2022 Mothman Festival attracts large crowd of cryptid enthusiasts with first event since 2019

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POINT PLEASANT, West Virginia (WOUB) – Point Pleasant was swarmed by cryptid enthusiasts this weekend as the town celebrated the first Mothman Festival since 2019. A markedly denser crowd than usual filled the town’s streets, with many festival goers eagerly trekking nearly a mile into the heart of the event from the festival’s paid parking at Krodel Park.

The festival pays homage to the slew of sightings of a winged, humanoid creature (who local newspapers would christen the “mothman”) which started in and around the town in 1966. Those sightings ended abruptly with the December 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge, which took the lives of 46 people just days before Christmas.

Famed ufologist and journalist John Keel famously connected the sightings of the mothman to the collapse of the Silver Bridge in his 1975 book “The Mothman Prophecies.” Keel, as well as many others, have since alleged that the mothman was a harbinger of doom – a desperate warning of the tragedy to come. The 2002 film adaptation of the book, starring Richard Gere as a character loosely based on Keel, catapulted the cryptid to international fame.

Every year since it’s inception in 2002, the Mothman Festival has drawn everyone from professional paranormal investigators to families looking for something to do on one of the last weekends of the summer onto the Main Street of Point Pleasant.

Festival goers Sarah and Jason Luka traveled all the way from Memphis, TN for this year’s event.

Like many cryptid enthusiasts in attendance, Sarah sang the praises of the Mountain State’s reputation as a sort of hotspot for what many paranormal investigators call “high strangeness.”

“My husband actually asked me one time ‘so, what kind of cryptids are in West Virginia?’ and I go ‘sweetie – do you have time for this? Do you really want to go down that hole with me right now?’” Sarah said. “I think that it has to do with the mountains – Appalachia is older than bones – so those mountains are older than a lot of things.”

The Appalachians are a system of mountains which snake through the eastern and northeastern United States. This system includes the Blue Ridge Mountains, portions of which the United States Geology Survey states have found to be over a billion years old.

David Spinks, a West Virginia native and one of the paranormal investigators in attendance at the festival, attributes the high number of recorded paranormal and supernatural occurrences in his home state to both the age of its mountains and the diverse groups of people who have populated them.

“We’ve got a melting pot of people here, and all those people brought their folklore here as well. And we know that with people and their stories comes energy,” the investigator, who has appeared on numerous nationally and internationally syndicated television programs and documentaries about the paranormal, said. “I think the big reasons for the activity are both the terrain and the people – but there are so many layers. It’s like an onion – you can peel a layer back, but even if you do, you’re never going to have all the answers. And especially with West Virginia – it’s like a bag full of onions.”

Paranormal investigators have always been a component of the Mothman Festival, and Spinks said that’s because Point Pleasant is ripe for that kind of exploration.

“You’ve got a lot of history here, a lot of strange, unexplained events – and as an investigator and researcher, that’s what we look for,” he said. “We try to find answers to man’s greatest questions: what happens when we die? Are there unknown creatures walking among us? Are we alone in the universe? I think the mothman phenomena has a lot of different aspects of those questions involved in it – including UFOs. There were thousands of reported UFO sightings around here at that time – so it wasn’t just sightings of the mothman that were occurring.”

“I think the big reasons for the activity are both the terrain and the people – but there are so many layers. It’s like an onion – you can peel a layer back, but even if you do, you’re never going to have all the answers. And especially with West Virginia – it’s like a bag full of onions.” – David Spinks, paranormal investigator, on why West Virginia has so many recorded instances of mysterious phenomena

Like Spinks, John and Tim Frick are two paranormal investigators who were drawn to Point Pleasant and the Mothman Festival by the potential to explore the unexplained. The Fricks have become a part of the fabric of the festival, having attended every festival since the very first. John said the mothman phenomena might have been a manifestation of collective premonition.

“One of my theories is that humans are, in a way, psychic. There have been experiments in which people have been presented with both horrible and pleasant images, and their reactions have been measured. And sometimes, more often than it should, people’s reaction to a horrible image happens a split second before they are presented the image – which means they are, in a way, predicting the future,” he said. “So if an individual can see a nanosecond into the future, maybe on a group level, we can see even farther – and maybe group consciousness knew that something horrible was going to happen, and that fear and anxiety could have been the energy that created mothman and was kind of trying to tell us what was going to happen.”

Seth Breedlove is the director at the heart of Small Town Monsters, an independent film production company that has profiled the mothman and a long list of other cryptids and paranormal phenomena in their documentaries. Breedlove said the Mothman Festival has contributed to the growth of Small Town Monsters in unexpected ways.

The cover of the Smalltown Monsters documentary "The Mothman of Point Pleasant." The image is in grey and black, with the mothman with spread wings with red eyes.
The Smalltown Monsters production “The Mothman of Point Pleasant” was the production company’s first mothman documentary. []
“The festival in general plays a huge role in how we approach these topics because of how Point Pleasant has been impacted by things like the Mothman Festival and the Mothman Museum,” he said. “Watching the evolution of a town that initially didn’t want anything to do with the mothman for years to where it is today – which I would wager that at this point, the festival has to be one of the most attended events in the state – has really shown what a small town can do by embracing its local legend instead of running away from it.”