Well, this is a Pacific Northwest adventure blog, but I recently drove back and forth across this amazing nation I call home and have to say that I was continually stunned by the beauty of Montana (and South Dakota). There’s a wild desolation to the landscape that sings to my soul.
I pulled off the road just inside the eastern border of the state to take some pictures and video. The clouds were churning around the sun as though being sucked into it.
I’ve never seen a cloud formation quite like it. It looked positively sublime over the long expanse of highway and high desert terrain.
For two months I’d been bragging to friends that I was driving cross-country country in order to bring the Mothman’s head back on a pike. I was going to reach Point Pleasant, West Virginia, I was going to track the Mothman down, and I was going to take his head. Precisely one hour outside of Point Pleasant, however, the Mothman took mine.
Not literally, of course. I am not, in fact, writing this in a state of decapitation. He did take my car, though, and I loved that old soldier with all my heart. He also cost me three days of disrepair and hotel charges.
The Mothman is not to be trifled with.
Onward to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Home of the Mothman
The tale I have to tell is about my ill-fated journey to Point Pleasant, West Virginia. My final destination was actually my hometown in Pennsylvania, but since I was driving all the way there from Olympia, Washington, I figured I might as well knock out a lifelong bucket list item and see the location of my favorite paranormal event.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the Mothman was a creature spotted from late 1966 into 1967. There’s far more to the story than I can recount here, but suffice it to say that the event was one of the strangest ever recorded and, in my humble opinion, the best entryway into what I like to cal the Grand Unified Theory of Weirdness, which is the hypothesis put forth by people like journalist John Keel and physicist Jacques Vallee, suggesting that all paranormal and UFO phenomenon links back to some broader aspect of reality that we don’t yet understand. Specifically, some sort multi-dimensionality that allows forces from other planes of existence to enter our own, tangled up somehow with our individual and group consciousnesses in a way that as yet transcends our scientific understanding.
The Mothman story was captured surprisingly well in a 1993 film titled The Mothman Prophecies. I say “surprisingly” simply because the original story is so bizarre, and so non-linear in many ways, that capturing it in a film format seems profoundly difficult.
While I appreciate the film, it’s the book that made me fall in love with the story. Its author, John Keel, happens to be among my literary heroes. He lived a remarkable life and was a great storyteller. If you’ve not read it, I really can’t recommend it highly enough.
To fully grasp the strange mystery and stranger implications of the Mothman story, the book is the way to go.
Home…but First the Mothman
I took my loyal but battered and war-weary 1997 Subaru Legacy (which is really an Outback they dubbed a Legacy for some reason) and drove from Tacoma, Washington, all the way to Chillicothe, Ohio, before that noble, determined machine finally had enough and broke down. When I say “broke down,” I don’t mean that it sputtered out or wouldn’t start, I mean that I was driving down the highway when it sounded like something exploded, smoke billowed out of my hood, and the car slid to a very permanent halt.
My very first thought was, "The Mothman got me." He'd heard me talking trash and decided to remind me who was boss in that region of the world.
The Mothman would not allow me, a mere mortal, to mock him. He'd enacted his revenge.
I spent the next three days in Chillicothe. I honestly don’t know if there is a better place to break down. It was my first time in that city, and I will tell you that Chillicothe has some of the friendliest, finest people I’ve ever met in all my travels.
A handful of Chillicotheans stopped to get out of their cars and ask me if I needed help while I was stuck on the side of the road. These were legitimate offers for help, not empty niceties.
The trooper that stopped to check on my status was equally good-natured. The good people at Vest Automotive Service were similarly helpful, as were the folks with Tony’s Taxi.
Even the salespeople of Nourse Automall, who sold me an Acura, were honest, professional, and friendly. They made my situation so much easier than it could have been and executed the most efficient, stress-free car sale I’ve ever participated in.
I would recommend Chillicothe for any person whose car explodes on the highway! I would also recommend it for anybody looking for a new place to visit. I really dug the vibe there. They do outdoor theater called the Tecumseh Drama every summer, and I’d like to go back with the time to see it.
Upon receiving my new car from Nourse, the first thing I set out to do was to complete my journey to Point Pleasant. There was no talk of taking heads this time, though. I went there with humility and deference to the Mothman–long may he reign.
The town itself is like stepping into a time portal back into the 60s. You can imagine yourself back there in ’67 when the Mothman was rearing his beautiful, horrible head.
Point Pleasant would make a great destination even for those with no interest at all in the paranormal.
The Mothman Museum
All that being said, my goal was the Mothman, and I achieved that goal.
The Mothman Museum is not a particularly large place. When I initially walked in, I also thought it was kind of campy. Digging closer into that little curio shop of the Damned, however, I found that it was much more substantive than it initially appeared to be.
The museum holds the original diary pages from one of the young women present at the very first Mothman sighting in 1966. These pages were my favorite attractions in the museum. You can actually stand there and read the thoughts and feelings of the young lady after she came back from her sighting, all as written in her own words on that fateful night.
There are also the original Derenberger tapes (as in the actual, physical tape reels).
I greatly appreciated the tribute to John Keel who, as I mentioned previously, is a hero of mine. They have his white suit coat, his desk, his typewriter, and other effects.
There is a gift a shop connected to the museum. Gift shops often strike mas almost redundant in the internet age when you can order things from anywhere instantly, but this one has a great collection of little oddities that I doubt you’d find surfing the web.
The TNT Area is Now Called the McClintic Wildlife Management Area
So, for any Mothman enthusiast, the famed TNT area is the main attraction. That’s where most of the Mothman action happened back in ’67. It was an area where they made munitions for World War II, hence the TNT Area name. Back in ’67 the area was already abandoned and left to be a party and make-out spot for area teens.
Today, it’s called the McClintic Wildlife Management Area. This designation robs some of the mystery of the area, perhaps, but it’s highly beneficial in that it has kept the spot relatively untouched and publicly accessible, which means you can freely cruise the same backroads as those who saw the Mothamn all those years ago.
My only real regret from my trip is that I didn’t get to hike the area more thoroughly and that I didn’t get to go there at night. Those were my two primary goals, but with the breaking down of the car, time was no longer available. Oh, well, it gives me an excuse to return–and return I shall.
Sometimes Crappy Situations Make Great Stories
It definitely wasn’t fun to break down on the side o the highway 3,000 miles from home–nor was it cheap. My little Mothman trip cost me far more than it should have.
However, I can now claim to have been the Mothman’s final victim, and I can urge people to refrain from talking trash or bragging about taking its head home on a pike.
The Mothman is still out there my friends. He has something to say. He said it pretty loud back there in 1967, but we’re all still trying to figure out exactly what he meant.