Mystery of the mountain

I love working at the Ross Library. In a lot of ways, it’s not a typical library. We have a lot of experts in things you wouldn’t expect. Want to book a band for your event? Talk to Adam, at the desk. Want to discuss artwork? Joe, out in the garage. Paranormal investigation? That’d be the guy in the Pennsylvania Room.

So it’s no surprise, as I sit here in my UFO T-shirt and my alien and monster hoodie, that I’m into exploring the paranormal. Which makes this month sort of an awesome anniversary. It’s been 50 years since the Mothman first flew. I love cryptozoology, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Mothman.

Point Pleasant, W.V., is a quiet, small community by the Ohio River. In November of 1966, Roger Scarberry and his wife were driving with Steve Mallett and his wife, and they were the first ones to see the Mothman.

The Mothman was described to the local sheriff as “A flying man with 10-foot wings.” The newspaper stated,” They said it was about seven feet tall with large red eyes.”

Believe it or not, this was a big event. The quote comes from The Lock Haven Express, in an article from Nov. 30, 1966. The Mothman caused a big enough sensation that The Express even covered the story. (As far as I can tell, the Mothman didn’t actually come to Pennsylvania. The Jersey Devil visited Lock Haven in 1909, but the Mothman hasn’t visited yet. I’m hoping he decides to stop by; he can sleep on my couch.)

At that point, people began to see the Mothman everywhere. Reports poured in; a photo was reported of the Mothman sitting on top of the Silver Bridge, going across the river. It’s the way a lot of these things go–Once someone reports seeing a ghost or monster, everyone suddenly sees the same thing.

“These reports brought curious crowds to the McClintic Wildlife Station where the incident occurred,”The Express reported. “Volunteer fire department members had to help keep traffic moving.”

Of course, leave it to the college professors to spoil all the fun. The same article stated that Dr. Robert L. Smith of West Virginia University had the answer to the mystery almost immediately. He contacted the newspapers to say that it was a sandhill crane.

The sandhill crane is the second-largest American crane, a bird with a wingspan of over seven feet. It is usually white and spooky-looking, and has red circles around its eyes, which could have easily been mistaken for the Mothman’s red eyes. Smith said that it was probable that people had just seen a sandhill crane, and mistaken it for a giant hybrid moth-human creature, as one does. The Express headline read,“Mystery Of Mothman Ends.”

So this month is the anniversary of the Mothman, and also of the solution to the mystery. In November of 1966, the excitement died down, and everyone understood it had probably just been a large bird all along.

And if you believe that, stop by the library and I’ll sell you the Jay Street Bridge. Of course people didn’t immediately decide it was a crane. The Mothman is seen about twice weekly in Point Pleasant, and is more popular than ever. There’s a Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, and a Mothman monument. Every fall, they hold a Mothman Festival that brings in thousands of people, coming in to stay for a week.

Which brings me to my next question: Seriously, why is Clinton County not doing this? We have the Giwoggle, we have the Susquehanna Seal, and I give an excellent haunted walking tour. Why am I the only one to suggest that we promote these paranormal things for tourism? Why not a Giwoggle festival? A friend of mine has already designed a Giwoggle T-shirt, which you can buy online. Why not a brochure with haunted places? A raft ride to photograph the Susquehana Seal? Are we gonna let some tiny town in West Virginia show us up?

But I’d like to wish the Mothman a happy anniversary. And if he does decide to come visit Lock Haven, I hope he makes me a priority. I’ll buy him lunch, if I can figure out what he eats.