane as a native creature.

Thanks to the association with the TNT Area, including being featured on the television series, Mountain Monsters on Destination America, the creature has been credited as possibly being some sort of mutation thanks to exposure to World War II munitions.

If you ever travel through West Virginia and Mason County, keep your eyes up in the sky. You may notice something unexplained taking off.

Written by David Hunter

David Hunter enjoys writing about wrestling, sports, music, and horror!

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