If you’re a firm believer in logic and reason, then the idea of a giant, half-man, half-moth hybrid beast terrorising a small town to warn the residents of an impending catastrophic bridge collapse probably doesn’t seem like the most plausible thing in the world. However, that’s exactly what some people swear blind to have happened in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, between 1966-1967.
The farfetched story was documented in John Keel’s 1975 novel The Mothman Prophecies, and subsequently turned into a film of the same name in 2002, starring Richard Gere (still can’t hear that name without thinking about the gerbil thing, even though it’s almost certainly not true). But now a similar wave of sightings is taking place in Chicago, as reported by VICE.
Lon Strickler, a self-described ‘Fortean researcher’ who’s been compiling all of the Chicago sightings on his website Phantoms and Monsters, has written a book, Mothman Dynasty, which looks at all the sightings since the late ’70s.
Since the sightings began in February last year, Strickler has been spending countless hours interviewing Mothman witnesses and documenting their stories. One such witness was John Amitrano, who relayed his encounter to VICE.
Amitrano had been working late at a popular Chicago hangout, when he went outside and witnessed something he couldn’t explain. “I saw a plane flying, but also something moving really awkwardly under it,” he told the publication.
“It didn’t look like a bat so much as what illustrations of pterodactyls look like, with the slenderness of its head and its wing shape. I know what birds and what bats look like. This thing didn’t have any feathers or fur, and it didn’t fly like anything I’ve ever seen.”
He described the being as having muscular legs, a human-like shape and said it flew in a ‘strange swooping motion, undulating up and down’.
Amitrano’s was just one of 55 alleged sightings of the so-called Mothman in the Chicago area in 2017. And while most reports described the being in flight, some more chilling accounts tell of it swooping down on people, or landing on car bonnets.
“This group of sightings is historical in cryptozoology terms. For one, it’s happening in an urban area for the most part and that there are so many sightings in one period,” Stickler told VICE.
Strickler often uses the West Virginia Mothman Sightings of the ’60s as a point of reference, but adds that he doesn’t believe the Chicago being is trying to warn of an impending disaster.
“These beings are less aggressive than the one in Point Pleasant, for the most part. I believe overall there was only one being in the Point Pleasant-area that was seen during that period,” he explained.
However, Dr, David A. Gallo, a psychologist from the University of Chicago whose research deals with memory-specifically, how people ‘actively (and sometimes inaccurately) reconstruct the past’, doesn’t believe the sightings are all that Strickler is making them out to be.
“It’s a selective sample. When people are choosing to report sightings, the basis of data upon which your paranormal researchers are collecting is all self-report,” he told VICE.
“He’s not sampling random people and asking if they saw the Mothman – he’s just counting the number of people that voluntarily came forward to report a sighting. So many things could be different factors for why there’s such a big uptick in the sighting.”
Gallo added that he doesn’t deny these witnesses saw something they could not explain. “There’s a phenomenon where there’s basically some real witnessed experience,” he said. “But if there are holes or gaps in that original experience, sometimes the mind is unable to fill in the gaps.
“If something is suggested to them subsequently as a plausible scenario-like a Mothman or whatever, that person might be inclined to fill in the gaps with that.”
So, there you have it. There probably isn’t a Mothman knocking about in Chicago, just like Richard Gere probably didn’t do that gerbil thing, but for now, it remains… a mystery.