50 Years Later: Point Pleasant, Silver Bridge Collapse and the Mothman


In 1967, the tragedy of the bridge collapse in Point Pleasant tied into reported sightings of the Mothman in the area, and we’re looking back on it 50 years later.

Do you believe in the Mothman?

On December 15th, 1967, the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia suffered a horrible tragedy. Situated on the Ohio river, Point Pleasant connected to Gallipolis, Ohio via the Silver Bridge. Around 5:00 pm during the rush hour the bridge suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed. Unfortunately 46 people lost their lives. The official cause of the collapse was due to a defect in a single link which led to stress corrosion cracking and eventual collapse.

But was there something else that led to the collapse? Who or what was the Mothman sighted in the area? Who were the strange Men in Black who showed up in town and began intimidating witnesses and reporters? Could the collapse of the Silver Bridge been due to a curse placed on the area by Native American Chief Cornstalk? Depends who you talk to.

Silver Bridge aftermath

Shortly before the Silver Bridge tragedy several accounts of unexplained and paranormal phenomena began to trickle out of the Point Pleasant and surrounding areas. Was the Mothman sent to warn the people of the impending tragedy or did the Mothman have nefarious intentions and collapsed the bridge himself?

The story of the Mothman begins in Point Pleasant on November 12th, 1966. Five men were working as gravediggers in a cemetery near Clendenin, West Virginia. Clendenin lies about 79 miles away from Point Pleasant. The men reported they saw a brown human-like figure take off and fly above their heads. The men claimed it was not a bird but appeared human-like with wings.

On November 15th, 1966 Linda and Roger Scarberry along with Steve and Mary Mallette were out cruising. Around 11:30 pm they went to a remote area to hangout. The area was known as the TNT Area. The TNT Area housed ammunition and explosives during World War 2. Several large concrete “igloos”  stored the munitions hence the nickname TNT Area.

Igloo TNT Area, Point Pleasant, WV

When the couples arrived to the area they witnessed a large man shaped object by the old abandoned power house also housed in the TNT Area. They reported seeing two very bright red eyes on the figure and wings behind its back. They estimated the figure between 6 and 7 feet tall.

Obviously spooked, the couples made haste and left the area heading down Route 62 toward Point Pleasant. As they sped away they then witnessed the huge creature perched on top of a billboard in front of them. The creature then unfurled it’s wings, took off straight up and then chased their car.

The witnesses claim at one point they were traveling in excess of 100 mph and the figure was able to keep with them no problem. The figure proceeded to glide back and forth over their car and even heard the wings hitting the roof.

Roger Scarberry drawing of what he witnessed

Mary Mallette claimed the creature emitted a high-pitched noise that she likened to a “big mouse”. As the car approached the outskirts of Point Pleasant the creature veered off into a field. All four very obviously petrified witnesses reported the encounter to the Sheriff’s office.

The Sheriff and Deputies responded to the TNT Area to investigates the couples claims. When they arrived they did not witness the Mothman but one of the Deputies reported he saw shadows circling the area and unexplainable static interference on their police radios. The Deputies and Sheriff also witnessed a cloud of dust get kicked up from a nearby coal yard that very well could have been from the Mothman.

The next day the Sheriff’s office held a press conference about the sighting. The news wires picked up the story and dubbed the unknown figure “Mothman”. The Mothman moniker was due in part to the success of the recently televised Batman TV series.

Mothman headline

The next day the couples returned to the TNT Area during the daylight and found odd-shaped footprints which resembled “Two horseshoes put together”. Linda Scarberry has been quoted as saying “I wish we had never seen it, I wish someone else had seen it”.

After the initial sighting more folks began to come forward and tell their encounters with the Mothman. But the Mothman was not the only strange things happening around this time in the area. UFO sightings began and several instances of run ins with men dressed in black suits began. Who were these men? Did they work for the government? Why were they showing up at witnesses homes and places of employment unannounced  questioning and even intimidating witnesses?

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Mary Hyre was a reporter for The Athens Messenger who had an office in downtown Point Pleasant. Mary reported on the strange Mothman and UFO sightings regularly.  Mary was working late one night in January 1967 when a  man dressed in a black suit, short and with thick glasses covered his “strange eyes” came into her office.

Apparently the man asked Mary directions on how to get to Welsh. As Mary gave him directions he would come closer and closer invading her personal space. The man then questioned Mary about the articles she had written and wanted to know why she felt the need to publish such things.

Obviously this encounter was unnerving to Mary who then called another employee into her office with her and the man in black. At one point Mary took a phone call and noticed that the man in black had picked up a ballpoint pen and seemed  fascinated by it. Apparently the man laughed and still clutching the pen ran out of the office.

A few weeks later Mary was walking outside of her office when she observed the same man who was in her office. When the man realized Mary was watching him he ran to a large black car and then sped away.

Alleged men in black sighting. Ontario, Canada 2008

The men in black sightings were not strictly localized to Mary. Several people in and around the area reported seeing similarly dressed men. Sometimes strange men would show up to the houses of witnesses and claim they are employees of gas or water companies and would need to take a reading from their meters. The men typically would go to the basement and after being gone for a huge amount of time, the homeowner would go to check on them and they would be gone.

The men in black were reportedly usually seen in groups of 2 or 3. They sometimes spoke in odd ways such as very slowed down or sing-song like. Some witnesses report that they did not blink and their skin appeared olive or transparent. Some witnesses reported that the men in black ate at a local diner and did not know how to use utensils. A waitress had to come and show the men how to use a knife.

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But the story of the men in black and Mary Hyre does not end there. Connie Carpenter, the niece of Mary also had a Mothman AND a men in black experience. On November 27th, 1966 at 10:30 am on a Sunday Connie was driving home from church when she witnessed what originally she thought was a man dressed in gray standing by the Mason County Golf Course on Route 62.

Connie says the “man” unfurled 10 foot wings and immediately flew directly at her car. As the Mothman flew toward her Connie said she locked eyes with the creature’s piercing red eyes, right before Mothman impacted her windshield it suddenly veered away. Connie frightened beyond belief immediately drove home.

Her boyfriend says when she got home she was hysterical and kept repeating “Those eyes”. Later Connie suffered from what is known as Klieg Conjunctivitis. This is a condition when the eyes become inflamed and swollen due to long exposure to ultraviolet rays.

Connie is one of the few who have claimed to get a look at the Mothman’s face. She claimed “It was horrible. Like something out of a science fiction movie.” But Connie’s brush with the unknown affecting the area doesn’t end there.

After her encounter with the Mothman, Connie reported a rather terrifying experience with a man in black. Connie was on her way to school and approached by a gentlemen in a black vehicle. He waved her over and she thought the man may have been lost and was seeking directions. Apparently the man attempted to pull Connie in the vehicle and even ripped her blouse in the process. Several hours later a note shoved under the door of her home bared the menacing message “Be careful  girl I can get you yet.” 

There are those who believe that the Mothman had no ill intention but sent as a warning of the impending disaster that would befall this sleepy town. Some residents believe that the Silver Bridge collapse was due to a curse  placed on the town by a Native American known as  Cornstalk.

As the American colonies began to expand and claim land several skirmishes with settlers and Native American tribes began to break out. Around the area of the Ohio river where Point Pleasant is, several tribes of Shawnee Indians made the area their home.

In 1774 the Shawnee and Mingo tribes that inhabited the area began making battle plans to attack the new settlers over the land in what is now known as The Battle of Point Pleasant. During the attack the tribes were no match for the infantry units weapons and Cornstalk retreated.

During a second, later attack the military units were able to convince Cornstalk to a truce to avoid more unnecessary bloodshed. In 1777 Cornstalk alerted the settlers that the British were attempting to get other Native tribes to attack the colonists. The tribes then began taking positions on the Ohio river to attack.

Cornstalk wanted no part of the attack and went to the fort to alert the cavalry. Cornstalk told them that he did not desire war but he would make no attempt to stop his men if they chose to partake in the attack, Seeing an opportunity they held Cornstalk as a prisoner to use a bargaining chip.

The plan worked and the battle averted. As Cornstalk was being held in the fort his son arrived to visit. Meanwhile 2 members of the fort were out hunting and ambushed and killed by a Native tribe. Enraged Cornstalk and his son were shot as retribution for the attack. Legend says as he laid dying, Cornstalk placed a curse upon the land.

Cornstalk statue and mural on display in Point Pleasant, WV.

Right before he died Cornstalk looked at his attackers and said “I was the border man’s friend. Many times I have saved him and his people from harm. I never warred with you, but only to protect our wigwams and lands. I refused to join your paleface enemies with the red coats. I came to the fort as your friend and you murdered me. You have murdered by my side, my young son…. For this, may the curse of the Great Spirit rest upon this land. May it be blighted by nature. May it even be blighted in its hopes. May the strength of its people’s be paralyzed by the stain of our blood.”

Was the collapse of the Silver Bridge due to Cornstalks curse? Did the Mothman ultimately have something to do with it or was this unexplained phenomena sent as a warning? According to reports Mothman sightings precede several catastrophic events.

On September 10th, 1978 a group of miners in Germany reported seeing a creature that fits the Mothman criteria. According to witnesses the creature with piercing red eyes was at the entrance to the mine. Stunned at what they were witnessing the creature let out a   howl that sent those in the mine running out in terror. An hour later the miners reported seeing a huge plume of dust, feeling a rumble and then the mine collapsed. The encounter is known as the “Freiburg Shrieker” which saved the lives of many who would otherwise have been in the mine.

In 2011 Marcus Pules was in Japan when he witnessed a Mothman like creature around the Fukushima Power Plant before the earthquake and then disaster. According to him he saw the creature perched on top of one of the buildings. It unfurled its wings and circled the plant several times. Pules then claimed he noticed the creature had huge red glowing eyes. Pules reported feeling a sense of dread and immediately left the area.

Mothman statue in Point Pleasant, WV.

Those of us who remember the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 will never forget it. We remember where we were and the horrific images being streamed across the television airwaves. Reports of witnesses seeing a Mothman like creature began to spread. Some witnesses claim to have seen a black winged creature flying near the Twin Towers. Allegedly during the 2nd plane strike witnesses claim to also seeing the creature flying parallel to the plane before impact. The men in black also reportedly showed up and told witnesses to stop talking about what they saw.

The Mothman sightings came during the Chernobyl power plant meltdown as well. Before the disaster those in the immediate area report seeing a large, black bird like creature with the body of a man flying around the area. On April 26th, 1986 the same creature flew around the smoke immediately after the disaster. Those in the nearby town of Pripyat also reported seeing the same creature. These sightings are known the “Blackbird of Chernobyl.”

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Do sightings of the Mothman signal an impending disaster and loss of life? Why did he choose to visit the people of Point Pleasant and did he come bearing a warning or bring tragedy? Who were the men in black? Did Cornstalk’s curse lead to the Silver Bridge collapse? These are questions we will probably never get the answers to and can only speculate. But do we really want those answers? Probably not.