Mothman Statue

June 1, 2007 — If there’s one thing that the world absolutely needs, it’s more imaginary monster byproducts of mass hysteria. That’s right. Not love, not peace, not medical breakthroughs. The world needs more mothmen.

The Mothman story starts like every other story of this ilk. Once upon a time late one night in the woods somewhere a handful of people “witnessed” a creature. In this case “once upon a time” means November of 1966. Somewhere was near Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a small town just across the Ohio River from, well, Ohio.

The creature was more than six feet tall, furry, winged, red-eyed, man-legged, and, yes, capable of flight, aeronautics be damned. But although that’s quite a commentary on how flaccid the human imagination is at constructing its monsters, the Mothman turned out to be more than just that. The Mothman was the centerpiece of a year-long vortex of strange events occurring in Point Pleasant. Spectral lights, mystery men, UFOs, supernatural visitations, government conspiracy, livestock mutilation. Sure, it was the Sixties, but still. That’s weird.

Two things really separate the Mothman from all the other creature-men such as Goatman, Bunnyman, Sarah Silverman, etc. First, these events were recorded in a first-person real-time account by a professional chronicler. His name was John Keel, and he was basically a chaser of the strange.

A month after the first sighting, he went to Point Pleasant to look into some of the phenomena for a book he was writing on UFOs or some such. He soon became personally entrenched in the events and weaved his experiences into a book called The Mothman Prophecies. If you plan on visiting Point Pleasant, definitely read it before going. It’ll help set your atmosphere. Or watch the Richard Gere movie that was loosely based on the book.

The second differentiating characteristic of the Mothman story was that it actually had an ending. Of sorts. And not in the proved-to-be-a-hoax-but-people-keep-believing-it kind of way. Actually, let’s call it a climax.

On December 15, 1967, about 13 months after the initial Mothman sighting, the Silver Bridge that spanned the Ohio River and connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to Ohio, collapsed at rush hour, killing 46 people. After that the sightings pretty much stopped. To some, this incident turns the Mothman from some random spook spotted in the middle of the night to a harbinger, a total step up from a doubtful sighting. Others say people just had more important things on their mind than perpetuating myths once the bridge collapsed.

I went to see Point Pleasant to specifically see how the town commemorated that year in its history. You see, the thing about Point Pleasant is that they love to commemorate. This small town seems to have more monuments per square foot than D.C. itself. Besides the memorial for the bridge disaster, it also has seen its share of battles. And I don’t mean just random plaques (though they do have those). They have a freaking 84-foot granite obelisk, for goodness sake.

Point Pleasant also has a strange penchant for stainless steel statues. It has three of them. How much radder (more rad?) would D.C. be if all its monuments were all constructed out of stainless steel?  One of those statues depicts Chief Cornstalk, who cursed the land back in the day and whose remains are ensconced in one of those aforementioned memorials. The second is some Revolutionary-War-looking cat whose name I can’t remember. The final stainless steel statue is our Mothman.

An artist named Robert Roach (or “Bob” as he’s credited on the statue), whom I’m sure did all three stainless steel sculptures, created the Mothman statue as a 12-foot tall creature with an insect-like face, great abs, a smattering of chest hair, giant impressive wings that give the statue almost half of its height, and red glass eyes that, because the universe has no style, are not rigged to glow at night. Overall, it rather reminds me of something you’d find in a child’s toy box stamped with “Made in China” on the body. That's not a knock, by the way, this thing is awesome.

The best thing about the Mothman Statue is that being stainless steel, it’s pretty much guaranteed to outlast all the actual wonders of the world. There’s something perversely satisfying about that (which, I just realized after using that phrase a thousand times in my life, basically just means that there’s something perverse about me personally and merely satisfying about the actual fact at hand).

I don’t really need to tell you how to find the Mothman statue. If you can find Point Pleasant, you'll stumble across it. If you hit the river, turn around. In general that’s good advice, I guess.

Also of relevant note is that just down the road from the statue is a Mothman museum. Inside it contains lots of homemade mothmen and drawings of mothmen, plenty of old newspaper accounts tacked to boards, props from The Mothman Prophecies movie, and a couple documentaries you can watch in a backroom with black plastic trash bags taped over the windows.

Also, a little south of the original Silver Bridge location is the bridge they constructed two years after the disaster to replace it. It’s called the Silver Memorial Bridge. Definitely drive over it while you’re there because, well, you might as well. Jumping state lines for no reason is cool. Especially across a bridge that commemorates a bridge disaster. Oh, unless you’re coming from Ohio in the first place, in which case just go home.

I only really visited Point Pleasant for the statue, but there's a lot more to get into. One day I'll return to Point Pleasant and do it up right.