Robert A. Goerman is a lifelong resident of New Kensington, Pa. His writings have appeared in FATE, UFO Report, Beyond Reality, and Official UFO, among others. FATE readers are invited to visit Goerman's FATEreader online.
Fiery-eyed demons prowled the haunted hills of West Virginia in 1966. On the evening of Tuesday, November 15, Salem resident Newell Partridge was watching television at his home.
“It was about 10:30 that night, and suddenly the TV blanked out. A real fine herringbone pattern appeared on the tube, and at the same time the set started a loud whining noise.…It sounded like a generator winding up.
“The dog was sitting on the end of the porch, howling down toward the hay barn.…I shined the [flash]light in that direction, and it picked up two red circles, or eyes, which looked like bicycle reflectors. I certainly know what animal eyes look like…these were much larger. It’s a good length of a football field to that hay barn… still those eyes showed up huge for that distance.”
Partridge described an unbelievably intense, morbid fear that swept over him as a “cold chill.” His dog snarled and ran toward the eyes. Newell hurried inside to get a gun but decided not to go back outside. He slept with his shotgun all night.
The next day, he and his six-year-old son went searching for their dog, Bandit, a large and muscular German shepherd. They found Bandit’s tracks going in a circle, as if the dog had been chasing his tail. But there were no other tracks of any kind.
Bandit was never seen again.
At 11:30 that same night, a classic 1957 Chevrolet slowly drove around a deserted World War II ammunition dump, known locally as the “TNT Area,” six miles north of Point Pleasant. The West Virginia Ordnance Works had once been the site’s official name. The WVOW was created to supply TNT for the war effort.
In the earlier part of the 1900s, an area outside of Point Pleasant was set up as the McClintic Wildlife Preserve. It was, among other things, designed as a bird sanctuary. During World War II, more than 2,500 acres of this area were ripped up in order to construct about 100 “igloos” laid out in a grid-like pattern to keep the entire complex from being destroyed during a possible enemy attack. These large mounds of earth were made to be unnoticed from the air. Deep inside each, cement and steel protected the explosive contents. Twin coal-fired power plants were constructed to supply power for the manufacturing facility. A series of underground bunkers, tunnels, and sewers connected the entire complex. Grass was allowed to grow high enough to camouflage the operation. After the war, parts of the preserve were sold off or leased to companies like the Trojan-U.S. Powder Company, the LFC Chemical Company, and American Cyanamid.
The TNT Area is a large tract of land. The entire area was sparsely populated and covered with dense forest, steep hills, and riddled with tunnels. Its remote location became a popular hangout for local youth. “Parking” and “partying” at the TNT Area became a norm.
Inside the ’57 Chevy were two young married couples, Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette. They were looking for friends who might also be out that cold, winter night.
Their search paused at the old generator plant on the nature preserve.
“It was shaped like a man, but bigger. Maybe six and a half or seven feet tall. And it had big wings folded against its back,” Roger Scarberry told reporters.
“But it was those eyes that got us. It had two big eyes like automobile reflectors,” added Linda Scarberry. “They were hypnotic. For a minute, we could only stare at it. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.”
The creature slowly turned toward the door of the abandoned generator plant. The door was open and apparently ripped off its hinges.
Roger Scarberry, who was driving, jumped on the accelerator and took off, claiming the Chevy at one point reached “better than a hundred miles per hour.” To everyone’s horror, the creature spread its wings and flew after their car. It didn’t seem to flap its wings at all, and the wingspan was over ten feet. Mary Mallette said that it made a squeaking sound, “like a big mouse.” The four also noted that a dead dog had been lying by the side of the road, but was gone when they returned.
The creature followed their car to the Point Pleasant city limits before it broke off its pursuit.
They terrified couples never stopped until they arrived at the offices of the Mason County sheriff and reported their sighting. Deputy Millard Halstead was on duty in the Mason County Courthouse that evening.
“I’ve known these kids all their lives. They’d never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night.”
Deputy Halstead returned to the TNT Area with the four, to the spot where they had initially seen the figure, to locate the cause of their fear.
As Halstead switched on his police radio, a loud screech came out of the speaker-a garble, like a tape recording being played at very high speed. Noticeably shaken, the deputy quickly turned off the radio. He left soon after that and reported the incident to his department.
Mason County Sheriff George Johnson called a press conference the very next day. All the witnesses were interviewed by reporters. It was staffed by local journalist Mary Hyre, Point Pleasant correspondent for the Messenger, out of Athens, Ohio. Hyre produced a story that was picked up by the Associated Press. Another reporter dubbed the creature “Mothman.”
“Everybody in Point Pleasant knew Mary,” recalled Roy Cross, her boss in the bureau. “She ran that town.” Hyre died February 15, 1970. Cross was one of her pallbearers, along with several West Virginia state troopers, the Mason County sheriff, and the Messenger’s publisher.
The now defunct Pittsburgh Press gave the United Press International version front-page coverage on its November 16 edition with the headline: “Red-Eyed 7-Footer: ‘Bird’ Flaps Scare Into W. Va. Couples.”
“That Fear Gripped You”
The reports-ultimately over one hundred total-continued long into 1967. Descriptions of the creature were consistent. It stood taller and broader than a man, walked in sort of a halting shuffle on humanlike legs, and emitted a squeaking sound. The red, glowing eyes, set into the shoulders, seem to have been more terrifying than either the size of the creature or span of its batlike wings. More than one witness mentioned hearing a mechanical humming as the creature flew above them. Witnesses reported feeling an uncontrollable, indescribable terror: “I’ve never had that feeling before. A weird kind of fear. That fear gripped you and held you.”
One of the families living in the desolate TNT area was that of Ralph Thomas. At about 9:00 p.m. on November 16, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley, with Mrs. Marcella Bennett and her infant daughter, Tina, were ending a social call and walking back to their car when they disturbed something much too close to them on the Thomas property. That something seemed as if it had been lying down.
“It rose up slowly from the ground. A big, gray thing. Bigger than a man, with terrible, glowing, red eyes,” reported Marcella Bennet, who became so terrified that she dropped her baby. As the creature unfurled its huge wings, Raymond Wamsley snatched up the child and the witnesses ran back to the Thomas home, where they were let in by the three children. The figure shuffled along behind them, coming onto the porch and looking through the window. Mr. Wamsley called the police, but, as is so often the case, the creature had vanished by the time help arrived. Marcella Bennett was so traumatized that she eventually sought medical attention.
Inside the TNT Area, hundreds of visitors streamed in every night. It became a media event with television crews reportedly set up at the old generator plant for a glimpse of the nightmarish creature.
Richard West, of Charleston, called police on November 21. A winged figure was sitting on the roof of his neighbor’s house. The six-foot tall figure had a wingspan of six or eight feet and red eyes. It took off straight up, he said, “like a helicopter.”
On the morning of November 25, Tom Ury was driving along Route 62, near the TNT area. He saw a gray figure standing in a field. Then it spread two large wings, lifted straight into the air, and flew over Ury’s car at an altitude “three telephone poles high.”
November 27, on the way home from church, Connie Carpenter saw a grayish figure standing on the golf course near Mason. The creature took off and flew straight toward her car. She described the face as “horrible.”
One of the last sightings seems to have come on November 2, 1967, when, shortly after noon, Mrs. Ralph Thomas heard a “squeaky fan belt” outside her home and saw a “tall gray figure” moving among the concrete domes in the TNT Area.
Read more on Mothman-including Robert Goerman's exclusive report from the filming of the upcoming movie The Mothman Prophecies-in the June 2001 issue of FATE!