Greetings from the other side and welcome back to DEAD Time. This month, I explored the history of Mothman and talked with the world’s top Mothman researcher and owner of the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Jeff Wamsley. On November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant, Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette, had a terrifying encounter with a winged creature with glowing red eyes, which they described as “a large, flying man with ten-foot wings.” They were hesitant to report the incident to police but did eventually file police reports. In the following days, other people claimed to have similar experiences with a strange, winged creature.
On December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant collapsed, killing 46 people. Some people believed the tragedy was connected to the sightings of the winged creature they called Mothman… and a legend was born. Then in 1975, author John Keel wrote the book The Mothman Prophecies, which eventually became a movie in 2002, starring Richard Gere. Keel claims the book is based on real events and he makes a chilling connection between Mothman and an entity called Indrid Cold. In 1966 in Mineral Wells, West Virginia, which is not far from Point Pleasant, Woodrow Derenberger was driving and reported seeing an unusual aircraft and then being approached by a smiling man with a dark suntan, who called himself Indrid Cold.
Over the years, reports have been made from all over the world about encounters with a winged creature that are eerily similar to the Mothman accounts from West Virginia. Countless theories have emerged about what Mothman could be. Is it just a very large bird? The first reports from the Scarberrys and the Mallettes occurred near what is called the TNT area, the site of a former World War II munitions plant, so some people suggest it could have been a bird that got into some toxic waste. Is it from another realm? Most people believe the two couples saw something, but no one has been able to prove what it was. There were also stories about mysterious men in black who visited eyewitnesses and told them not to talk about their experiences with Mothman.
Jeff Wamsley was born and raised in Point Pleasant, West Virginia and became interested in the legend of Mothman when he realized he knew some of the people involved in the original sightings. Wamsley has written 2 books on the subject and eventually created the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, which now attracts visitors from all over the world, who are curious about Mothman. He has also appeared in multiple documentaries about Mothman.
I’ve always been fascinated with Mothman, so I was very excited to talk with Jeff Wamsley about the various theories about Mothman, his extensive research on the legend, men in black, and a lot more. Turn off the lights and read on to find out what we talked about…
Bloody Disgusting: When did you first become interested in Mothman and how did you first hear the stories of people having encounters with Mothman?
Jeff Wamsley: I was born and raised here in Point Pleasant, West Virginia where all the activity started. When I was a kid, I didn’t know anything about it. When I was in junior high, I was reading The Mothman Prophecies book that someone had. I was glancing through it and I recognized a lot of the names; people that my family, or myself, knew and I thought that was kind of odd. The fact that there was a book about people in Point Pleasant. I had a chain of record stores all through the late eighties, early nineties, early 2000s and a buddy of mine and myself kind of dabbled a little bit with some shirt designs and things like that. The tourism factor back then wasn’t anywhere near what it is now. But when the movie The Mothman Prophecies came out, that kind of opened the flood gates.
The idea for the first book kind of came out of the fact that there were a lot of people coming to Point Pleasant and there wasn’t anything out there that kind of told them the real story, eyewitness views and things like that. Back when I was in eighth grade, I knew about the Mothman story, but I just never really paid a whole lot of attention to it [laughs].
BD: You’ve spoken with people who claim to have seen Mothman, right? What were those stories like?
JW: Yeah. There were a lot of witnesses here in Point Pleasant in 1966 and 1967. The two couples that were in the car, one of the couples were my family’s neighbors. All through junior high and high school, I delivered papers to them. When I got older, I started asking them some questions. They wouldn’t do a lot of interviews. For some reason, Linda Scarberry trusted me because she knew I was just a neighborhood kid who had grown up and was working on a book. So, I was lucky enough to know those people. Linda passed away a few years ago but her ex-husband, Roger, is still around. I’ve tried to get him to talk to me but he’s a little hesitant to talk, but I think he’s coming out a little bit on that.
The other couple, the Mallettes, are still married and still live here. They really haven’t talked about it since it happened. They admit that they saw it, but they haven’t done any in-depth, sit-down interviews or anything. Maybe one day, but those people aren’t getting any younger either.
BD: I can understand why they wouldn’t want to talk about it. I’ve had paranormal experiences my whole life and I only recently started talking about it. You don’t want people to think you’re crazy.
JW: Right. That’s what happened back then, especially the time period that it was. If you did talk about it, people did think you were crazy. That’s why they haven’t done a lot of media and stuff.
BD: Why did you decide to create the Mothman Museum?
JW: What happened was, I had those record stores and then Napster came along and kind of dumped on everything. There was a guy who would come to the festival every year and bring movie props from The Mothman Prophecies. So, every year at the festival, he would bring all this stuff, and set up displays and people really liked it. Then, a few years later, he couldn’t make it and he called me on the phone, and he said, “Look, I’m going to donate these to you to display somewhere.” I had a lot of the archives from Linda Scarberry; a lot of the original police reports and all kinds of letters from John Keel, who was the writer of The Mothman Prophecies book. I thought it would be cool to set up something on Saturdays and Sundays, so that’s how it started. This was back in 2006. On Saturday and Sunday, we would open up and people would come in. Fast forward to now, it’s 24/7. We’re open every day now. You have a lot to contribute to all the movies and documentaries, and video games. Mothman is pretty much pop culture now. We’ve got people of all ages and from all over the world coming in. I never realized it would get to the point where people were coming from the UK and Japan and Australia. It’s unique, to say the least [laughs].
BD: You’ve written a few books about Mothman and you appeared in the documentary The Mothman of Point Pleasant by Seth Breedlove. I spoke with him a few months ago about his work. What was it like working on the documentary?
JW: It was cool. Like I said, we’ve done a lot of them. They usually have their ducks in a row, they do a good job of having everything fleshed out. And of course, the end result is always really good. I have a lot of people who comment on the Small Town Monsters stuff. It was fun. Sometimes it can be a little tedious as far as scheduling, but they always have everything planned out pretty well. Seth has actually done two documentaries on the Mothman; The Mothman of Point Pleasant and The Mothman Legacy.
BD: I love the movie The Mothman Prophecies, which is based on the book by John Keel. The film claims to be based on actual events and makes a connection between Mothman and Indrid Cold, which I think could be related. Do you think there is a connection between the two entities?
JW: Well, there could be, and I think the reason is because it happened at the same time. It was the fall of 1966 when all of that happened. The story about Indrid Cold happened in Mineral Wells, West Virginia, which is not even an hour from here. And of course, John Keel investigated both of them so that kind of put them together right there. I think a lot of people are like you, they kind of connect the dots there with both of those experiences. Woody Derenberger was the guy who reported that. His daughter is still around. She was only two years old when that happened. I’ve talked to her a few times. She’s the only I’ve really ever talked to. I think it’s because it all happened at the same time and John Keel had it in his book, but that was an hour away from Point Pleasant.
BD: I’m also really into Hellier, which makes some connections between the two incidents and gives you a lot to think about. We could talk about ultraterrestrials, but that would be long conversation.
JW: Oh yeah. It’s a broad subject.
BD: After all the research you’ve done and the time you’ve dedicated to studying Mothman, what do you think it is? What is your theory?
JW: That’s another common question I get a lot. Basically, what I’ve done is just be in a position to talk to those people and do interviews and find some really rare archives and stuff like that. It’s really hard for me to pinpoint what all happened and what people were seeing. Just by knowing those people and talking to them, some of the witnesses you will never hear from, that were going to talk to me and got cold feet. They told me, “We just don’t like talking about it anymore.” I mean, there is no doubt in my mind that they encountered something. I just don’t know exactly what it was. I’m like everyone else; I don’t know if it was a bird that got in some toxic waste; or if it was something from another realm. Or if it was somebody in an elaborate costume. You have so many different theories. All I know is a lot of those people just never wanted to discuss it anymore. Still today, Linda told me, she said, “I really don’t like talking about it.” But she was nice and kind enough to tell me the details of everything that happened to them.
I get people who come in the museum now, older people, and they will look at me and pull me to the side and they will say, “We saw that thing, but we never told anybody about it.” And today, I had somebody talking about stuff that was recent. I can’t tell someone who sends me an email from the UK, describing everything and I can’t say, “Yeah, that’s exactly what they were seeing here in 1967.” People still describe a seven-foot, winged type figure with red eyes, flying over cars. That’s how they described it too. Some people say it was a big Sandhill crane or a Blue Heron, or a large turkey vulture, stuff like that. I did have people come up to me and say, “We saw it, but what we saw was just a big, enormous bird. The biggest bird I’ve ever seen in my life.”
BD: My husband and I debate this all the time. He thinks it might be a bird that got in toxic waste. I disagree. I believe those people saw something, I’m just not sure what it was.
JW: Well, it wasn’t just that they saw it, the time after, Linda told me she would hear footsteps on the roof of their house. They felt that their phones were being tapped. Then you have that whole men in black stuff started happening. They were telling people not to talk about it. So, the whole men in black is another part of the story.
Was it government people or what? We just don’t know.
You can check out the Mothman Museum’s official website to plan a visit and take a picture with the famous Mothman statue. There is even an annual Mothman Festival.