If Sasquatch is the most recognizable American cryptid, then Mothman must surely be a close runner-up.  The peak of Mothman sightings happened in the late 1960s, but the Mothman legend continues to mesmerize readers - and Mothman himself is still spotted in the darkness, from time to time.

Mothman is a tall humanoid creature with gigantic moth wings.  (Why moth wings in particular?  Why not just "wings"?  I have always wondered.)  His eyes glow red, and he has the unsettling habit of chasing people in the darkness. 

Furthermore, Mothman's appearances are said to have foretold various events, leading up to a local catastrophe.  After the last Mothman sighting in 1967, a local bridge collapsed during rush hour.  46 people were killed as the cars tumbled into the Ohio River.

(Some people believe that Mothman was trying to warn them of the bridge collapse.  If so, I have to say, he didn't do a very good job of it.)

Point Pleasant, West Virginia is the epicenter of the Mothman legend.  The town even has a statue downtown which commemorates Mothman.   Mothman sightings are unusually geographically specific, ranging from Point Pleasant south to Charleston, about 20 miles away.

There are a number of theories to explain Mothman.  Some religious people believe it is a fallen angel.  UFO researchers suspect Mothman could be an alien.  Or it could simply be a hoax, or a misunderstanding. 

The first reporting of Mothman came from two young couples who stopped in the middle of the night to investigate a pair of glowing red eyes in the darkness, only to find something "shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big wings folded against its back."

Sandhill cranes fit this description to a T.  They are about six feet tall, with a wingspan up to seven feet across, they carry their wings folded across their backs, their eyes reflect in the darkness, they have large red patches surrounding their eyes, and they make an unnerving shriek when disturbed.   Furthermore, Sandhill cranes are fairly common in the area.

Could Mothman be a misunderstood sighting of a Sandhill crane in the darkness, blown out of proportion into something approaching mass hysteria?  It's impossible to say.  The list of events and sightings reported during the Mothman year is vast and often frightening. 

A few Mothman-related events include:

  • The Grinning Man, a.k.a. Indrid Cold.  This is an odd-looking man who wears a shiny green suit, has wide-spaced beady eyes, a somewhat swarthy complexion, and an unusually broad grin.  The Grinning Man has been spotted several times in recent history, twice during the Mothman year.
  • The Flatwoods Monster.  About 15 years before Mothman was sighted, residents in the nearby town of Flatwoods witnessed what appeared to be a UFO crash.  Witnesses then saw a pulsing red light hovering near the crash site, and a ten foot tall monster with a head shaped like the Ace of Spades, a head that glowed red, and a body that glowed green.  (The topic of the Flatwoods Monster was investigated in the MonsterQuest episode "Lizard Monster.")
  • Paranormal activity was extremely high in the days surrounding the Mothman sightings.  This includes poltergeist activity, and episodes of precognition.

Photo credit: Flickr/theparadigmshifter