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by: Bob Withers


Melissa Moseley/Screen Gems

Richard Gere plays John Klein, a tormented journalist searching for answers in "The Mothman Prophecies." The movie is based on the book of the same name, which was written by New York journalist John A. Keel after his visits to Point Pleasant, W.Va.


For more than three decades, Point Pleasant has lived with the legend ... and the questions. Now that Hollywood has come calling, audiences around the world will get to meet ...


It was about 11:30, clear and quite cold on Tuesday night, Nov. 15, 1966, when Linda Scarberry, her husband and another young married couple ventured onto a side road penetrating the site of the abandoned West Virginia Ordnance Works six miles north of town.


Whatever they stumbled onto that fearful night changed their lives forever. It also handed the Tri-State an enduring legend and has spawned a new major studio movie about West Virginia -- perhaps the biggest since Universal's 1999 "October Sky."


"The Mothman Prophecies," based on a book by the same name by New York City author John A. Keel and filmed in the Pittsburgh area early last year, debuts on Jan. 25.


Keel, who likes to delve into paranormal phenomena, made several trips to Point Pleasant to learn more about Mothman. He interviewed several eyewitnesses, including the reclusive Scarberry, who does not disclose her current last name for privacy reasons.


But now, after 35 years, Scarberry has chosen to share a full account of what she says happened that first night in a new book, "Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend," a 164-page softback compiled by Donnie Sergent Jr. and Jeff Wamsley.


And it's a chilling tale, indeed.


Scarberry says the foursome turned their black '57 Chevy onto the side road toward the abandoned plant, which had produced TNT for the federal government during World War II, to "chase parkers." They wound around through the property until they topped a hill between two gutted power plants.


"When the headlights of our car hit it, it looked directly at us, as if it were scared," Scarberry is quoted as saying.


The foursome described a creature that had the flesh-colored body of a slender, muscular man about 7 feet tall. Its ashen-white wings, the tips of which were higher than the shoulders, emanated from its back and measured maybe 10 feet from tip to tip. A pair of large red eyes dominated the head area.


"Its face couldn't be seen, because the eyes simply hypnotized you when you looked into them," she said. "If you looked close to its face, your eyes were just drawn to its eyes. It wasn't that it didn't have a head, it was just that when your eyes got close to its head and neck area, the eyes consumed your vision, and you couldn't see anything but them."


Scarberry says one of the creature's wings was caught in a guide wire and it was pulling on the wing with its "really big" hands tying to free itself.


"It was really scared," she says. "It seemed to think we were going to hurt it."


The youngsters all screamed "Go! Go! Go!" but couldn't seem to leave.


"It was like we were hypnotized," Scarberry says.


The creature finally got its wing loose and ran into one of the power plants.


"I felt sorry for it," Scarberry says.


The spooked spectators finally exited the area, and finally went to the police because they say the creature kept following them.


"It was as if it was letting us know that it could catch up to us, no matter where we went or how fast we went there."


That strange report was the first of many in the following year or so in Point Pleasant and elsewhere. Newspaper and television reporters from all over the nation flocked to the area, followed soon by science-fiction writers and investigators of the paranormal. Soon, Mothman was a hot news item internationally.


Everything ended, though, as suddenly as it had started. For whatever reason, there were no more confirmed sightings of Mothman after Point Pleasant's Silver Bridge across the Ohio River collapsed on Dec. 15, 1967, killing 46 people. Some folks believed there was a connection; others just didn't know or ridiculed the very idea.


Wamsley, who incidentally once was Linda Scarberry's newspaper carrier, and Sergent, who owns Spiderweb 2000 Solutions, a Web site-developing company based in Point Pleasant, have compiled a collection of purported eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings and personal correspondence concerning the sightings.


The book project grew out of a Web site the authors started more than a year ago.


"We collectively had an interest in it," says Wamsley, owner of the Criminal Records stores in Gallipolis and Jackson, Ohio, and Point Pleasant.


Then, one thing led to another.


"So many people were calling or e-mailing or stopping in to ask questions, that we decided we should compile the information in a book," he says. "There was nothing out there that dealt strictly with Mothman. We decided to do that."


What do Wamsley and Sergent think Scarberry and her friends saw?


"I don't really know," Wamsley says. "I think they saw something, but we both agreed not to say what we think."  


First Sighting of the Mothman?


The Mothman Point Pleasant, West Virginia, 1966-1967


The Mothman File



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