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Mothman has his own museum

Samantha L. Thomas
Daily Mail staff

Monday March 20, 2006


The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil are names recognized worldwide, hunted by those with an insatiable curiosity. For residents of West Virginia's own Point Pleasant, there is another name that should be on that list: Mothman.

The reported sightings of the large, winged creature with red glowing eyes started in the late 1960s, coinciding with many strange happenings in the area, including some saucer-like unidentified flying objects and climaxing with the collapse of the Silver Bridge in December 1967 that killed 46 people.

Point Pleasant resident Jeff Wamsley has written two books on the Mothman phenomenon, helps to organize the annual Mothman Festival, and recently decided to open a museum about the infamous creature on Main Street.

The collection includes news clippings and props from the set of the 2002 movie, "The Mothman Prophecies," which starred Richard Gere.

"We have everything from the telephones that Richard Gere used in the hotel scene to the napkin holders used in the diner set," Wamsley said. "The collection is massive, and it seems to really grab visitors' attention. In addition to the props, we have all sorts of private collections and archives, really rare stuff that helps tell the Mothman story."

One attention grabber is the "death list" displayed prominently in the middle of the museum. It draws connections between the sudden or strange deaths of those associated in some way with the Mothman legend.

"Some believe it and some people do not," Wamsley said of the list.

There is also a media center, which shows several films, documentaries and special segments from television shows such as "Unsolved Mysteries" and a recently aired special on the Travel Channel featuring a stop in Point Pleasant.

"We have amassed a very unique media collection," he said. "We are working on some rare 8mm footage shot right after the Silver Bridge collapse by my father in December 1967. Stuff like that has never been seen by the public, so it's interesting to work on and present to the public."

Todd Wiseman, a Mothman Museum worker and Ohio University film student, said he believes a creature similar to the Mothman still exists in the area because the museum receives reports of sightings.

Wiseman said several dozen reports have been turned in to the museum, some from the area outside Point Pleasant where Mothman was originally thought to have lived.

There are also several maps with pins marking areas throughout Mason County, symbolizing the sightings of the winged creature.

Darla Slater, a Huntington resident, recently visited the museum to pick up a few pieces of merchandise for her husband.

"He's a Mothman freak," Slater said of the man. "He supposedly saw (a) UFO go down the Ohio River." The man's wife described him as a total believer in the Mothman story and said he was living in the Ohio Valley when Point Pleasant's unexplained occurrences took place in the late '60s.

Wiseman agrees with Slater, saying he believes there have been almost as many strange occurrences happening in the Ohio Valley since the Gere movie came out four years ago as there were in the '60s.
When the movie came out, then a lot of strange things happened locally," Wiseman said, citing the sudden or strange deaths of many people in some way affiliated with the movie or the Mothman legend.
Caroline Harris, who owns and manages Harris' Steakhouse on Main Street, helps Wamsley to organize the Mothman Festival each year. She sees tourists from all over the world and listens to their stories. She keeps a notebook she asks tourists to sign, telling her their hometowns. The notebook has two listings in the recent months from as far away as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Harris said about a year ago, she had two customers tell her similar stories about a giant bird-like creature sweeping over the windshields of their tractor-trailer vehicles on Interstate 77 toward Marietta, Ohio. She said she would have documented the first account if she knew a second report would soon be coming in. She said the customers came in about two weeks apart, the second customer bringing his girlfriend, who also happened to be along for the ride the night he got the scare of his life.

They both reported that the winged-creature covered the entire windshield, sweeping across in front of them in the night, a report almost identical to the one Harris had heard two weeks before.

She said she has never seen the creature herself, but her sister did once as she and some friends threw a party in the area where Mothman first was reported. She said she asked her sister to repeat to her exactly what the Mothman looked like.

"She said, ‘At night when you see the big red eyes, you get out of there -- you don't wait to see the body,' " Harris said. She said she has received reports however that the creature has an enormous wingspan, covered in gray feathers and has a drawn, wrinkled face.

No matter what happened in Point Pleasant all those years ago, and perhaps what continues to go on there today, the legend has made the small town more than a place to simply pass through.

"The Mothman legend is one that continues to mystify and interest people all over the world," Wamsley said. "It has never been logically explained and probably never will be -- that in itself has caught the imagination of many who come here to where it all happened."

The Mothman Museum is open 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The Mothman Festival takes place the third weekend in September each year.

Contact writer Samantha L. Thomas at 348-4819
 
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