Every September an invasion occurs in the quaint town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. No, the invaders aren’t visitors from space, but rather car loads of curiosity seekers, paranormal nuts, and Richard Gere fans (yes, they exist) descend upon the town, filling hotels, crowding breakfast joints, and snapping loads of pictures.

Why would so many people congregate in this relatively unknown all-American town, you ask? To celebrate the appearance of a mysterious winged monster half a century ago.  That’s the strange story behind the 12th annual Mothman Festival.

Visit the 12th Annual Mothman Festival

Since his first appearance in the mid 60′s, the tale of the Mothman has become an iconic piece of American folklore, and an even bigger part of the community that was at the center of the unsolved mystery. For those not familiar with the beast, or the havoc he brought to town with him during a year-long nightmare, here’s a quick history lesson:

The first widely circulated sighting of the Mothman occurred during the month of November 1966, when a group of five men diving graves in nearby Clendenin, West Virginia claimed to have spotted a large humanoid flying low over a patch of trees. Days later, the same bizarre creature would again be spotted, this time by Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette of Point Pleasant. The description that the couples gave to the police that evening would go on to become the most iconic imagery of the Mothman to date.

As the two couples drove home that night, they witnessed what they collectively described as a large flying man, with massive wings spanning ten-feet wide, and eyes that glowed bright-red. Much to the couples’ horror, the strange creature began following their vehicle down the winding, desolate West Virginia roads. Just as they pulled into town, the beast disappeared back into the night.

The story behind The Mothman Festival

Over the next new weeks, the monster was spotted by numerous locals, the terrifying encounters with the winged man ending with descriptions of glowing red eyes. On December 15th 1967, around a year since his first appearance, the Mothman was spotted for the last time perched high on the Silver Bridge, moments before the structure collapsed in the midst of rush-hour traffic. The devastating tragedy killed 46 people, and has left many believers wondering if the Mothman’s presence was no coincidence at all. Some even believe that the Mothman was a harbinger of doom.

Since the accident, sightings of the Mothman have only continued to grow in number, but none so compelling as the ones which occurred in Point Pleasant in the mid 1960′s. In 2002, the story was even made into a feature length film starring Richard Gere. The Mothman Prephecies wasn’t very good, but don’t tell that to the residents of Point Pleasant. The bizarre tale, no matter how it was heard, has turned the horrific creature and the town it terrorized into a mecca for those of us still fascinated with a paranormal mystery. Lucky for us, the town has embraced its tale of flying monsters by hosting the Mothman Festival for over a decade.

When you arrive in town to visit the official Mothman Museum, or pose to snap a few photos in front of the town’s 12-foot-tall statue of the creature, the locals smile and wave (and do a bit of eye-rolling, I’m sure). Over the years, the growing crowd has become a sea of familiar faces coming together in celebration of a fascinating mystery, and more importantly, in support of the little town where it all went down.

the story behind the Mothman Festival

Festival director Jeff Wamsley welcomes newbies, making a point of suggesting that you come with your “cameras and an appetite”, and a gleeful plea to try the Mothman pancakes, a staple of the festivities every year.

If you’re interested in scoping out the Mothman Festival for yourself, jump in the car and head down to Point Pleasant, West Virginia this weekend, September 21st and 22nd.

At the top of our list of things to see and do? First, you absolutely have to go see the crazy statue in the middle of town, if not for any other reason than just to see his shiny metal bum. Be sure to spend some time at the official Mothman museum where you can pour over an assortment of relics from the 1960′s sightings, as well as loads of props from The Mothman Prophecies. Finally no Mothman Festival experience is complete without the guided bus tour that highlights all the noteworthy creature sighting locations.

Above all else, if you attend the festival with an open mind and an empty stomach, you’re bound to have a fantastic time. And hey, you might even meet a monster or two.