What exactly is a “Mothman”? Find out if the monster is real

If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like if Stranger Things were a true story, you might just get your answer. This past week, Vice reported that there have been 55 sightings of a “Mothman” in Chicago, Illinois, in 2017. These reports have led many to wonder what, exactly, a Mothman is — and if it’s really something they need to be worried about.

The Mothman has been described as so many different things that it can be hard to get an idea of what it actually looks like. Some witnesses have said it resembles a “Gothic gargoyle,” while others have claimed it just looks like “a big owl.” Several have called it “a large, black, bat-like being with glowing red eyes.” While these accounts vary, most witnesses seem to agree that this creature can fly and is often spotted in the sky.

This might sound new, but it isn’t — the legend of the Mothman has actually been around for quite some time. The creature was reportedly first seen in the Point Pleasant area in West Virginia from November 1966 to December 1967. In the first known sighting, five men digging a grave at a cemetery claimed to see the creature flying low over the trees. A few days later, two young couples from Point Pleasant told police they saw a “large flying man with ten-foot wings” following their car. From there, additional sightings were reported. In December 1967, a bridge collapsed and brought about the death of 46 people. Many people connected the Mothman sightings to the Silver Bridge collapse.

The first newspaper report about the Mothman was titled, “Couples See Man-Sized Bird…Creature…Something.” The story quickly became national news.

The story only grew from there. In 1975, John Keel wrote a book called The Mothman Prophecies and claimed that the sightings were related to supernatural events. In 2002, the book was turned into a film with the same name starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. There is even a Mothman statue in Point Pleasant.

In 2016, WCHS-TV published what they claimed to be a photo of Mothman, which was taken by an anonymous man while driving. The most recent sightings have taken place in Chicago. Lon Strickler, a paranormal researcher who has always kept a close eye on Mothman sightings on his website, PhantomsAndMonsters.com, is confused by these sightings. He even told Vice that because of the witness descriptions and all the locations Mothman has been seen at, he thinks there are at least three of them.

Of course, like any other mysterious creature, there have been many explanations when it comes to what Mothman could really be. Back when the sightings were very popular in West Virginia, wildlife biologist Dr. Robert L. Smith told reporters that he believed it to be a sandhill crane, which is a large crane with a seven-foot wingspan that has reddish coloring around the eyes. Dr. David A. Gallo, a psychologist from the University of Chicago who researches memory, told Vice that he thinks there have been so many sightings because people who are inclined to believe these sightings are hearing about them more often. Gallo said,

"Ideas about the supernatural can be culturally transmitted and socially transmitted. When incidences of UFOs are reported in the media or represented in popular culture, more sightings happen. I've heard it called The Will Smith Effect."

Whether you believe that Mothman is a real creature or simply a load of nonsense, you have to admit this makes for a pretty compelling story. And, really, how can 55 people be completely wrong about what they saw?! One thing is for sure: there have been too many creepily similar sightings of Mothman in the past to act like something weird isn’t going on.