Winged humanoid creature reported in West Virginia from November 1966 to December 1967, along with strange lights, apparitions of men in black, and other occult phenomena supposedly connected with UFOs. These phenomena culminated on December 15, 1967, with the collapse of the Silver Bridge across the Ohio River at Point Pleasant. The name "Mothman" was the inspiration of a newspaper editor, who derived it from the Batman comic book hero, then the subject of a popular television series.
In his book The Mothman Prophecies: An Investigation Into the Mysterious American Visits of the Infamous Feathery Garuda (1975), author John A. Keel suggests that these and other occult appearances might be the work of evil entities. The term "garuda" derives from ancient Hindu mythology, where Garuda is king of the birds, half-man, half-bird, the vehicle of the god Vishnu. In the religious epic the Ramayana, Jatayu is the son of Vishnu's Garuda, and dies fighting against the demon Ravana in an attempt to prevent the abduction of the princess Sita.
In February 1976, three schoolteachers in Texas reported sightings of a "Big Bird," discussed in Grey Barker's Newsletter (no. 7, March 1977). An earlier issue of the newsletter (no. 5, March 1976) had reported a more bizarre claimed abductee experience with "Vegetable Man," pictured as a triffid-style animated tree.
UFO authority Jacques Vallee compared Mothman and similar apparitions to Springheeled Jack, the legendary creature of early nineteenth-century Britain, who attacked travelers and terrified women with his giant leaps and diabolical appearance. Mothman was said to chase motorists and to frighten women. Witnesses stated that he was large, gray in color, without feathers, and with eyes that glowed red. It has been suggested that Mothman is a UFO phenomenon.
Clark, Jerome. Encyclopedia of Strange and Unexplained Phenomena. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.
Haining, Peter. The Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Springheeled Jack. London: Frederick Muller, 1977.
Keel, John A. The Mothman Prophecies: An Investigation Into the Mysterious American Visits of the Infamous Feathery Garuda. New York: Saturday Review Press/Dutton, 1975. Reprint, New York: New American Library, 1976. Reprinted as Visitors From Space: The Astonishing True Story of the Mothman Prophecies. St. Albans, England: Panther, 1976.