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The Legend of Mothman, West Virginia’s Elusive Folklore

Due to the overwhelming response we received to one of our TikTok videos @hashtagwv, I have been tasked with doing some investigative reporting on the elusive legend of West Virginia’s Mothman. Now as I am not a native West Virginian, my knowledge of mothology is limited to the movie the guy from Pretty Woman made that I vaguely remember watching. So I did what any competent and qualified journalist does in these situations… I googled my little Irish heart out. 

The first thing I learned is that unlike Batman, the Mothman does not fight crime.

The first thing I learned is that unlike Batman, the Mothman does not fight crime. (Imagine my disappointment. How awesome would that be?) But I guess that makes sense. It’s probably tough to strike fear in the hearts of evil doers when your biggest tactical weapon is the three-percent chance that you may cause the bad guy to have an allergic reaction if their skin touches you. The second thing I found out is that Chicago apparently also now has a Mothman of their very own. That one may, in fact, fight crime – or possibly commit them…

Chicago notwithstanding, Point Pleasant, WV, was ground zero for Mothman sightings. The story goes that way back in November 1966, while driving by an abandoned National Guard Armory and power plant, some locals spotted what would rationally (if not for copyright concerns) be described as Batman. According to a story in Folklife Magazine, what they saw was “a menacing figure standing six to seven feet tall,” with bright red eyes and wings. The locals drove off as fast as they could. The Mothman gave chase, able to keep pace with the car by flying at speeds of up to 100-miles per hour. But thankfully, according to various eyewitnesses, the Mothman runs about as gracefully as Rubeus Hagrid on a frozen pond. The locals escaped unscathed – and without the need of an antihistamine.

By January of 1968 the Mothman, much like his unwilling K-9 companion, had vanished without a trace.

For the next 13-months, the Mothman was spotted in and around the Point Pleasant area – sometimes giving chase to unsuspecting motorists, while other times delivering the mail. It is in this aspect that the Mothman developed the reputation as being a harbinger of bad news. When the supernatural creature was observed near a mailbox, the delivery would typically contain an abnormally high utility bill, or a postcard from a disliked inlaw announcing an impending visit. And on at least one occasion, the Mothman is reported to have stolen some guy’s dog. It remains unclear to this day whether the Mothman committed the dognapping out of loneliness, or hunger. 

By January of 1968 the Mothman, much like his unwilling K-9 companion, had vanished without a trace. No further sightings were legitimately reported for the next 49-years. But after nearly a half-century, it appears that the Mothman may have returned – albeit slightly further north. In 2017, reports began to come out of Chicago regarding what NPR called “a giant, flying, winged humanoid.” (This is a far less litigious way to say “Six-foot bat terrorizes Gotham.”)

Are Chicago’s Winged Humanoid and Point Pleasant’s Mothman one in the same – brothers perhaps? Are they friends? Did they attend Moth Academy together? If so, were they school rivals? Are they working together, or is Chicago’s flying creature just a poor impersonation of West Virginia’s supernatural mascot? A recent initiative sponsored by the Indianapolis Institute for the Weird and Wacky attempted to answer this very question. In the sleepy little town of Kirklin, Indiana, the IIWW erected a 200-foot post straight up into the sky.

Atop the pole sat a 40-watt banker’s-style desk lamp. The poll and lamp were positioned in the hopes of attracting both creatures. However, a minor oversight prevented the execution of the groundbreaking experiment. IIWW researchers failed to anticipate a need to pull the lamp’s tiny chain, and were unable to reach it to make the necessary correction. No experiment of its kind has been attempted since. 

As of the time of this writing, I have been authorized to put the full resources of HashtagWV behind our search for West Virginia’s elusive Mothman. (Chicago can worry about their own flying rat.) We would like to extend an invitation to the Mothman for a sit-down interview with us. In the event that the Mothman is unable to read, we would appreciate it if someone could let him know we are looking for him. While we can make no guarantees to our readers that the Mothman will accept our invitation, we will make this promise…

If the truth is out there, somebody will probably let you know. 

In the meantime, should you have any information pertaining to the Mothman’s current whereabouts, please contact us at editor@hashtagwv.com. HashtagWV will provide updates as this story continues to develop. 

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Matthew Young has been a resident of Lewisburg, WV since December 2019. Prior to arriving in West Virginia, Matthew resided in the Philadelphia area, where his reporting, commentary, and editorials have been featured in numerous local and regional publications. Previously, he has served as a scriptwriter and consultant for television, radio, and various other short-form digital-media platforms, both within the United States and internationally. Since moving to the Mountain State, Matthew spent eighteen months as senior writer/managing editor for the West Virginia Daily News and is currently an active journalist with the West Virginia Press Association.

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